How to Worry Less
The reality: We live in an uncertain world and are exposed to violent images on TV and the Internet. It’s enough to make the calmest person paranoid, or at least a bit edgy.
You’re most vulnerable if: You’ve ever been in a situation that threatened your safety―surviving a four-alarm fire, for example―says Jerilyn Ross, director of the Ross Center for Anxiety & Related Disorders, in Washington, D.C. Also, you may not cope well with unpredictability.
What to do: Take a few moments to consider the probability (not the possibility) that a terrorist attack will occur in your town or whatever else you’re worried about happening will happen, says Ross. “If you differentiate between facts and fears, you can deal with reality,” she says. Even if you live in New York City or Washington, D.C., which bore the brunt of the 9/11 attacks, remind yourself that that is the only time in U.S. history that such a large-scale terrorist attack has occurred. “Our minds have a way of focusing on the horrific risks that are highlighted in the news,” says Ross. “However, the chances of being in a car accident are greater than those of being killed by a terrorist.” As a way of coping, learn how to be better prepared for a disaster. Write a list of things that would make your home safer and more secure, and come up with a disaster-readiness plan. Check these tasks off the list as you complete them. “Then you can say, ‘OK, I’ve done everything I can. Now I need to go on with my life,’” says Ross. “If you can’t move on, seek help.”
It has gone too far when: Your worry leads you to make unnecessary and unreasonable adjustments to your life―for example, refusing to fly or take public transportation. These fears may have developed into a mild anxiety disorder, says Ross. Talking to a therapist could bring things back into perspective.