Why you need to stop worrying
Worry seems to be an inherent part of life. When I worked at the probation service, we had a questionnaire that every new client had to complete. One of the questions was “I worry too much” and I never came across one person that did not answer “yes” to this question. So why is it that we worry so much? How does it help us? Worry can be helpful when we are faced with uncertain situations. However, some of us worry more than others about things that may never happen. Worriers tend to have an overriding sense that they cannot cope with problems and situations that are thrown at them-they underestimate their abilities. Excessively worrying can impact upon our ability to function and cause us great distress.
I have found that most of my clients worry over things they cannot control or over the future-the future has yet to arrive and we never know what will happen. People worry to reduce the risk of something bad happening or because they need to achieve certainty for their acts or because they cannot tolerate uncertainty.
Worry is not a predictor of outcome-this is an important fact to remember. Here are a list of unhelpful behaviours that lead from too much worrying:
1) seeking reassurance for decisions
2) trying to push upsetting ideas out of your mind
3) seeking out excessive amounts of information before making a choice
4) avoiding certain types of information that triggers worry
5) putting off making decisions
6) overanalysing problems
7) making lists as a substitute for actions
If you find that your worrying too much it might be worth scheduling in “worried time”. Give yourself 30 minutes during the day to worry and try to come up with solutions. When you catch yourself worrying outside of this worry time, try to keep busy and distract yourself. This enables us to divide worry time to healthy worrying whilst not allowing ourselves to worry about unrealistic things.
Another useful approach is to place a rubber band around your wrist. When you find your worry all thoughts are repetitive and non-productive, ping the rubber band and shout “stop”. Then either note the worry down and use your worry time to think about it or see if it is a worry that you can problem solve.
This involves dealing with real worry. Define the problem and think of as many solutions as possible, no matter how ridiculous they seem. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. She is a solution to implement and plan how you are going to do this. Take action and then review how it went. Were there any problems? Was it the right solution? What did you learn?
My favourite quote on worrying is: “worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Worrying is only effective if you are using the time to problem solve. “What if” worrying is wasted energy as none of us can predict the future. Many falsely believe that worrying will keep them safe and this is not true.
Too much worrying can put the body into a state of anxiety where we experience “fight/flight/freeze” symptoms.
Learn to work manage worry by implementing specific times to focus on your problems (worry time). Worrying takes you away from being present in your life-you are there physically but mentally you have put yourself into a “prison”.
Learn to distract yourself from inane thoughts. There is a theory that we have something like 80,000 thoughts a day and only 5 to 10% of those thoughts are useful and productive. Learn to ignore your thinking never confuse thoughts with facts.