Managing worry and anxiety

Identify your anxieties and worries

Identifying your worries and categorising them can be a useful step towards taking control of your anxiety. To help you do this, try answering these questions:

  • What are you anxious or worried about? Try to be specific, for example: I am worried about going to work on public transport because people will stare
  • How does the anxiety make you feel and behave? e.g. This will make me feel exposed and vulnerable and I will try to hide my face
  • How does this worry affect your life? e.g. I try to avoid going on public transport or feel very anxious when I do
  • When do you worry most? e.g. I worry about this on weekdays when I have to go to work the next day

How can I manage my anxious thoughts?

Changing Faces knows that people with a visible difference face challenges and that at times you may experience staring, comments, questions, or other difficult things. We are not saying this won’t happen, nor dismissing any difficult experiences. It’s important to acknowledge that there will probably be good and bad days, and that’s ok. We all have these.

As humans, we cannot control everything that happens to us. However, it can help to challenge our worries by looking at the bigger picture and taking charge of the things we can control. We can decide how we are going to respond and act.

If you start getting anxious or worried, ask yourself the following questions:

‘Can I do something about this right now?’

If the answer is no, focus on something else. If your mind wanders back to your worry, refocus it again on the task in hand. Some people find it helpful to focus on their breathing. This helps to bring the mind back to the present rather than focusing on the worry.

What would my friends or family say?

Ask yourself what a friend or family member would say to you in this situation. Chances are they would be kind and loving and tell you that you can cope.

Is my worry based on fact or opinion?

Thoughts are not facts and recognising this can be very helpful. If you are worried that something will happen, try to step back and ask yourself, ‘Is this a fact – or my opinion?’ If it hasn’t yet happened, it is likely to be your assumption that is making you anxious – as it is not yet a fact – so it can help to remind yourself of this.

Am I predicting the worse-case scenario?

When we worry, we tend to focus on what will go wrong or badly. We might play down our ability to cope with difficulties or challenges. Recognising this can help. Try to think about all possible outcomes including the good ones. Think about other times you were anxious or worried – did it always turn out badly? And even if it did, how did you cope? Try to focus on the positive, for example, think of the things you are looking forward to today or how you might reward yourself.

Am I trying to read other people’s minds?

Check whether you are making predictions about what other people are thinking. If someone turns away from you, you might start to worry this is because of your appearance, but actually it may be for many reasons. We don’t know what other people are thinking, so try not to read their minds.

How have I coped before?

Think about all the things you have overcome so far – you may have faced many challenges. How have you coped with these? What does ‘coping’ mean to you?
Even if it feels like a bad day, remind yourself of what you have achieved, for example, you have got up, got ready, taken the kids to school, prepared a meal – all these things are important.

It can also help to prepare and take control of your environment

Prepare in advance

  • Think of common situations you feel may be challenging or that may increase your anxiety – think of several responses for each
  • E.g: In the commuting situation above, you could look at your phone or read the paper to divert yourself, count how many people are wearing black coats or try smiling at a nearby commuter, or you might change carriages and try to find a seat.
  • You might be worried about a big change coming up, such as starting a new job or going to university. Think about the things that might make you feel less worried and more confident. This might be choosing a new outfit to wear or preparing responses of how you want to talk about your appearance if anyone asks. Try to focus your thoughts on to the things you are looking forward to.
  • This is not easy but changing the focus of your attention to thoughts that are more positive can help to reduce the time spent worrying.

Dedicate ‘worry time’

  • Dedicate around 10-15 minutes a day where you sit down and think about your worries (you might like to revisit the identifying section above).
  • Think carefully about the timing of this (e.g: before bed is not a good time) – chose a time that works for you, where you might be diverted afterwards, for example, after dinner – then you can spend time with your partner or watch TV or read.
  • If worries come to mind at other times, don’t tell yourself you can’t worry – that won’t work – instead say – I am going to postpone this until my worry time.

Create calm spaces

  • Think of times that you find you feel anxious the most. For example, a lot of people find they worry more at night.
  • Try to make the whole space calm and relaxing (low lighting, warm, comfortable) so it is dedicated to rest and sleep.
  • Go to bed only when you are ready to sleep. You could read or try a relaxation exercise beforehand to clear your mind and help you feel calmer
  • You might also identify a calm space for yourself in your home or at work, where you can sit and relax. Or build in a walk outside each day.

Set achievable goals

  • It can be hard when everything in life is not as you wish and worrying about this can be a common anxiety.
  • Think about what you want your life to look like – ask yourself, is this realistic right now? For example, if you are having significant health problems, thinking about going to work might not be realistic right now, so set this as a medium or longer-term goal.
  • Make a list of things you would like to do and try and make a plan. Be realistic about your time and resources.
  • Identify what you have stopped doing and make a plan as to how you can restart.
  • Break it all down into small, manageable steps.

Health and treatment concerns: Problem solving and finding information

  • It’s very natural to feel worried, especially if you have an operation coming up or something that creates apprehension.
  • Think about the worries you have and decide if there is anyone that you can speak to about them – this might be a medical professional, or others who have your condition.
  • Think about what you can control in the situation, eg: this might be taking something to the hospital that comforts you, doing things that help you to relax, or taking someone with you to an appointment.

We appreciate all these things may sound challenging to do all at once. Think about taking it in stages. Identify your anxieties first and then chose one or two of the areas to try out. When you feel you’ve mastered some of that, try out another. Alongside this, to help manage some of the more physical symptoms, you might want to consider some of the practical relaxation tools in Relaxation to manage anxiety.

Relaxation to manage anxiety

Read

About anxiety

Read

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