Worry is a normal human function. It makes you sensitive to situations that are threats to your physical or emotional state. You might worry when your teen takes out the car for the first time, when you are waiting on the results of medical tests, or whether you got the job after a job interview. But worry can also prevent you from being happy and make you think situations are dangerous when they aren’t. When worry becomes too frequent or is unrelenting, it can interfere with your ability to enjoy life.
Unhealthy worry goes beyond reasonable concern and involves negative and obsessive thinking. It can cause you to doubt yourself and others. It creates anxiety and fear. It can come from a deep-rooted fear that you won’t be able to handle a situation or care for yourself during a difficult situation.
Some people believe that worrying is good, that it helps you cope with uncertainty or solve problems. But these beliefs can hold you back from letting go of your worries, according to a study completed in 2014. According to the researchers, there are five main beliefs about worry:
Worry helps me to better solve problems
Worry makes me more motivated
Worry stops me from having other negative emotions
Worry will prevent negative outcomes
Conscientious people worry
While worry does have a place in our life, when you hold on to the beliefs that worry is helping you cope, find solutions, or preventing bad things from happening, you have a difficult time letting go of the concern. Instead, you wrap your worry around you like a security blanket, believing that it will protect you. But constant worry can be debilitating. It can overwhelm us with all the possible negative outcomes of a situation. People with chronic worry find it difficult to deal with any uncertainty in their life.
What you can do:Teach yourself to accept some **uncertainty in your life.** Start slow. Choose minor and relatively unimportant things at first: for example, you might want to try a new restaurant without having read every online review, or taking a different route to work. As you continue to do this and realize that nothing “bad” happened, you increase your tolerance of uncertainty, which in turn can reduce the time you spend worrying.
Create a process for solving problems. You might like to use a pro/con table or you might prefer writing down the problem and many possible solutions, then choose one. Find a method that works best for you. Reevaluate from time to time to make sure your process is working or if you need to find a different way to look at problems.
Create a worry time. Allow yourself to worry as much as you want for a certain period of time, for example, from 7:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Any time you feel yourself worrying, write down your thoughts and put them away until it is your “worry time.”
_Look for patterns in your worrying. _ Are there certain situations that trigger your worrying? If so, look at the situation and decide if there are steps you can take to reduce worrying. For example, if you worry when deadlines come up at work, what can you do to better prepare?
_Write down a list of distractions. _Create a list of things to do to help you stop worrying. Your list might include gardening, exercise, playing sports, going for a walk, watching a movie. List things that can take your mind off your problems. The next time you find yourself obsessively worrying, break the cycle by pulling out your list and finding something to do.Cognitive behavioral therapy works to help you redefine your thoughts and change your perspective. Some people find that challenging their beliefs about worry can help reduce the time they spend worrying.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.