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There has been some confusion about the exact date of ‘Blue Monday’ this year but some say that Monday, 24 January, was officially the most depressing day of the year in Britain. Apparently, foul weather, debt, failed resolutions and a lack of motivation conspire to make it the most anxiety provoking of the year. As worry is a topic which is often discussed in my work with mothers apart from their children, I thought I would write about ways to manage it.

One of the worst things about worry is the way it seems to take over our lives. Worrying and obsessing keep us so tangled in our head we are unable to solve our problems. It can paralyze thinking and activity. Some of us are habitual worriers and have worried for years, sometimes having learnt how to be a worrier from our parents. For others, the act of worrying has crept into our lives when we became mothers apart from our children.

Whether you are a seasoned worrier or struggle with anxiety provoking thoughts from time to time, here are some home truths about worry:

  • Worry is a state of apprehension from anticipating a real or imaginary threatening event. It is therefore possible to put yourself through very distressing imaginings about something that will not happen. Worrying, obsessing and trying to control, are illusions – tricks we play on ourselves. We like to think this behaviour is solving our problems but it is not.
  • Many people are superstitious about worry, believing that worrying will prevent something bad from happening. Just like managing guilt so that we can make ourselves happy as mothers apart, it is important to manage superstitious thoughts that tell us that feeling peaceful and calm is bound to make something bad happen.
  • Most worriers would like to be completely free of anxiety immediately. Trying to change habits takes time. Like adjusting to living apart from your child, the trick is to take things easy, lower your sights and aim to manage worry.

Three tips for managing worry:

Organise worry. Set aside a time of the day to methodically review your worries. If a worry shows up before or after your worry time, write it down on your worry list for later. Choose a certain time of day and a place for worrying. Avoid your bed as it should always be associated with your peaceful haven.  My clients often say, “I can’t do that, I don’t have control”- but think for a moment about how many times you worry and are interrupted by the phone or some other distraction. This means that you do set worries aside without realising it. You can learn to put aside a worry and get on with living your life in the here and now. You will also notice that a worry that felt strong at 10am has shrunk in significance by a worry time of say, 4pm. Aim to reduce your worry time from ten minutes to five, to two minutes per day. If you begin to make a joke of your new worry time habit with other people, then so much the better.

Focus on solving the problem if it is in your control, not your “what if…?” thoughts. What precisely is the problem or goal? List all possible solutions. Asses the main advantages and disadvantages of each one. Choose the most practical solution, the one that will most easily begin to solve the problem. Plan steps to carry out the best solution, listing the resources needed and pitfalls to overcome. Review progress and remember focus on what you have achieved first, before what is still to be overcome.

Write a personalised Worry First Aid Card. Keep some worry reducing reminders in your handbag and read when necessary. Here are some suggestions:

“I know that thinking about future bad events make me anxious but I can cope with these feelings and I don’t have to exaggerate things by dwelling on these thoughts.”

“I can choose to act in a way that is in direct conflict with my worry. I can face my fears.”

“I can take constructive steps to solve problems and that is as much as anyone can do. I will now think of or do something else.”

Rehearse the statements until they become an automatic response to worry. With practice you will experience fewer and shorter spells of worry.

As ever and especially when you are feeling worried and anxious, take outrageously good care of yourself. Get outside for some exercise, eat mindfully, treat and pamper yourself and make sure you get enough sleep.

Until next time,












Sarah’s new self-help book: A Mother Apart

Support for women

Sarah specialises in counselling and training women. She helps non-resident mothers find inner peace by dealing with guilt, distress and other difficult feelings which can be experienced when living apart from their child. Her self-help book, 'A Mother Apart', published by Crown House, is available now. She also supports business women grow in confidence whilst growing their businesses. To find out more, please visit Sarah Hart's website

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