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Do you worry too much?

When does too much worry turn into something else, such as anxiety?

With 1:6 Australians at risk of anxiety at some point in their lives and with 2 million experiencing it in any given 12 months, this is a BIG worry. At work, worry is limiting productivity and efficiency. It is limiting potential and stifling creativity. It is costing Australian business big time with absenteeism and presenteeism sitting at about $79billion p.a. according to AIG.

Worse still, is the amount of anxiety being experienced by the younger generation, leading to difficulties around coping with school, studying, exams, relationships and dealing with stress in general.

October 8th to15th is Mental Health Week and October 10th is World Mental Health Day so this is THE time to press pause and ask, “What is going on?”

Why are we so stricken with worry and what can we do to alleviate this worsening epidemic of mental illness?

It’s easy to point the finger of blame at our modern lifestyle, our propensity for staying over busy and being somewhat over in love with our social media. What matters more is to recognise what might be contributing to your level of worry, and which safety strategies would work best for you.

Whenever I’ve asked what is the worst thing about suffering from anxiety, the answer is always that sense of loss of control – the feeling that something is happening to you, that you no longer have a say in.

Reduce worry by starting with brain awareness

Recovery begins with greater brain awareness, to gain greater understanding around WHY you think and behave the way you do. This is something that needs to be on every school curriculum and revised periodically throughout our lives to remind us how to recognise the indicators that we’re not doing so well on the coping stakes, to have already in place a stress-reduction plan and to know when it’s time to implement those remedies that you have the confidence in that will work, to help alleviate some of the intensity of the associated symptoms and emotions.

Manage your brain health

Just as it’s important to stay physically fit, elevating mental wellbeing is assisted by being brain fit – choosing your lifestyle, the how you, eat, rest and sleep to protect you from the potential threat of anxiety and depression. Planning for those “If then” moments helps reduce the risk of falling into a heap when the next barrel-load of worry heads your way. It’s about sorting out the hardware in your skull to elevate stress resistance. Think of it like creating a Teflon coating for your mind, so those grasping worries can’t get a grip as easily.

Grant yourself permission to stop

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, working too hard, for too long and not taking enough downtime. Putting in the effort and striving hard are all very noble, but not at the expense of health and sanity. It may feel counter-intuitive but choosing to work fewer hours i.e. not consistently working over and beyond what we are contracted to do, helps us to be more productive with our time and lowers stress levels.

Choose to chill

It’s easy to take ourselves very seriously, because well, living is serious, as is our work and study. But the best way to prevent anxiety getting its gnarly clutches into you is a healthy immunising dose of chilling out, administered regularly, preferably in the company of others who make you feel good and make you laugh.

Where you choose to chill doesn’t matter. It could be at a friend’s house, at the movies, at a café, in the park and it’s how often you practice that counts. Why not take the time to relax every day, even if just for 15-20 minutes?

Some find exercise relaxing, others like to meditate, so choose a couple of different methods that you enjoy to ring up the changes. It helps to keep things in perspective and allows you to check in on the validity of those worrying thoughts.

If anxiety is being too persistent in wanting to be your friend, it’s time to say “Buzz off worry, you’re not helping here.”

…And make that promise to yourself that you will take better care of your own mental health.

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression that are making it hard for you to cope, PLEASE seek advice from your health practitioner. They can help you to overcome the symptoms, and the earlier it is caught the quicker it is to resolve the issue.

For further information about anxiety and other forms of mental illness visit Beyond Blue or call their helpline 1300 22 463 any time.

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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