Ravin’s Reads: What to Do When You Worry Too Much

Written by BY: Rachel Ravin, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist on . Posted in Book Reviews

As a clinical psychologist, I feel fortunate that several of the books I read and use professionally can also help me and people I know. Since we are all busy and do not have a lot of time to sit down and read self-help books, I thought that I would use this forum to profile books I have learned from that teach several valuable skills.

When I give presentations and conduct therapy, I like to provide people with takeaways.As I review books for this exciting new community publication, I hope you will gain takeaways - either for yourself or for others.

For my first profile, I selected What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner, Ph.D. While this book is targeted for kids ages 6-12, I’ve used it with older adolescents, college students, and even adults. Below are a few ideas from the book that I find particularly useful:


1) Anxiety is like milk. It needs a container surrounding it, or things can get messy. One way to contain anxiety is by creating a designated “worry time” each day. This can be ten minutes after dinner to focus on your (or your child's) worries. Outside of that time, remind yourself to save the worrying for your (or your child's) “worry time.”

2) Use logic to make the worry less powerful. Think about the chances that something bad will actually happen. “Logic is reminding yourself that really bad things don’t happen very often,” says Dr. Huebner. And even if something bad were to happen, know that you (or your child) can get through it.

3) Anxiety is like a big worry bully. We often have thoughts telling us that we should be scared of something. In your mind, talk back to the worry bully. Tell the worry bully to go away or get lost. And then get busy thinking about and doing something else. The more you tell the worry bully to go away, the stronger you will get and the weaker the worry bully (or anxiety) will get.

4) Anxiety is like a plant. The more you nurture and tend to it (i.e. give it attention), the more it grows. Do your best to ignore the anxiety. Talk back to it and then pay attention to other tasks.

5) After our bodies tense up from anxiety, we can “reset our systems” through relaxation or activity. For relaxation, try yoga stretches, calm breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. For an activity, go out for a run or a bike ride. In the house, run up and down the stairs. Relaxation and exercise can help your body feel better.

Anxiety can be overwhelming and uncomfortable, but it is very treatable. Reading this book on your own or to your child is a great place to start.

Rachel is a clinical psychologist who specializes in work with children and adolescents. She has a private practice in Silver Spring, Maryland and is in her 14th year working for Sulam, where she meets with students individually on a weekly basis, conducts social skills groups, and consults to teachers and parents. She received her undergraduate degree with a major in psychology from University of Michigan and her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the George Washington University.