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A psychologist’s tips for dealing with worry

Expert tips


There are many things going on around us that can cause us worry, stress or anxiety. What can we do when our worries grow too big and start to affect our everyday lives? We have spoken to psychologist Karin Calissendorff for some advice on how to deal with worries and stress.

Worrying has a tendency to use up a lot of our mental energy. No matter where our worries come from, they can risk affecting our stress levels, our sleep and our wellbeing. It is not always possible to stop our worries completely, but we can learn how to manage them.

“It is common for people to begin ignoring whatever lies at the root of our worries and to do all we can not to think about it. This may work temporarily but often leads to long-term stress. Many people also have the opposite response and become excessively controlling, reading every last news update and constantly Googling new information. This is not sustainable either. The key is to try and land somewhere in between these two extremes,” says Karin Calissendorff, psychologist at Falck Previa.

Karin Calissendorff psykolog på Falck opening quote

Try and find strategies to keep ourselves from catastrophising.

Strategies for dealing with worry

Karin works at the employee assistance service where she speaks to employees who ring up for support in matters relating to both their work and private lives. She has noticed how external events affect many of the people she speaks to. For instance, bills and money have become a more common source of worry and conflict at home.  

“A lot of news stories right now speculate about the worst-case scenarios in matters that are beyond our control. Naturally this has an effect on us, and so it is good to try and find strategies to keep ourselves from catastrophising. It isn’t helpful to just sit and think about what is worrying us all the time,” says Karin.

When our worries and stress feel like they are beginning to take over, Karin recommends the following two strategies.

The three-minute rule

If worry takes root and your thoughts start getting away from you, try taking three minutes to focus on your worries. Once three minutes have passed, reflect on whether you have made any progress in managing the issue you are worried about – i.e. have you found a concrete change you can make. If the answer is yes, then you have moved into problem-solving mode and can continue to reflect a little longer. But if three minutes have passed and you haven’t gotten anywhere, then you are likely just catastrophising. In which case, it’s better to think about something else.

“The deceptive thing about worry is that catastrophising can feel productive as we think through lots of possible scenarios and try to prepare ourselves for them mentally. But this holds us back in our everyday lives as it takes up time that we could use on genuine problem-solving.”

Designated worry time

And if you find it really hard to think about something else, you can try setting aside some designated worry time. Pick a time of the day – any time except late in the evening – when you are allowed to think for a bit about what worries you. When these thoughts pop up at other times in the day, you can tell yourself that you’ll think about that later. This way you can create a space for your worries, process them and try to come up with solutions without letting them take over.

Knowing when it is time to seek help

If your worries become hard to escape, you begin to feel down and you worry at night and have trouble sleeping, that is a sign you should see somebody who can provide you with support. Many people will have the option to access conversational support via their employer, but you can also contact your local health centre.

“It is normal to feel that things are tough. A lot of what happens in the world is very close to us and it affects us all in different ways. But sometimes our focus ends up in the wrong place and we need to readjust. This is something we can get support with.”

Tips for dealing with worry

  • Worry time and the three-minute rule
    Use the three-minute rule to try and distinguish between problem-solving and catastrophising. Use worry time as a way to give your worries some limited space, without ignoring how you feel.
  • Be kind to yourself
    Look out for yourself and stick to your routines. Eat regularly, sleep properly, exercise and keep active. Speak to somebody you feel confident to share your worries with.
  • Reduce your news consumption
    You don’t need to read all new information and updates. If your news feed is affecting you negatively, try only checking your news feed during your designated worry time.
  • Write down your worries
    Separate the things you can influence from the things you can’t.
  • Seek help if your worries take over
    You may need to seek professional help if your worries begin to take over your everyday life.