This next article is probably the most controversial of the bunch and may seem the most difficult to do. Yet, like I mentioned in the previous article that you can read HERE, this is nothing but changing how you think about something. A small change at that. Putting this change into practice will have profound impacts on your stress levels, thus lowering anxiety and improving your overall physical and emotional health. So, without further ado, here’s the next lesson!
Lesson #3: Worry is nothing but a bad habit
When I say this to clients I got one of two reactions: “I know it is, but I’m so used to worrying that I don’t think I can stop” or “If I don’t worry then I won’t be prepared for what life throws at me.” It is hard for people to wrap their heads around the idea something that is so pervasive and seemingly natural to life could be bad for you. Then again, arsenic is natural and common in nature.
This thought was a total revelation for me. I remember sitting down and really thinking about my life and doing a pros-cons analyses. I concluded that for all the energy I’d put into worrying about various situations in my life, not a lot of benefit came from all that worry. I talked to some people about this and realized that the fundamental problem with worry is that it takes anxiety about something and projects it into the future where it is impossible to do anything about it (because the situation hasn’t occurred yet and we can only impact the present). Thus, worry just becomes a big old ball of anxiety that we are powerless to do anything about because it is effectively out of reach.
Right about now, I bet you’re wondering about the concerns vocalized by my clients in the second paragraph of this article. To those who see worry as a benefit that helps them prepare I say this:
- There is nothing wrong with thinking about the future, looking ahead, and being prepared. This, however, is not worry. Simply being present and mindful of today and doing what you can to be prepared and then relaxing and letting the worry go is a great way to both be prepared and not be overly anxious. However, catastrophizing and putting a lot of energy and thought into all the terrible things that might happen, regardless of probability, is just a great way to get yourself some ulcers and not really avoid the bad times that may or may not happen.
- Is it worth it to put a lot of time and energy into preparing for something that never happens? Is it worth it to spend a lot of time and energy on something that hasn’t happened so that you are worn out, burned out and exhausted when the event finally occurs?
- Being proactive is not worry. Worrying is usually not helpful to proactivity (it is simply a big emotional and physical energy drain…it adds to stress rather than resolves it.)
To those who are so used to worry that they can’t imagine life without it I propose the following:
- Try thought stopping. When you find your thoughts have turned to worry, do the following:
- Identify the irritating thought that is behind the worry.
- Yell stop in your head. (Do not argue with the thought, that simply gives it energy)
- Think a calming, more true thought. Focus on being present in the moment and doing things that you can do now.
- Repeat as necessary.
- Set an intention to not worry and reset that intention every day. Over time you will find yourself worrying less.
- Focus on proactive solutions as opposed to catastrophizing.
I hope you found this article helpful. Please share this with everyone you know. Spread the positivity!
If you would like to work with me on worrying less and reducing stress, then call 484-693-0582 or go to www.erikyoungcounseling.com to schedule a consultation.
©Erik Young, M.Ed., LPC