Worry or Anxiety - which is it?
We all get worried sometimes - it’s part of being human. And in the world we live in today, there are plenty of things to worry us, whether it’s on a large scale like global warming, or closer to home like running late for work. People often use the terms anxious and worried interchangeably, but there are some critical differences between the two. But when does a worry turn into anxiety? What is the difference between the two and what can we do to avoid anxiety? As I say, we all get worried sometimes, but anxiety is a whole different ball game.
To me a worry is a discrete thing - it is usually specific and has a fairly clear start and end. To give an example - I am worried about getting stuck in traffic and being late for work. The worry is limited to the experience of the traffic jam, and arriving at work. If the traffic isn’t as bad, or I make it on time, or my boss is fine with it, then the worry disappears. It’s temporary. It has a start and a finish. Anxiety on the other hand can linger...we can struggle to fall asleep the night before because of the possibility, and even when we get to work the anxiety sticks around.
Worries also tend to live in our head, whereas anxiety hits our body. A worry can whir around in our mind for some time, whereas anxiety is visceral - we get the physical symptoms, the tight chest or churning stomach. When we worry, it can encourage problem solving - I don’t want to get stuck in traffic and be late for work, so I’ll make sure to set my alarm earlier to give myself plenty of time. Anxiety keeps us stuck in a rut of panic, the mind whirring, the stomach churning, and every solution just feels like another problem.
But I think the main difference between worry and anxiety, is the fact that a worry tends to be realistic. A worry is that I may get fired because I have arrived late every day for a week. Anxiety is thinking I’m going to get fired because my boss didn’t ask how my cat is! I joke, but this is a reality for many people suffering with anxiety. It is a constant barrage of fear, that you know, on a logical level is ridiculous, but cannot for the life of you find a way out of.
We can live with worry. It is a normal part of life. It can keep us thinking and working to problem solve. But if we don’t keep our worries in check they can get out of control, and turn into anxiety. To help with anxiety, we need to work on downgrading it back down to worry. And we can do this by finding ways to calm our mind, and body, down enough so that we can see the end in sight, and find the solutions. This doesn’t happen overnight, and is a lot easier said than done, but it is far from impossible! By giving ourselves compassion, taking time to calm our body and mind, and making a conscious effort to interrupt our thinking, we can start to retrain our minds.
Want to find out how to do this? Check out our 12 week program, which will teach you all about it!