In Part II we learned how worry affects our health. In the last part of our series we’ll discover ways to manage worry.
The One-Minute Manager
Dr. Vijai Sharma, clinical psychologist, certified yoga instructor and a person with COPD himself, says, “If you are a chronic worrier, it means that through the practice of many years of worrying, you have gotten really good at it. The mind learns to have "worry spasms," or a kind of "brain hiccups" that just refuse to quit. The first few seconds you start worrying are critical to stop the ever-growing worry web. When the first worry thought strikes you, you have just a few seconds, a maximum of one minute, to break the chain of worry thoughts before your entire mind gets involved in it. Once you are too involved with your worrying thoughts, you end up in the ‘worry grip!’ And when you’re there, you might not be able to relax for the next several hours – or even the whole night.
“It helps to think of worry as if they are weeds in the spring. Before you know it, weeds can take over the whole garden, but you can get rid of them if you apply weed killer or pull them out as soon as you see them sprout. You can break a single stick with ease; it's difficult to break a bunch of them together. You can train yourself to stop worrying. Just as you train your muscles to learn a golf swing, train your brain to take a swing at the worry monster.”
Tips to Stop Worry Thoughts
- As soon as you catch the first worry thought, challenge it! Say something positive to yourself right away. Offer counter evidence to oppose the main thrust of your worry thoughts. Offer yourself thoughts that negate your worst fears.
- If you've tried everything and you still can't shake off your worry thoughts, get out of bed and write them down. After you write them down, read them to yourself. You may often find that your imagination is somewhat exaggerated.
- When a worry strikes you, do something physical for five minutes such as stretch, hum or whistle. Then sit down and write down what you were worried about and write down the actions you can take to address that problem. Note the earliest time when you can act on them.
- Blow your breath into your palms and say to yourself, "I just blew off my worry," and go to bed. The next morning, follow the actions you wrote down.
- If you need to, see a therapist. If there is a traumatic event in your past that keeps gnawing at you, work through it with a counselor. Often the way to overcome pain is through it, and not around it.
Be a Doer – Not a Worrier!
Be active, not passive. Take action instead of letting worry take you over. Ask yourself, “What can I do, what effort can I make to prevent what I’m worrying about to actually happen?”
Here are some common worries for people with COPD.
Worry: I have a cold. That could mean I’ll get pneumonia, have to go to the emergency room and maybe stay in the hospital overnight. I might even die!
Action: Watch for the early warning signs of acute exacerbation of COPD. Check your mucous for changes in color, stickiness and thickness Increase the frequency of nebulizer treatments or inhalers as allowed by your doctor, increase clear fluid intake as allowed, then try to rest and relax and give them time to work. Work out an action plan with your doctor about what to do, and when, if you don’t feel better.