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Mon, Feb 06, 2012
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Self-improvement therapy pt 4 - "I 'blew' my worries away:
by Zarelda Marie Goh

Problem: A chronic worrywart wants to let go
Solution: A self-help book with an anxiety-releasing programme

I worry about work, my health, what I eat, what others think of me - you name it, I've worried about it. I reckon it stems from wanting to be the best I can be. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd be happier if I worried less.

I decided to try a self-help book called Stop Worrying by Amsterdam-based clinical psychology professor Ad Kerkhof. I like that his four-week programme is structured: You do 10 minutes of mental or written exercises twice a day. It's also flexible: I can replace set exercises with others I feel will work better for me.

The first exercise on Day 1 is controlled worrying. I have to worry for 10 minutes in the morning to get it out of the way. I do it as I drive to work and find it's liberating to let my thoughts run free.

I think about people I'm going to interview and whether yoga or a swim after work would be more fun. In the evening, I do an exercise - five minutes of thinking about a recent happy event - to distract me from worrying.

Over the next two weeks, I do different exercises every day. My fave: Sharing my worries with someone. I unload on my boyfriend, J.

I also like the "whirling" exercise in which I practise emptying my mind. When worries come into my head, I mentally put them in fluffy clouds, then "blow" the clouds away.

Sounds silly but it works.Once in bed, I breathe deeply in and out (another exercise in the book) and find I sleep better.

In the third and fourth weeks, the writing exercises help me examine my thoughts. On Day 15, I write down a list of my worries and rank them. This makes me weed out the more frivolous causes of anxiety - like sleeping in and missing yoga - and force me to ask myself if what I'm worrying about is worth it.

Day 25's evening exercise on putting my worries in context is especially helpful as I'm fretting about my upcoming stand-up comedy gig. I have to answer questions like: "What does this thought say about me?" and "Why do I find it so troubling?"

They help put things in perspective. I am troubled because I care about what the audience at the gig will think of me, but I have no control over that so I will just do my best.

Verdict: At the end of each week, I took the same test on what I had worried about. My score for the first week was 63 out of 90.

Today, at the end of the programme, it's 39 - a big improvement. I still worry. I doubt I'll ever stop. But now, I've learned how to deal with it better. I've even let some worries go, like missing a workout each week because I'm busy.

More importantly, I believe that nothing in life is insurmountable.

Stop Worrying by Ad Kerkhof is available for $20.52 from The Book Depository (


Get a copy of the January 2012 issue of Her World, Singapore’s No. 1 women’s magazine. Her World is published by SPH Magazines and is available at all newsstands now. Check out more stories at Her World online,


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