Worry – how to work through it

We all worry – to a certain extent it’s a normal part of life. We often use it as a way to work through problems, gathering our thoughts to work out how to handle the issues that come up day to day. What we’re often doing when we worry is reflecting on a situation and trying out different options to see how they fit. In other words, we sometimes worry about a problem as a way of getting to a solution.

Everyone experiences signs of anxiety at times, but what if worrying seems to be getting out of hand? One in seven of us will be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point in our lives. So how do you know if your anxiety is ‘normal’? If you have a tendency to worry, knowing what to look out for can help you to get back on track or seek help earlier when you need to.

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When worrying is unhelpful

Worrying can be unhelpful when it starts to take over, causing you significant distress or interfering with your daily life. Once you get locked into a cycle of worry, it’s easy to begin to interpret everything negatively, and that makes you worry more. Say for example you spot someone you know in the street and they don’t acknowledge you. Do you assume that something important has distracted them? Or do you immediately worry that you’ve offended them in some way and that they deliberately ignored you? You can see how worrying can begin to feed itself.

Ruminating is a particularly destructive form of worry. It typically involves negative thinking about negative topics – “What if something terrible happens? Why does everything I do go wrong?” This type of thought pattern can become a habit that’s difficult to break.

How worrying can affect you physically

Doctors know only too well that anxiety often causes physical symptoms. When you’re mentally tense, your body becomes tense too, causing aches and pains, and headaches. When you’re particularly anxious, you may also have palpitations, sweat more, have a dry mouth, feel sick or feel as if you have difficulty breathing. Some people feel dizzy or faint.

Worry can disrupt your life in other ways too. During periods of particular stress, you may have difficulty sleeping, find it hard to concentrate and feel irritable.

Taking action

If you’re struggling with worry, it’s important that you speak to your GP. They can advise you on the best course of action and help you to get the support you need.

For some handy tips to help you process and work through your worries, click and open our ‘worry tree’ below (PDF 250KB).

Worry tree 


For the best user experience, please view this interactive PDF on desktop, rather than on mobile or tablet devices. If the viewer you are using does not support this PDF, try opening it with Adobe Reader.

Mental Health Nurse at Bupa UK

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