It’s not surprising that the changes and uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic brought a lot of worries or tension. After all, this invisible virus causes serious physical problems and limited most people’s ability to do their jobs or everyday chores.
When you worry about problems caused by your health and the impact of COVID-19, you are trying to figure out solutions. However, sometimes the worry and tension go too far. Worrying about health problems and potential catastrophes can become new problems!
If you experience one or more of the following, then worry and tension might be problems for you:
- You are worrying much of the time – even when you’re trying to do enjoyable activities;
- You feel nervous much of the time;
- You sometimes feel panicky;
- You have a sense of ominous like you’re always expecting a disaster or more bad news;
- You feel muscle tension, restlessness, headache or nausea that are not caused by your health condition or medications (it can be difficult to figure this out – talk with your medical physician).
Excessive worry and tension don’t help you solve problems. Even though excessive worry feels like an attempt to solve problems, it’s usually not effective. There are four reasons why excessive worry is not good problem solving:
- Worry usually just goes back and forth, like the rocking chair, and doesn’t get you closer to finding solutions.
- Worry often happens when you’re trying to do something else, like watch a movie with family or friends. Going back and forth on this rocking chair stops you from enjoying the moment.
- If you feel very tense, you won’t be very good at thinking clearly about problems. Tension makes it hard to concentrate because going back and forth on this rocking chair keeps you busy without an aim or purpose.
- Worrying can become a habit. You are busy worrying and seeing more catastrophes where ever you look.
Worrying is a destructive habit when you agonize and fret on behalf of other people about things that have nothing to do with you.
Managing your concerns is important
Understandably, you might be concerned or fearful about the risks associated with your health condition, especially in the COVID-19 pandemic. Most people with health conditions worry about the future: whether the ailment will become worse, whether they’ll be able to keep up their activity level and whether the pain or uneasiness will intensify. These are real problems and thinking about them can help you come up with solutions. After all, it’s usually better to think about a serious problem than to overlook it.
However, worry can become excessive. When worry becomes too much when it’s causing more harm than good.
- Identify Worry Thoughts
When you worry excessively, it usually feels like you are problem-solving, but it doesn’t take you any closer to finding real solutions. There are three common types of worry thoughts:
- Overestimating the likelihood that bad things will happen.
- Catastrophizing because you magnify how bad the situation is or how bad a future situation will be – you see the situation as more dangerous or unbearable than the facts justify.
- Putting yourself in the ‘saviour role’ in every possible situation because you have to save the day.
- Challenge your ‘Worry Thoughts’
Coping with your worried thoughts involves deliberately rethinking situations that cause you apprehension. It’s often helpful to get another person’s opinion about the situation. A counsellor can help you to put your concerns in a more realistic frame of reference.
- Practice calming and realistic thinking
It is not enough to contemplate a calming and realistic thought just once. As a counsellor, I give my clients helpful tools to rehearse and practice calming and realistic thinking. The good news is that reducing worry doesn’t take years.
Please avoid naysayers and negative people who reinforce your fear. Also, be wary of people who are so happy-go-lucky that they lost touch will reality.
- Schedule ‘Worry Time’
Stressful situations can trigger worry. Trying to force yourself to “stop thinking it” doesn’t usually work. You must pay attention to your thinking in situations that are likely to trigger worry. Get more information about the situation or matter that causes your unease and see if there is a more useful way to look at the problem.
Your “Worry Time” can turn into your “Prayer Time”. When you looked at the worry realistically, you can give your problem a name and pray about the concern in your heart. I believe that we can role our cares over to God. He is our Source of wisdom and He will carry you through whatever you are facing (Psalm 23).
At this point, you should be able to progress to use proper problem-solving strategies or you will have the insight to get help if necessary.
- Never underestimate the value of a good night’s rest.
If you’ve been worrying too much, it might affect your sleep. You might lie in your bed tossing and turning, trying to fall asleep. Instead of sleeping your thoughts are circling the same worries. Worries seem particularly upsetting in the middle of the night and it is hard to be realistic at 3 am. It is easy to get caught up in catastrophic thinking. If this is the point where you are, please consider getting help.
A guided therapeutic process will help you to deal with the things that cause emotional difficulty. Let me help you to share your experiences in ways that work for you. The goal is to use practical tools to put worry behind you in ways that will help you to become well and whole.
This article is written by Dr Barbara Louw for the Wellness4Wholeness weekly blog. You can find the blog or make an appointment with her on www.aquillasa.co.za.