Not to freak you out or anything, but shouldn’t you be worrying about something? Hmmmm… what could it be? Maybe it’s a homework assignment… or did you forget to feed one of the pets… or maybe you were supposed to chat with a friend tonight? No, sorry, those are things that “regular” teenagers get to worry about. You have to worry about other stuff. Like your health. What will be the results of your next scan? How will your body respond to treatment? What will you miss out on because of your condition?

These things are a little different than forgetting to feed the goldfish. And if you don’t find a way to manage this worry, you can be buried by it. Suddenly it can seem like your entire being is consumed by worry. Newsflash: That’s not how you want to live your life. Sometimes worry can remind you to pay attention to things that you might otherwise forget. But more often than that, worry is just worry – you have no control over the outcome and so you might as well not worry about it.

And – poof! – just like magic all your worry is gone! Not so fast. Because you have real worries about real things that will deeply affect your life, it can be horribly hard to let go of these worries. Here are 5 ideas that many people find help to control the worry that comes with having a disability or chronic health condition:

1. Exercise

It seems like making yourself really, really tired might just be a mask that you can put over your worry. But studies show that exercise helps your body release chemicals like serotonin that can help you deal with the worry in your brain. Rather than a mask, exercise can be a real medicine.

2. “Worry Time”

Try scheduling “worry time” – maybe 30 minutes a day when you give yourself full permission to fret about all the uncertainty in your life. This can help break the cycle of being mad at yourself for worrying, which, of course, just makes worrying more painful. And by placing your worry in a 30-minute box, you can help keep it from leaking out into other areas of your life.

3. Solve Your Problems

If someone worries they left the garage light on, they could call a friend or neighbor to go check. Solving the problem may be hard, but at least you can stop worrying about it! Of course, many of the things you worry about have no solutions. But some do. Ask yourself if the thing you’re worrying about has a solution or an answer. If it does, find it!

4. Unplug

There’s nothing like obsessing on WebMD to turn a little worry into full-blown anxiety. What’s that kink in your neck? If you spend enough time online, it’s easy to convince yourself it’s a tumor. And playing Candy Crush while watching for Insta notifications is a recipe for anxiety. Turn off the laptop. Unplug the iPad. Even consider leaving your phone in a drawer and go do something meaningful!

5. Get Good Sleep

In addition to getting enough sleep and sticking to a regular routine, some research shows that going to bed earlier and waking up earlier can help adjust your anxiety. If you find yourself worrying, try going to bed early!

Let’s be honest: You have a lot to worry about. But actually doing this worrying doesn’t help and can cause real problems. While it might not be possible to pack your worries away completely, trying to minimize the time and power of your worries can leave you free to do more important things, like live your life!

Kristi Pikiewicz
Dr. Pikiewicz earned her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, CA. She completed pre-doctoral training at the Nan Tolbert Nurturing Center in Ojai, CA, and her post-doctoral internship at the Boulder Institute for Psychotherapy and Research. At both sites, Dr. Pikiewicz worked with a range of adult, adolescent and child clients in individual, couple, family and group settings. She also holds a B.S. in environmental science from Allegheny College and a teaching credential from Western Washington University.