Anxiety is widespread in today's world, but most of our concerns will never actually happen.
Picking our kids up from school on time, our parents’ health, bills that keep piling up on the living room table … How many opportunities there are for concern, and how many times a day we catch ourselves thinking about things that can go wrong! “What if …” always crosses our minds. But the chances that all those worries will never materialize is 91.4%.
This was the result of a study conducted by researchers at the psychology department of the Pennsylvania State University. The scientists analyzed the worry reports of 29 patients with generalized anxiety disorder. Over the course of a month, these worries were monitored, and only 8.6% materialized.
Although the sample size is small, the results are still revelatory. While the exact percentage may vary, many of our worries are just wasted time and energy. The study showed that awareness of this reality helped the study’s participants reduce their anxiety levels.
Negative thoughts and excessive worry are symptoms of anxiety, which, together with depression, are the banes of the century. The pandemic has only intensified these evils.
According to the World Health Organization, in 2015, before the spread of the new coronavirus, 3.6% of the world population suffered from anxiety. With the constant fear of illness and death, the social withdrawal necessary to contain the pandemic, and the new-found financial difficulties resulting from the crisis, this number has jumped significantly.
One meta-analysis published in Nature estimates the global prevalence of anxiety disorders to be as high as 26.9%. While the exact statistics might be difficult to nail down and are shown to vary from place to place, there’s little reason to doubt the basic fact—evident in the daily lives of many of us—that most people are more stressed and anxious than they were a year and a half ago.
Observing your thoughts
Many of the therapies applied by modern psychology are based on the cognitive-behavioral model, which relates the incidence of thoughts to anxious behaviors or responses.
One of the newer treatments is metacognitive therapy, which teaches us to observe our intrusive thoughts. Instead of repressing them, this therapeutic model shows how to understand what triggers such thoughts and how they are harmful to our well-being.
There are techniques in metacognitive therapy for understanding intrusive thoughts, helping to identify and immediately re-signify them.
In addition to conventional psychological practices, there are also meditation techniques for exercising mindfulness that can help us focus on the present, leaving the past behind and not worrying so much about what is to come.
After all, the only time we really have any control over is the here and now. However, we need to realize that the line between manageable worry and anxiety is a fine one. If you’re feeling like there is too much on your mind and that these worries are paralyzing, be sure to seek help.
Besides the doctor and the psychologist, don’t forget to turn to the immense wealth of faith to calm your spirit and achieve peace. The Catholic Church offers a wide range of spirituality tools to help you overcome excessive worry and live a more contemplative life with a peaceful heart. Talk to the pastor of the church nearest your home.