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What to Do When You Worry About Yourself

Updated: Jun 17

Young African American man worrying about himself
Do you worry about yourself on a regular basis?

You probably don’t think about yourself until something is not going right. This can be a mental or physical problem, such as suddenly noticing that you don’t digest food well, so you worry about yourself and whether you have an ulcer. Or you might start crying at work or losing your temper with your family members, leading you to worry about having a mental illness.

Hopefully, once you notice that something is wrong, you stop and assess whether there’s something that you can do about it. Many people ruminate and “over think” about problems, which leads to feeling anxious or depressed. When you can’t figure out what’s wrong or what to do about it, you need an outside opinion to help you figure out whether or not your worries are grounded in reality. Hopefully, the person you’re talking to is not anxious or worried themselves.

Why do you worry about yourself?

There are many reasons you might worry about yourself. You might have watched your parents worry when you are young. This might have led you to think worrying is a normal coping mechanism. Maybe you believe worrying can help you solve your problems better – after all, you’re paying attention to the problem, right? Do you believe that worrying leads to creative problem-solving? What solutions do you generate by worrying? This confusion between being proactive and worrying is pretty common among my clients, from what I’ve seen. However, it is not accurate or helpful.

When you worry about yourself, it’s important to arrest the negative thinking so that the worry doesn’t take over. If you try to come up with rational, realistic solutions and just can’t seem to generate anything useful, don’t assume that you can handle a serious problem on your own. When worry takes over, it interferes with your sleep, digestion, blood pressure, and peace of mind. If you’re sick of worrying about yourself, here are some things to help you overcome that tendency.

Identify what is making you worry about yourself.

Pain often alerts you to physical problems, like you stepped off the curb wrong and now your ankle hurts. You still might need to stop and evaluate whether you can walk on it safely or if it needs medical attention. Similarly, emotional pain and suffering makes you aware of something wrong, which could be real or imagined. A real problem is something that’s happening now; and imagined problem is something that could happen but hasn’t.

When you feel upset, slow down. Take a moment to compare how you feel right now to how you normally feel. This can let you know whether you have good reason to worry about yourself, or if you are simply noticing a change in your internal state. The more you check in with yourself, the more you know what’s normal ups and downs and what’s concerning.

You’re not automatically depressed if you cry; nor are you an anxious person if occasionally you feel nervous. Consider how long you have experienced your current mental state. If you have been upset in a number of different situations, and feel overwhelmed by even small things that usually don’t bother you, you may need help with anxiety or depression.

Being fully present can help you change how you feel about yourself.

African American woman with eyes closed and a smile
When you're focused on the here and now, you can't simultaneously worry about yourself

When I ask people what is happening in this moment, usually they talk about all the things that they have to do that stress them out. If I asked you right now, what are you doing and what’s going on, you might tell me that you’re not sure about what you want to do with your life, or whether your spouse really loves you, or any number of concerns like that.

These are all valid concerns, but there is more to this moment than your worries. What’s really going on is you’re sitting or standing, reading this article, breathing in and out, hearing whatever background noises there are. Your mind wants to race into the future, but you can bring it back to here and now.

Defeat the what if monster.

If you tend to worry about yourself by asking endless “what if” questions, you are not alone. Many anxious people do this. Unfortunately, it does not save you from what will inevitably happen. Instead of spinning endlessly in this hamster wheel of worry, ask yourself if what you fear is happening right now. Usually, it is not.

Often, the feared outcome can be avoided or ameliorated somehow. If you bring your attention back to the present moment, you have a better chance of planning an effective solution to your problem that is more realistic. In fact, you can ask yourself how realistic that scenario is, and identify what you can do about it if it were to occur. This seems like a better use of your imagination than making yourself mentally and physically sick.

Challenge your own worries about yourself.

This can be challenging, but when you have enough practice examining your thoughts and determining whether they are realistic, it’s easier to dismiss unrealistic thoughts. For example, if you’re a student who thinks that if you don’t get perfect grades, you will somehow be defective or unlovable, that makes it harder to be a good student. Even if your parents told you that you’re no good if you don’t perform well academically, that doesn’t make it true.

If you had a friend who was going through the same worries, would you tell your friend what you say to yourself? Would you tell your friend, “Yeah, you’re right, you’re not lovable because you didn’t get a good grade on that test”? That would be a horrible thing to say to someone, so if you wouldn’t say that to your friend, why would it be okay to tell yourself the same thing?

little girl meditating on a rock and not worrying about yourself
When you are at peace, you don't have to worry about anyone, including yourself and others

Whether you’re worrying about yourself because of physical or mental health reasons, it can create a lot of discomfort. I want you to enjoy your life and live peacefully. Of course, there are always challenges in life. Some would say this makes life interesting, because you always have to adapt and figure out how to get your needs met in spite of obstacles. If everything came easily, you would get bored.

However, if your worry is creating too many problems, give me a call and we can see if I can help you have less worry about yourself.

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