“I’m Such a Worrier”
“I’ve never been one to talk to other people about how I feel. After all, that’s not the British way. No, I prefer to keep all my worries bottled up, only to occasionally let them loose on unsuspecting people (namely my colleagues on print day). As I’ve been bottling everything up for so long now, I’m worried that I won’t want to tell the psychologist anything at all, but this, thankfully, doesn’t happen.
Dr McCarthy’s Counselling & Development Clinic is in a converted villa and her study immediately puts me at ease with wood furniture, a comfy sofa and lots of tissues handily placed on the side table. We sit opposite each other and she begins by explaining why she thinks some people are more anxious than others – it’s all down to genetics apparently. She then asks me how much of a worrier I think I am and at first I’m stumped. Her examples of people having panic attacks and not being able to leave the house make my worries seem trivial and silly, but when I begin to say this she gently asks me if I always tend to see the worst in things. I decide that I do as I know I think the worst if friends and family members don’t meet me when they say they will. ‘The worst how?’ she asks. ‘Well, is imagining them lying in a ditch and me being unable to help them the worst?’ I ask quietly.
We move on to how often I wake in the night (frequently) and what I think about when I do wake up (money, relationships, job). Before long, I’m spilling out every worry I’ve ever had, from the inconsequential (I once worried my rabbit was suffering from a lack of self-confidence) to the bigger stuff (where are my boyfriend and I going?). In one hour, Dr McCarthy knows more about me than my best friend and I end the session feeling breathless and lighter than when I came in. This is the power of a good confession – I feel a weight’s been lifted of my shoulders.
I look at Dr McCarthy expectantly, waiting for her to tell me how she’s going to fix me, but it’s never that easy. She tells me I apologise a lot and start a lot of my sentences with ‘It sounds silly, but…’ – a sure sign I’m suffering from low self-esteem. Fortunately, she assures me I’m not an extreme worrier and that my issues can be worked through with more sessions. I leave with a sense of accomplishment.”
“I spend the next week noting down how many times I say sorry and trying to be more assertive with people (my anxiety has a lot to do with being a people-pleaser). Although I still apologise, it’s now followed with ‘Gah! I’m not meant to say that!’ People might think I’m strange for talking to myself, but at least I’m more assertive.”
Nip Anxiety in the Bud
Dr McCarthy gives us her tips on beating your worries.
● Pinpoint your worry. Worrying thoughts are often the result of half-formed ideas, but these can be broken by identifying and airing the worrying thought. Write down your top five worries – confronting them relieves the pressure.
● Look at the evidence. Instead of assuming your thought is true, examine the actual evidence. Write down both sides of the argument and then look at the probability that your thought is correct. Then rate the thought on a percentage scale in terms of how much you believe it. For example, “I’m useless at my job”. Believability = 30 per cent.
● Visualise yourself in 10 years. Think to yourself, ‘Will this worry matter in 10 years’ time?’ Looking at things in the long term, gives us a better perspective and makes things seem smaller.
● Box in your worries. If you’re plagued by worrying, set aside a specific time of 20 minutes as ‘dedicated worry time’. Tackle each worry as a problem to think about hard and solve. If you find yourself worrying at other times during the day, postpone that worry until the allotted time.
● Explore the worst outcome. As fantasy is usually worse than reality, this is worth exploring. Imagine you’re in a dark cave. You might be frightened because you can’t see what’s ahead of you, then imagine turning on a torch that shows the limits of the cave. This allows us to place limits on our worries. By identifying the worst possible outcome, it becomes easier to deal with.
● For more info, see drmccarthypsychologyclinic.com.