Worry or Anxiety

Anxiety and worry. These are common emotions that all of us face. We face anxiety in family, work, studies. They are legitimate emotions and being human, no one is immune to experiencing these negative emotions in life. Many people are plagued by anxiety and worry which has become a serious mental health issue in recent times affecting well-being, relationships, and normal functioning. We can also feel guilty about our anxiety.

Let us begin by defining “Worry” or “Anxiety”. “Worry” is defined as “to make anxious or uncomfortable”, “a feeling of anxiety”. “Anxiety” is defined as “fear, especially caused by uncertainty about something”, “feeling troubled, or fearful”. (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English).

Next, let us look at some situations where we feel anxiety or worry. We feel anxious if our workplace is talking of retrenchments or we are hoping for a promotion. Or we have just sent out an application letter and anxiously waiting for a response.

We feel anxious while waiting for medical diagnosis for ourselves or loved ones. We face anxiety while performing our multiple roles and balancing these roles. Those who are schooling will feel anxious during examinations and worry about their performance, or even in daily learning, coping with homework and assignments.

A big stressor for all of us are relationships, particularly, significant relationships. We face anxiety over our relationships in the family: aging parents, differences with spouses, rebellion of children. We could face tensions in relationships at workplace, friendships or community (church, etc) too.

We also feel anxious when things do not go our way: MRT breakdowns, conflicts in relationships, adjustments, etc. We feel worry too when we read headlines of economic slowdowns, terrorist attacks, increase in divorce rates, etc. And we wonder will it happen to us too?

Hence, worry and anxiety is part and parcel of life. There will be times when we face acute worry and anxiety like hoping for a loved one’s recovery in the ICU, or waiting for a job offer and being a sole breadwinner after being laid off.

“Worry and anxiety may fill our world but it does not have to fill our hearts. The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional.” – Max Lucado

It is in managing worries and anxieties that will set one person apart from another. Two persons facing similar challenging situations can have different responses or different levels of worry. One can function and cope better; the second one is so limited by the worry that he could not sleep well at night, does not want to leave home, or having anger outbursts frequently, going on a downward spiral. Toxic anxiety can also lead to other poor habits like binge eating, drinking, abandoning or neglecting relationships.

It is helpful to be aware if one is experiencing excessive worry or anxiety which can become clinical and requires medication. One good way to cope is speak to someone who would care – your spouse, siblings, best friend, or a Counsellor. It helps most people if they could open up their hearts and speak to someone whom they could trust. Just knowing someone hears them, spending time to listen to them and understand what they are going through, and journeying with them is itself a therapeutic experience.

We gain insights in sharing with significant others who could support us with love and acceptance. It is a human need to receive love and acceptance. In the process, we gain courage and confidence to face our worries or anxious situations and to overcome them. We could reframe the way we look at things or face our fears. We will learn how to talk ourselves out of anxious situations, view bad news with strength, or simply allowing ourselves time to recover.

It is in managing worries and anxieties that will set one person apart from another. Two persons facing similar challenging situations can have different responses or different levels of worry.

It helps most people if they could open up their hearts and speak to someone whom they could trust. Just knowing someone hears them, spending time to listen to them and understand what they are going through, and journeying with them is itself a therapeutic experience.

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