Generalized Anxiety

What is it?

If this applies to you then you are experiencing excessive uncontrollable worry driven by an intolerance of uncertainty.  When attempting to problem solve you find yourself generating many threat-charged hypothetical situations which in turn multiply into other overwhelming hypothetical situations; you don’t trust yourself to make a decision and commit to it, because it just might be the wrong one.  As a result you spend many additional, wasteful hours caught up in this process and you don’t necessarily realize you’re doing it.

How does it hold you back?

This leads to severe procrastination, perfectionistic behaviour, overwhelm, exhaustion and demoralization.  It is very draining, debilitating and prevents you being at your best.  You know you could be and do so much more if only you could get your worry under control.

How can you overcome it?

If your anxiety is especially severe, or you suspect that your problem is likely to be part of an entrenched and wider emotional difficulty, you are likely to benefit from collaborating with a qualified professional.  However, here are a few pointers below:
 
A key decision for you is whether you are willing to accept a level of uncertainty in your life and accept the risks related to it.  This is a very difficult decision to make because, by your very nature, committing to one decision means a leap of faith in letting go of another, and for you, this is deeply uncomfortable!  Here are some helpful steps:
 
  1. Recognize whether you are agonizing over a real problem with a practical solution or an imagined or hypothetical situation which needs to be dropped.  Write it down and don’t do this in your head.  Worry is seductive and will lead you away from the exercise before you know what’s happened.
  2. Did you notice how the last exercise generated uncertainty and how you got caught up in worry doing that exercise?  A specialist in generalized anxiety called Michel Dugas compares uncertainty to pollen; some are able to wander carefree through a field of pollen-filled flowers, but for others this generates an unbearable allergy - worry borne out of intolerance of uncertainty.  Your ‘anti-histamine’ is the proactive development of tolerance and it takes a lot of practice to nurture.
  3. Worry is treated differently to many other emotional problems in CBT, where you may be familiar with using a thought record to directly challenge thinking traps.  Unproductive worry is simply a process that needs to be dropped.
  4. Some people find it helpful to think of worry as a bully; weed out practical problems which need to be solved and the rest needs to be ignored; if you ignore it, with time it will get bored with you and give you more of a break.
  5. Distraction techniques such as phoning up a friend to talk about an enjoyable subject, or an internal verbal dialogue describing all that you see in your immediate vicinity can help you disengage from distressing worry
  6. When did you last book a holiday?  If you are worn out and in need of a break you are more vulnerable to stress and worry