man who feels worried all the time

Is It Normal to Feel Worried All the Time?

Everyone worries. When we care about something, it’s natural to feel a sense of worry or concern when faced with problems that are beyond our control or that we can’t solve. And in some situations, worrying can be helpful. For instance, if you worry about temporary problems, you’re more likely to feel motivated to solve them and end the uncomfortable feeling.


However, when you feel you’re always worried about the future, in an abstract, uncertain sense, or when you worry for a long period of time over a situation, real or imaginary, it may indicate a deeper struggle. Excessive worrying indicates anxious thought patterns, which can take a toll on our emotional and mental health. In a more extreme version, excessive worry can also be a symptom of generalised anxiety disorder.


Is it normal to feel worried all the time?


Worry is a feeling that can cause both physical and mental discomfort. It is the result of thoughts about the uncertain future. In the short-term, worrying involves anticipating problems or challenges and can help us plan and make important decisions. But this kind of worry typically eases once the specific circumstances that prompted it resolve. Common short-term situations that can make us worry typically involve our or others’ health, our family and loved ones, our work, finances, and money. Short-term worry is normal; everyone experiences it, though some people worry in response to different situations and to different degrees.


However, long-term worrying is less productive. It drains our mental and physical energy and leaves us feeling constantly overwhelmed. This type of worry-without-end is accompanied by negative thoughts and images of worst-case scenarios that can be difficult to control and evoke feelings of fear and distress. This state may involve worry over many different things, or just one, nagging thing. You may feel like you’re always worried about something, or that you’re worried all the time about everything. You may also feel like you’re always nervous or scared.


What does worrying feel like?


When you’re worrying constantly, your body and mind are upset and fearful over a long period of time. This extended state can cause difficulty focusing, taking decisions, reasoning, staying organised, and remembering things. It also opens the potential for substance abuse, among those who are prone to it.


Physically, worrying puts the body into a state of stress. This means people who struggle with excessive worry also often experience fatigue, restlessness, disrupted sleep, appetite changes, muscle tension, increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, occasional headaches, stomachaches, and more. 


How to know if you’re worrying too much


It’s hard to recognise if you’re worrying too much. Some people may worry too much while still thinking they take life too lightly. But the short answer is: You’re worrying too much, if you feel like you’re worrying too much – if worry feels overwhelming, constant, and out of your control.


Here are some more specific red flags around frequent worrying:

  • The thought of future events causes anxious feelings. This could mean your idea of thinking about the future involves prepping for disasters or worst-case scenarios. It could also mean you tend to interpret every incoming situation as a likely problem.
  • You’re sleeping poorly and/or your appetite has changed significantly. People who worry too much tend to forget to eat on time, or don’t get enough sleep. This further adds to the physical stress the body experiences while worrying, making mental and emotional health worse.
  • You frequently feel restless and jumpy. You may be worrying too much if your body frequently feels like it’s experiencing the aftermath of an illness, terrible event, or unpleasant encounter.
  • You often feel guilty, angry or resentful. Depending on the subject of your worry, you might experience a host of frequent, negative emotions that also occupy your thoughts while worrying. This might include rage, resentment, guilt, sadness, betrayal, irritation, and more.
  • Relaxation feels uncomfortable. When you’re unable to relax once a task, event, or meeting is complete because you’re so used to worrying as a default state, you may be worrying too much.


How to feel less nervous and worried


The toll of frequent and constant worrying on your mental, emotional, and physical health can be immense. To prevent these negative effects, and to feel more in control, here are a few steps you can take: 


  • Understand your worry triggers. Excessive worry that’s not linked to a specific, short-term situation, is often caused and perpetuated by specific triggers – people, conversations, events, situations, sounds, etc., that prompt uncertain feelings that spin into worried thoughts and anxious, uncomfortable feelings. Take time to reflect on what specifically triggers your worry. Is it future uncertainties, health concerns, or work-related stress? By identifying your worry triggers, you can gain insight into the underlying sources of your anxiety.
  • Challenge your worrisome thoughts. Not all of our thoughts are accurate representations of reality, and our worries often stem from irrational or exaggerated thoughts and reactions. Learn to question the validity of your anxious thoughts. Ask yourself, “Is this worry based on facts or just my imagination?”
  • Implement problem-solving strategies. Instead of allowing worries to consume your thoughts, take proactive steps to address the underlying problems. Break down the issues into manageable parts and brainstorm potential solutions. Taking action and problem-solving can alleviate the cycle of worry and empower you to find practical resolutions.
  • Practise mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness practices, such as meditations and body scans, can be very powerful tools for managing worry. By bringing your attention to the present moment the continuous chain of worried thoughts gets interrupted. This allows us to put distance between ourselves and our worries and eventually reduces the impact worry has on our well-being.

Do you need therapy for worrying too much?


Worrying is a universal experience that we all go through at various points in life. However, when worry starts interfering with your ability to do tasks and activities as you normally would, causes you frequent or prolonged distress, affects your relationships or work performance, and interrupts your overall well-being – it becomes a significant concern. 


At this point, it’s helpful to seek support from a mental health practitioner, such as a clinical psychologist, or scientific self-therapy programs. They can assess your condition and provide appropriate treatment, which typically involves therapy that helps you explore the root source of your worried thoughts and develop skills to manage anxious feelings. For some severe cases, consulting a psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication, may be required.


Admitting that frequent worrying is a problem can be a monumental effort; sometimes, we might even get caught up in worry over how much we’re worrying and feel unable to take a step to address our struggles. But there are many techniques to calm yourself and mitigate the anxiousness and worry that feels overwhelming, regardless of circumstances. It is always possible to worry less, even if we may need help in order to do it.

Raksha Rajesh (M.Sc., M.Phil., CRR No. A80195) is a clinical psychologist licensed by the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI). She has 5+ years of experience in helping people from diverse backgrounds build skills to understand and manage their emotions.

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