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Anxiety & Worry

Given the uncertainties triggered by CFS and FM, it’s not surprising that anxiety and worry are common reactions. 

Self-management strategies such as those below are often helpful, but you might also consider professional help and medications. Counseling and therapy can make worries more manageable.

Also, anxiety, like depression, can have a physical basis in the biochemistry of the brain. If so, medication may help. A drug will not be a complete solution to problems of anxiety, but it can be part of a comprehensive response.

Here are nine sets of strategies that are often helpful in counteracting anxiety and worry.


Use Relaxation & Other Stress-Busting Tools

Learning relaxation and other stress reduction techniques helps reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions and, by doing so, reduces the echo effect in which emotions and symptoms amplify one another. 

A regular stress reduction practice can also lower "background worry," the ongoing anxiety that results from long-term stress. For step-by-step instructions, see the article Stress Reduction: Five Practical Techniques.


Use Problem Solving

Taking action to solve a problem has a double payoff. You reduce or eliminate a practical concern that is bothering you and the process of taking action reduced anxiety, replacing it with a sense of control and power.


Change Your Thinking

If you have a tendency to think of the worst that might happen, you can take steps to short-circuit the process in which your thoughts increase your anxiety. 

One antidote is to retrain yourself to speak soothingly when worried, saying things like “I’ve been here before and survived” or “this is probably not as bad as it seems.”

Also, you can do “reality checks” by testing your fears against facts and by asking for feedback from others. You can make worry work for you if you learn to disginguish between toxic worry, which is unproductive and paralyzing, and good worry, which helps you plan.

For more on changing thinking, see the article Changing Self-Talk on the self-help program website.

Write to Reduce Worry

Write out what you're worried about. The process of giving words to worry can put them into perspective and may even help you identify potential solutions. If you tend to get stuck in rumination, consider writing a reassuring letter to yourself that you can read when you feel stuck.

Stay Connected

Simple human contact is often very soothing. Calling a friend or getting together to talk, share a meal or see a movie counteracts isolation, preoccupation with problems and the low mood often associated with chronic illness.



Exercise is one of the best treatments for worry, because it is both relaxing and distracting. It relieves tension, lessens stress and improves mood. For how to exercise safely when you have CFS or FM, see our page on exercise.


Pursue Pleasure

Pleasurable activities offer a distraction from symptoms, counter anxiety, and help create a good mood. Such activities might include reading, music, games or spending time with friends. These activities and others in which you become immersed, help you to change your mood. 


Don’t Worry Alone 

The act of sharing a worry almost always reduces its size and emotional weight. Discussion may help you find solutions and almost always makes the worry feel less threatening. 

Putting a worry into words translates it from the realm of imagination into something concrete and manageable. Seek out people who can offer support and reassurance. 

Consider Counseling and/or Medications

Counseling and therapy can make worries more manageable. Also, just as drugs can help with depressio, some people find that medications help them deal with anxiety.

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