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The One To Zen Organizing Blog

Breathe in Calm, Breathe out Clutter

  • Writer's pictureJill Katz

A “Worried Well” Nation: Suffering From Anxiety & What To Do About It

Updated: Apr 21, 2021


Mother putting a mask on her child
Our new normal

What is “Worried Well”?


When I was a new Mom, I would call the doctor at least once a week with a question. I would call so frequently that, 17 years later, I still know the pediatrician’s phone number by heart. Every once in a while, that call would culminate in a doctor’s visit. On one such visit, the doctor needed to leave for a minute and he left his clipboard behind. Of course I took a peek, wouldn’t you? And what did I see written in big letters on the report: “WW (Worried Well).”


When I got home, I spoke with a doctor friend of mine and found out that worried well is actually a code doctors use for insurance when the patient, or parent, is worried but all is well. This code indicates that the patient is suffering from health anxiety with no underlying physical ailment. I asked my friend if too many “Worried Well”s would get me kicked out of the pediatric practice. She laughed and told me that pediatric offices understand that new parents need reassurance and that I was in the clear.


Increase in Worried Well Population



A face mask on the globe
Our world has changed

Fast forward to today. I subscribe to different online media about clutter, productivity and mental health and, for the first time in years, I saw that term again, “Worried Well”, in various articles. These articles divulged that COVID testing lines are becoming too long because they are full of “Worried Wells". In other words, people are worried that they might have contracted COVID even without any logic to support this. These “Worried Wells'' are running to get tested because they need reassurance that they are OK.


These articles highlight how COVID has turned us all into a “Worried Well” population. The vast majority of us are on high anxiety alert. Our life has been upended and we are trying to find a sense of control and a return to stability during uncertain times.


What To Do When Anxiety Messes With Your Productivity


When we are anxious we have trouble focusing and making decisions. Our productivity suffers and we can’t seem to organize our mental and physical spaces. Yet we need to continue to eat, work, and take care of ourselves and family members. Here are some tips on what to do when you are experiencing COVID anxiety:


Limit your news intake and use reliable media sources


I lived through 9-11 as a twenty something working in midtown Manhattan. I still remember watching TV with my husband from our Bronx apartment. The media coverage was nonstop and we watched for days. Finally, we realized that watching the news constantly was making us feel sick. So we turned it off. Today’s news presents even more challenges with social media, fake news, and partisan leaning reports. Limit your exposure to the media and try to search for unbiased reporting (I like The Flip Side).


Seek support from loved ones


A cute couple with face masks
Don't isolate yourself

Now is the time to lean on our loved ones and friends. COVID might limit some activities but we can still chat or zoom with a friend or ask them to lend support with shopping or errands.


Put less on your plate


On anxiety-ridden days, we have a lower capacity. Limit your to-do list to just three things. Delegate tasks and get takeout or give your kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. Settle for “good enough.”


Self care


I am sure you have heard the word “self care” about a million times since COVID hit. “Don’t forget about self care,” says everyone. That is because self care is really that important. Now that you are limiting your “To-do List” you can focus on getting enough sleep, eating nourishing food (nothing fancy, a simple salad or cut-up veggies or fruit will do), meditating and exercising.


Trust your instinct


Worried woman with a face mask
What did I do today?

Don’t forget that “Worried Well” rests upon the foundation of anxiety without any real physical systems. If you are having trouble managing your anxiety, you should seek out a therapist or psychiatrist for help. If you are experiencing physical symptoms, see your doctor or a specialist. Get inspired to listen to your body by reading this woman’s story.


Create a routine


Unstructured days create anxiety for most people but the pandemic has changed or destroyed our routines before March 2020. Building new routines are key to establishing a calm day. Create boundaries throughout your day surrounding work, rest, mealtimes, socializing, exercising and other activities and hobbies.


In Conclusion:


I made it through my “new mom worries” and I am optimistic that we will soon be viewing our pandemic worries in the rear view mirror. But as a population of “worried wells” we need to manage our anxiety in order to sustain ourselves so we emerge from the pandemic healthy, whole, and stronger than ever.

8 Comments


lucy
Jun 09, 2021

I aim to shed the negativity I feel from the phrase "worried well" because that's been one more thing for me to worry about. Am I bothering the doctor? Is this serious enough to talk to a therapist about? And of course, from my organizing clients I hear almost everyday that they "should" be able to do this themselves. Something in the first doctor "worried well" example you gave made me really wish the office had recognized that being anxious about a newborn is normal, natural and 100% what they're there for. How awesome would it be if when you had a baby, the office told you upfront that worrying about all sorts of things with a newborn is par…

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Jun 10, 2021
Replying to

Lucy,

You are not alone in feeling this way! In researching "Worried Well" for this blog, I came across a few articles from psychiatrists in particular who shared similar views. If someone is worried, then it is cause enough to see a doctor or therapist. What is the point of a doctor if not to address the real concerns of patients.

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dnqsolutions
Jun 09, 2021

I like the way you pointed out that when you feel anxious it's best to limit what you expect of yourself to 3 things. I find that most of us can handle 3 things on even our roughest days. I agree that many (even though vaccinated) are experiencing anxiety over re-entry. I try to give little nudges to some people I know. Suggestions like go to a restaurant with outdoor seating if they want to get back to eating out. Sort of like dipping your toe into a pool to see if the water is the right temperature for you.

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Jun 09, 2021
Replying to

I'm glad this was helpful. I am also a toe-dipper rather than a jump-in-the-deep-end sort of gal .Kudos to you bringing your friends along with you in your toe-dipping!

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Jun 07, 2021

Jonda,

I didn't think I my anxiety was on the uptick until I found myself having less patience for things that, in the past, never bothered me. It definitely varies from person to person and from day to day. For example, even now you have some people who feel like their anxiety is decreasing and others who, now that they are vaccinated, feel immense anxiety about "re-entry."

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Julie Bestry
Julie Bestry
Jun 07, 2021

Deep down, I think a lot of people (myself included) have believed that anxiety is reasonable vigilance, that worrying about something is key to preventing ALL THE BAD THINGS (or at least the bad things we can imagine). We have little personal control over attacks on democracy, the precariousness of the environment, warfare, so when we find something where our worry allows us to take even the tiniest of actions (a visit to the doctor, a thorough Googling of a symptom), we think it's relieving our anxiety. But perhaps it's training our anxiety to more robust? And those who thought they'd conquered their anxiety found it flooding back over the past year. Your advice, especially accenting self-care and relaxed standards…

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Jill Katz
Jill Katz
Jun 07, 2021
Replying to

Julie, That is so true. I definitely prefer to believe that I have control over so many things in which I actually have no control. What you are saying resonates, especially the part about feeding our anxiety so it's more robust. Learning to sit with anxiety is actually an important component of bringing that anxiety level down.

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Jonda Beattie
Jonda Beattie
Jun 07, 2021

Great article! I remember being a WW new mom. I have not had so much personal worriedness with the COVID19 but I have had several clients that were extremely worried and so very cautious about everything. Shutting off the 24/7 TV and other media is one thing that I would always suggest. I would have them listen maybe twice a day to stay abreast but not listening to the continuous loop.

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