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5 quick questions to ask yourself if you’re a worrier

Woman looking worried
Is worrying stopping you from doing things in life?

Do you sometimes worry that you worry too much? Do people know you as a nervous Nellie or a worrywart? If you often find yourself overthinking an upcoming event, imagining things going wrong in the future, or replaying a past situation, it might be time to stop and consider whether your worrying is warranted, or whether it’s time you seek from a health professional to manage it.

Sometimes worry is reasonable, and thinking things through can even be a useful way to problem solve. But if worry is disruptive or affecting you physically, emotionally or behaviourally, it might be a symptom of a broader mental health condition. To help figure out if your worrying is something you should seek help for, ask yourself these five questions.

1. Does worry get in my way?

If your worrying stops you from doing things – for example, not booking a flight if you’re a nervous flyer, skipping a social gathering that you feel anxious about attending, or not speaking up when you have something to say at work – then it’s time to speak to a health professional about finding strategies to help you manage how you’re thinking and feeling.

If worry ever stops you from doing your best at work, study or in relationships, then that’s also a sign you might want to seek support. Worry might affect your concentration, your confidence or even your ability to show up and participate properly in the activity you’re doing. If this is the case, a health professional might be able to help you manage the effect worry is having on your life.

2. How long have I been worrying?

If you’ve been feeling worried, stressed, uptight, angry or just generally ‘not yourself’ for two weeks or more, it’s time to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. You don’t need to suffer for months before you get help, and even if your worries feel small or silly, if they keep sticking around then they can have a serious impact on your wellbeing.

3. Does worry cause me other symptoms?

When you get worried about something, how does it affect your mind and body? Do you feel extra tired, do your palms sweat, does your stomach churn, is it hard to concentrate on what you’re doing? You don’t have to put up with worry and the way it makes you feel; if worry is making you feel bad in any way, talking to someone about it is the first step to feeling better.

Man drinking looking worried

4. Do I ‘self-treat’ my worry in a healthy way?

How do you stop yourself from worrying, or make yourself feel better when you’re worried about something? Do you have healthy strategies up your sleeve, like meditating, moving your body, or debriefing with someone you trust? Or do your coping strategies make you feel worse and add to your stress?

People develop all types of strategies to help them feel better when they’re worried or stressed – it’s totally normal to find a way to get out of a negative headspace. But if you find that your coping strategies cause you more stress, like over-spending, self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, or eating too much or too little, a medical professional like a doctor or psychologist might be able to help you develop healthy strategies to cope with worry.

5. How often do I feel calm?

Instead of focusing just on your worry, take a minute to think about how often you feel calm and without worry. When was the last time you felt good? How often every week do you have a low-stress day?

If these questions have made you realise that worry is taking up too much of your time, you can talk to your doctor or someone you trust about ways to make your worrying more manageable.    

What can I do to help myself stop worrying?

Worry and stress are normal parts of being human, so the aim of seeking help isn’t to never have a worry again. Working with a health professional can help you find out when and why you worry, learn how worry affects you and develop strategies to help manage worry in the future.  

The first step to seeking support is to talk to someone. You might choose to talk to a trusted family member, friend or colleague about how you’re feeling first, or you might go straight to your doctor.

Your doctor will talk with you to understand how and why you worry, and whether your worrying is a symptom of a mental health condition like anxiety or depression. They might recommend setting up a mental health care plan for you, so that you can access services from allied health professionals like a psychologist.

Your doctor can also refer you to an appropriate health professional who can offer you support. Depending on your experience of worry and your health, this could include a psychologist, social worker or counsellor, dietitian, exercise physiologist, or other health professional who can help you manage your worrying or the things that you worry about.

There are also organisations that can support you in managing your worrying. Beyond Blue, Lifeline, Black Dog Institute and SANE Australia have resources to help you look after your mental wellbeing.

Kids and worry

Children have mental health just like adults do. If you notice your child or a child in your care is worrying to excess or showing symptoms of anxiety, it might be a sign that they need a little extra support. A child’s worries might seem silly or insignificant when you’re an adult, but to them they can be a big deal, and might have an ongoing impact on their wellbeing, so it’s good to get on top of excessive worrying quickly.

Talk with your child about how they’re feeling, and if you think it’s time to seek extra support, book in to see your doctor or paediatrician.

You can read about how to figure out when it’s time to seek help for your child’s worries and anxiety on the Children’s Health Queensland blog.

More information about worrying, stress and anxiety

5 ways to reduce stress right now

Work/life balance and stress management

What is a mental health care plan and how do I get one?

Help lines, counselling and support groups

Last updated: 15 January 2019