Facing Worry and Anxiety
Anxiety only becomes a problem when it is triggered too frequently, too intense, or you can’t turn it off.
Everyone faces anxiety and worry in different levels every day. A little anxiety and worry can be very useful as their most important function is to prepare us for the possibility of danger in the future.
For example, what will happen if you did not worry at all for the test you will be taking tomorrow; learn your lines for a play; work on your financial planning after purchasing a brand-new car; or do your best when you perform?
Another important function of anxiety is to get us into the fight or flight mode that our body is naturally tune into when faced with danger or threat.
For instance, you feel a little anxious and tense driving on a stormy day. You are more likely to hold on to the steering wheel with both hands, sit up straight, can put extra effort on the road for possible threat. When the car in front of you make an immediate break, your emotions moves from anxious to fearful as your fight or flight response is triggered and you respond instantly by putting out your signal and make an immediate break too.
Anxiety only becomes a problem when it is triggered too frequently, too intense, or you can’t turn it off. If you are always anxious and worry, it means your body is always in preparation mode for fight or flight. While you won’t die directly from anxieties and worries, long term anxiety and worry will cause sleep problems, fatigue, irritability, poor focus, poor performance and reduce productivity.
Anxiety can be triggered by anything that is perceived as danger or potential harm. What causes a person to be anxious may not affect the other person.
Many of times, the perceived danger doesn’t even have to be real, because by simply thinking of an event that might occur is sufficient to create anxiety. People start to create unnecessary anxiety for themselves when they overestimate the danger of a possible event, or when they overstate the likelihood that the event will actually occur.
Catastrophic thoughts tend to occur such as ‘What if this horrible thing happens and I can’t cope with it?’; ‘This is going to be a disaster!’. These thoughts will then trigger anxiety and worry.
What can you do if you are especially a chronically anxious person? If you worry excessively, most likely is that you do not assess the risk of an event appropriately. The problem with overestimating risk is that it subtly increases the amount of your worry until the worry itself becomes a bigger problem than the problem you worry about.
What will be shared here is Learn to Accurately Assess Risk to manage your overall anxiety level. In the Risk Assessment Form, learn to lower your anxiety by estimating accurate probabilities and making coping plans for catastrophe. Below are some guidelines while filling up the risk assessment form:
Line 1: Record your worries in the form of a feared event.
Line 2: Write down the worry thoughts that typically comes into mind.
Line 3: Rate your anxiety when considering the worst-case scenario of the event. Use 0 for no anxiety to 100 for worst fear.
Line 4: Rate the probability of this worst-case scenario happening. Use 0 for no likelihood to 100 for absolute happening.
Line 5 – 9: Assuming the event happened, predict what are the consequences and think of specific coping strategies (thoughts and actions) that will help you cope with the situation. As you do this, consider how long this situation will last and what resources will be helpful to you. Think of anyone in your same shoes and how they manage to cope. Once you have some ideas of how you can cope with your worry, create a revised prediction of the consequences. Now, rerate your anxiety.
Line 10-13: List down evidence against the worst-case scenario. Then list the alternative outcomes that will possibly happen. As you do this, consider how many times you have had this worry versus how many times it has happened. You can even survey to look up the actual odds. At last, rerate the probability of event happening and your anxiety levels.
Your anxiety level should have declined after you make a full and objective risk assessment. Do a Risk Assessment each time you are confronted by a significant worry. Practice this exercise consistently as it helps to change your old habits of catastrophic thinking.
Risk Assessment Form
1. Feared event: ____________________________________________________________________
2. Automatic thoughts: _______________________________________________________________
3. Rate anxiety from 0 to 100: _________________________________________________________
4. Rate probability of event from 0 to 100 percent: ________________________________________
5. Assuming the worst happens, predict the worst possible consequences: _____________________
6. Possible coping thoughts: ___________________________________________________________
7. Possible coping actions: ____________________________________________________________
8. Revised predictions of consequences: _________________________________________________
9. Rerate anxiety: ___________________________________________________________________
10. Evidence against the worst possible outcome: _________________________________________
11. Alternative outcomes: ____________________________________________________________
12. Rerate probability of event from 0 to 100: ____________________________________________
13. Rerate anxiety from 0 to 100: ______________________________________________________
By: Ms Jolene Yeo, SOL Psychologist