Challenging Your Worrying Pattern
Anxiety and worry are companions but whilst a bit of anxiety can actually be beneficial the same can't really be said for worrying. One of the problems with worrying is that it rarely if ever achieves anything. In fact the more we worry the greater our sense of vulnerability. So it begs the question, why do we have the capacity to worry if it is ultimately so pointless?
Worrying is a bit like the odd relative of problem solving. We've all encountered situations where we have to apply some thought to a problem and it can be highly frustrating at times. Problem solving differs from worrying in the sense there is a clear goal - a problem to solve. Worrying is almost always groundless and often relates to situations we have no personal control over. At one level it's quite natural to worry, but if you find your thoughts going over and over as though doing so will provide some relief, solution or control of the situation, then your worrying is possibly outside the pattern of normality.
Worrying, almost by definition, involves negative appraisals. The more a person worries the more likely their thoughts become more complex or fanciful and they begin to ruminate on the most terrible of possible outcomes. Challenging this pattern of worry is an important aspect of gaining perspective. The reality of most situations is that they rarely have as dire an outcome as might previously have been thought, so my first tip in challenging your worrying pattern is to reflect on situations you were previously very concerned about and remind yourself of their actual outcomes.
There will also have been instances where things went wrong, or went badly, where you weren't aware of. The point here is your worrying, or lack thereof, is unlikely to have any influence on actual outcomes, except perhaps negatively.
My second tip refers to what is know as anticipatory anxiety. There is a difference between worrying and preparing yourself for a situation by assessing what might be required. At some point in your life you will have been interviewed, or sat a test of some kind. Preparing ahead of time is a good idea as it structures energies into something productive. This allows you to consider potential problems and solutions rather than dwelling on your perceived inadequacies and probability of failure.
If you are prone to anxiety issues then its useful to know that the negative aspect of worrying is that it can make people prone to relapse and is also a risk factor for depression. Negative thinking is easy to acquire but harder to shift. Learning to recognize and then challenge your own negative thinking requires a considerable effort because your own thoughts feel so factual, but it can be done:
Challenge your worrying pattern by asking yourself whether you are jumping to negative conclusions and what evidence there is to support your worries. Then, look for other explanations or interpretations. Stand back and place the situation into a broader context. How likely is it that your worry will come to fruition? Will this matter in the near future or beyond? What's the most likely thing to happen? Lastly, try to turn your unfocused worry into more goal-directed thinking. For example, what could you do to help solve this problem? Is there something to be learned from previous situations that were broadly similar?
Most people find themselves in situations where they worry, but the differences tend to emerge in the way people manage their situation. If you know your approach is towards worrying and inaction for lengthy periods of time, then you really have nothing to lose in attempting to challenge your worrying pattern.