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ACA Counseling Corner Blog

We all face daily challenges in today's complicated and demanding world. ACA’s Counseling Corner Blog offers thoughtful ideas, suggestions, and strategies for helping you to live a happier and healthier life.

Columns can be reprinted in full or in part with attribution to the American Counseling Association’s Counseling Corner Blog.


Nov 9, 2020

Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

In today's changing climate, countless things can cause us to worry.  Our health, job security, financial issues, reopening schools, distance learning, current politics... the list of potential worries seems endless.

While we can't eliminate all our stresses, being worried about real things can and does perform a needed function in our lives -- it can lead to action.

On the other hand, needless worry can actually be harmful.  Needless worry adds unwanted stress to our lives and can even dramatically increase the health risks we face. The secret, of course, is identifying whether a thing causing worry is a real or a needless worry, and learning how to deal with each one.

When faced with anxiety and worry, our body reacts by pumping out a variety of chemicals, such as adrenaline, that cause various physiological reactions. These chemicals fueled our ancestors'  "fight or flee" reaction when that bear attacked. Although we seldom face angry bears today, yet our bodies still react the same way. Sustained, chronic worry can raise our risk of heart attack and stroke, increase blood pressure, lead to high cholesterol levels, and give us stomach aches, headaches and even back pain.

The starting point is identifying if the worry bothering us is real or needless. Often it helps to discuss the cause of your worry with someone else.  If it is a real concern, one that you can do something about, then you want to channel that worry into action.  Begin by making a plan for dealing with the cause of your worry, then carry it through. When you react this way you're making a positive use of worry.

But if the cause of your worry is something beyond your control, you need to act to counter that worry rather than letting it build up inside you.  Sometimes that simply means thinking about something over which you do have control or taking a simple action to take your mind off of that needless worry.

If watching the news, for example, makes you stressed and worried, stop watching. If the worry is still with you, refocus by doing something positive. Go for a walk, call a friend, or take a long bath.  Your goal is to stop dwelling on those things you really can't do anything about.

If chronic, especially needless worry is negatively affecting your daily life, consider seeking assistance from a professional counselor who can help you get worry under control.

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