One description which describes me well is that of a worrywart. I was a worrier as a child. I am a worrier as an adult. I even worry about worrying. Am I worrying too much? Am I not worried enough? What helps me the most when I suffer from an excessive bout of worrying is a good sounding board. I have found that there are some friends, loved ones, and family members who can provide this comfort and strength when you are in over your head with worry or anxiety. A good therapist can also be invaluable in such instances to help you work on overall strategies to decrease worrisome thoughts. I want to make a special note that it can be difficult for the friend, spouse, or family member to know what to say or do with a chronic worrier. In this post we are going to discuss how to provide focus and comfort to the chronic worrier and also things you want to avoid doing or saying so that you don’t make the situation any worse.
Here are some things that generally don’t help the chronic worrier:
• It doesn’t help to tell a worrier that there is nothing to worry about.
You may think that this is comforting but all it does is to cause the recipient to feel dismissed and as though their worry and emotions are not real. Neither does it help for you to make fun of their worry or tell them they are “making mountains out of molehills.” A lot of worry may seem irrational but the person is still suffering from that emotion. If you make them feel bad about themselves by dismissing their worry, the conversation lines will be closed and this person will no longer trust you enough to talk about their worries.
• It doesn’t help to discuss worst case versions of the person’s worry.
Several months back I took a trip to my hometown and I rode the plane. I am terrified of plane travel but I have been trying to overcome my fear by making such trips anyway. The day of my flight back there were some storm clouds and wind. I was getting more and more worked up as the time approached for my flight because one of the things that makes me so afraid of plane travel is turbulence or flying through rough weather. I was becoming so phobic that I was actually thinking of getting a train or greyhound bus to take me home. I talked about my fright to my sister who I was visiting at the time. (You know I love you if you are reading this!) My sister is a great storyteller embellishing stories with great dramatic effect. So I got to hear about a plane ride she had where a child was trying to break open one of the windows. I got to hear about another child who was carrying a pet sewer rat in her coat pocket. And I got to hear how one of the planes she was on had such bad turbulence that the plane dipped and made her feel like she was falling hundreds of feet. Great stories but not really helpful when I was already such a nervous wreck already.
• Reciting facts and statistics doesn’t always help the worrier.