Turning Off Your ‘Worry Wipers’

by Mary McKheen, LMSW, ACSW

On a family road trip through the New Englandstates, our car developed an unusual problem.  The windshield wipers would not stop working, even though the lever was in the off position.  The sun shone bright but those wipers were in heavy thunderstorm mode!  Focusing on the picturesque New England landscape proved impossible because our senses were overloaded with the flapping sound and constant motion of the wipers.

Reflecting on that strange day in the car, I am aware that I sometimes spend my life acting like those wipers.  I fretfully worry and wait for the next big thunderstorm, even on sunny days.

What about you?  Do you struggle with anxiety or chronic worries?  Are your ‘worry wipers’ in the highest position, causing you to miss some of the beauty and joy in your
life and keeping you from experiencing the peace that you long for?

According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) one in five people reportedly meet the criteria for an Anxiety Disorder at some time in their life, and the
prevalence appears to be increasing.  It’s normal to worry or feel scared when facing a stressful situation.  Also, while anxiety feels unpleasant, it isn’t always a bad thing.  In fact,
anxiety can help us stay focused and motivate us to solve problems.    However, when anxiety is constant and when it interferes with your relationships and daily functioning, it’s a sign that you’ve moved from normal anxiety into the realm of an anxiety disorders.

Signs and symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Chronic tension/worry
  • Irrational fears
  • Avoidance of everyday situations or activities
  • Pounding heart
  • Poor concentration
  • Muscle tension
  • Lurking sense of danger.

The good news is that there are many effective strategies for dealing with anxiety.  For example:

  • Thought stopping:  Commanding oneself to “Stop!” when
    experiencing repeated negative, unnecessary or distorted thoughts and
    replacing the negative thought with something more positive and realistic,
    for example, a prayer, reassuring scripture passage (Philippians 4:6-7),
    or a remembrance of God’s past faithfulness.
  • Belly breathing:  Breathing deeply by expanding the
    abdomen rather than the chest and focusing on the words “Be still” or “God
    is with me” while slowly inhaling and exhaling.
  • Making time each day for relaxation and fun.
  • Getting emotional support from family and friends.
  • Taking care of your body through exercise, healthy eating, and
    getting necessary sleep and rest.
  • Asking for help when you need it.

It’s important to note that self-help coping strategies can be very effective; however, if
your worries and fears are so great that your daily life is disrupted, it is important to seek professional help, including getting a medical check-up.

What coping strategies have you tried to turn off your ‘worry wipers?’  Please comment.

Mary McKheen, LMSW, ACSW is a certified Parent Management Trainer (PMTO).


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