Some ‘rules’ around worrying seem commonplace. These are the rules I have come across the most:
1) I must worry to reduce the risk of something bad happening in an uncertain situation
Although this worry rule is reasonable when faced with life-changing events, it isn’t true that the more we worry the safer we will be. You can worry every hour of the day and you will find that trouble will find you regardless of the amount of worrying you do. It, therefore, pays to stop worrying over mundane events, especially around what others think of you or how to change your partner – neither of these can be controlled.
2) I must achieve certainty before I can act
It’s good to do a risk assessment, but certainty is unrealistic. Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and believe that you will deal with whatever comes your way. There is no way to have 100% certainty – and there are many downsides to 100% certainty too.
3) The feeling of uncertainty is awful and must be avoided
Another unrealistic and rigid rule that will leave a person feeling frustrated constantly. Uncertainty is a natural part of life and learning to live with uncertainty is the key to feeling less worried.
Be aware of your worries but try not to respond to each and every worry you have. See the worry as a transitional thought, like a passing cloud or pebble in a stream – you see it but you don’t have to “buy into” the worry/thought. Remind yourself that worrying is made up of thoughts that are NOT facts.
Focus on the present moment after the worry has passed. Stay in the moment rather than letting your thoughts wander off to “what if” thinking about the future or the past. Being mindful makes it harder to worry.
Unhelpful behaviours that maintain our worries:
1) Seeking reassurance – this only triggers further uncertainty and worry.
2) Checking and re-checking. The “what if” questions sows seeds of doubt.
3) Post-mortem worry. Once a worrier has made the decision they then doubt whether they have made the right decision.
Worriers hate not knowing or uncertainty. We all find this unbearable but it is a constant feature of our world. We, therefore, need to find productive ways to tolerate it. Learn to challenge your worries – where’s the evidence? Define what the problem is and decide if it is something within your control. Be resolution focused with worries rather than allowing them to marinate.