Living@Guelph - Choose Your Own Adventure Living
Choosing Perspective or Worry:
Antidotes for Worry Worts

By Kathy Somers, Stress Management Clinic

The way we focus on things determines the impact that events have on us. We can choose to have a balanced, objective perspective on situations OR dwell on things and fail to see the whole picture. This unbalanced perspective can make a mountain out of a molehill and spark over-reactions to even the most trivial things. As the semester progresses it is common to get more and more wrapped up in school and work and grades, losing sight of the big picture of our life. This greatly increases our stress and anxiety for we are paying attention only to certain elements (school) and letting any negative school-related events have an even stronger impact on us.

Here are some suggestions for keeping your perspective throughout the semester:

  • When you get stressed out or anxious, ask yourself if you are taking a narrow, rigid, or simplified view of the situation. Are you over-generalizing? Making assumptions? Mind reading? Jumping to conclusions? Make sure that the degree of your reaction is based on the facts.
  • Look at all sides of a situation. Are you only seeing the glass as half empty? What is the side that is half full? Come up with as many interpretations for the event as possible. Ask yourself how others might see this situation.
  • Is a current anxiety-provoking event truly a "crisis"? Objectively evaluate the true relevance of the event. Ask yourself how the event ranks in relation to current global affairs. How would this situation look if you were up on the moon looking down on the whole world, or if you were looking back on it five years from now? Perhaps it is more of a problem or difficulty, rather than a crisis. Maybe it is only a "situation" - life happens!
  • Look for the elements of opportunity or challenge in stressful situations. This moves you into a more effective coping mode.
  • You are more than a number or an event.
    Remind yourself: "I am a whole person, much more than this one situation or my reactions to this situation."
    "There is more to me than a mark in this class or how it went in the seminar presentation."
    "I am a creative, intelligent, capable person with strengths and talents in ___________."
  • Remember the other parts of you and your life. The circle below represents you. Inside the circle draw smaller circles to represent each of your current activities. Draw them in a proportional manner, so if your main role is student, the largest circle you draw is labelled student. The other activities (family activities, friendship, relationship, exercise / athletics, employment, club member, hobbies, spiritual activities, etc.) can be drawn in proportion with their relationship to the student circle. Look at the outcome and note that school is just one part, albeit a large part right now, but it is not the only thing that makes up you. If this diagram makes you aware that there is an imbalance in your activities / priorities, then use this as a starting point to begin working toward change in the direction you desire.
  • Try to get some distance from stressful/upsetting situations: take a time out, get outdoors in nature, go off campus, have some fun, laugh and be around people you enjoy, seek supports or counselling. Give yourself a break and get away for a while.
  • Don't try to be perfect. There is not enough time to do everything or study everything during the semester. Pick your battles carefully and strive for quality work rather than getting stressed out by unrealistic self-expectations about the quantity of work to be done. Remember that there is no single perfect solution.
  • Watch for "what if......" statements. This is a classic way to worry. Counter it by telling yourself, "so what if..." or "how could I prevent, or minimize this from happening in the future", or "how would I cope with it if it did happen?" Having an action plan is the antidote, making worry and anxiety manageable.

    Skills in worry control and calming your mind are presented in the Relaxation and Stress Management Skills Training program and in the examSMART program offered every semester by the Stress Management and High Performance Clinic. For further information, pick up a Clinic pamphlet at the Wellness Centre or the Connection Desk, visit the web site, or call the Clinic at ext. 52662.