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|10-20-2002, 03:23 PM||#1 (permalink)|
Why We Worry
For many (especially "worrywarts") it feels there's little or no choice but to worry. It seems that worrying is the only way to survive having things go wrong. If you're a worrier, you're probably convinced that if you worry enough, you may be able to figure out (control) all those what-ifs and then stop worrying. In a sense, you worry so you won't have to keep worrying.
Sometimes, worry is a form of damage control: Because you're expecting the worst, you try to minimize the pain. At other times worry is just panic translated into thoughts. If, for example, you can't believe you'll survive that important meeting in the morning, you might find the anticipation of losing your job, being disgraced, and never–ever–having another opportunity throwing you into a Chicken Little mentality. When the sky begins to fall, don't count on getting much sleep.
What you must know is that worry is a form of control. And all forms of control are attempts to counter what you feel insecure about. Because you have so little trust in your capacity to handle life – to be spontaneously successful – you begin what-iffing in a twisted attempt to figure out what can go wrong before it happens. You become seduced by the notion that if you can figure out what's in store for you (fortune-telling), then you can feel less vulnerable – if not less vulnerable, then at least braced and ready. It would be like knowing the questions that are going to be asked on a test. Even Chicken Little's panic was an attempt to do something – anything – rather than let the sky keep falling.
|10-20-2002, 03:46 PM||#3 (permalink)|
Changing how you think
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Changing how you think about your problems is not an overnight process, but you can make use of exercises to help you catch thinking patterns that may be adding to your distress. Some common thinking patterns for people who chronically worry are
<li>negatively exaggerating the outcome of a particular problem, and
<li>thinking about events that are not likely to take place.
Basically, if you're a chronic worrier, there's a good chance that you are often expecting the worst to happen. You may indeed have problems, as we all do, but, for you, the small problems become big and the big problems become unmanageable.</p>
To change the way you think about your problems, you will need to catch yourself when you are worrying about them. Write down what you are thinking and <em>how</em> you are thinking about your problems. After keeping track of your thinking for a week or so, you will then want to work on changing the pattern. For each negative thought you have about a problem, rewrite the thought in a positive way. For example,
<li><b>Negative thought: </b><em>I have to get this project done and it must be perfect, or I will be fired.</em>
<li><b>Positive rewrite: </b><em>I have been with my company long enough to know that I can make a mistake and my boss will work with me to correct it. I need to meet my deadline, and I know I will because I have been working hard to get this done.</em>
When you write down your negative thoughts for a week, you will notice some patterns. When you create your positive counterthoughts, begin practicing them by looking at your list when you begin to worry. The process requires practice, as all cognitive exercises do, but, with practice, you will be able to think positive counterthoughts without your list, eventually.</p>
This is one exercise you can try, but there are many more. <Em>The Feeling Good Handbook</em>, by David M. Burns, is an excellent resource for cognitive techniques and exercises. Online, a good place to start is <em><a href="http://panicdisorder.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://mentalhelp.net/psyhelp/?site=http://mentalhelp.net/psyhelp/">Psychological Self-Help</a></em>, by Clayton E. Tucker-Ladd, particularly <a href="http://panicdisorder.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://mentalhelp.net/psyhelp/chap14/?site=http://mentalhelp.net/psyhelp/chap14/">Chapter 14</a>: "Methods for Changing Our Thoughts, Attitudes, Self-concept, Motivation, Values, and Expectations."</p>
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|10-20-2002, 03:53 PM||#4 (permalink)|
Changing what you do
Chronic worriers often find themselves reacting to problem after problem, putting out fire after fire, so to speak.. A chronic worrier may always feel on the edge of disaster. In the previous exercise, the positive counterthought focused, in part, on how the thinker shouldn't be worried about missing a project's deadline because she had been working hard on the project. That thought will not work if the thinker has not been working hard on the project.
If you find yourself worrying all the time, you may not be able to focus on your work. In that case, it truly is a good idea to talk to a professional if you feel your job is on the line. With or without professional help, you will need to learn to start acting on your problems rather than reacting to them. Most of us know about time management and scheduling and lists. If you're a chronic worrier, you will need to find a way to work with your time that helps you. It's a matter of taking control, as well as learning what you cannot control.
As with the cognitive exercise described earlier, writing down your worries is important in changing your behavior. Do you find yourself waiting until the last minute to take care of important projects and other issues? Do you find yourself with financial concerns because you have no idea how much money is in your checking account? Is a month's worth of unopened mail sitting on your kitchen counter? All of these will weigh on your mind, and they will continue to weigh on your mind until you do something about them. You may also find, when you write down your worries, that you think frequently about issues and problems over which you have no control, such as your best friend's marriage or world issues. These may, of course, be important to you, but they should not be consuming you. Most likely, however, you will not be able to let go of these worries until you begin working on the worries you can control, such as balancing your checkbook.
You may feel overwhelmed when you write down all that worries you. There will be problems that you need to solve in the near future. Otherwise, though, consider changing your behavior from this point onward. Learn to manage your time beginning now, and let the past be the past. Psychological Self-Help has a great chapter on Time Management. Also recommended is the general table of contents where you'll find more chapters on changing behavior and developing skills that will help you cope with your problems in the long run.
Another behavior you may want to add to your life is the ongoing practice of relaxation. There are a number of ways you can add relaxation to your life, such as with basic relaxation techniques or meditation, but all will give you the ability to calm down and focus, with practice. Exercise is another behavior that may help you feel better and more focused, with time. An excellent resource on both cognitive and behavioral techniques is Edmund J. Bourne's The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook. The book provides countless exercises for changing both how you think and what you do.
Professional Help for Chronic Worry
If chronic worry has taken over your life, you will want to seek professional help. A professional specializing in anxiety disorders will usually provide cognitive-behavioral therapy. You may also talk about the issues concerning you with your therapist. Additionally, if you are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, the treatment provider may decide that medication is appropriate for your situation. Medication is often helpful if you find that your worrying has become such a problem that you are unable to focus on the cognitive-behavioral exercises that can help you get well. If you feel that your life is out of control, don't waste time before seeking professional advice.
|10-20-2002, 07:20 PM||#6 (permalink)|
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: By The Lake
This is one fantastic post. I need to read through it all several times to absorbe everything, but I am a chronic worrier and I really do not want to be. I would love to sail through life without worrying about so many things. A little worry would be okay, but chronic worry is very tiresome.
Thank you for posting this.
Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
|10-22-2002, 05:27 PM||#7 (permalink)|
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: upstate, ny
hi mg, boy i think i should just have you give me the grand tour of forums, i feel so good about finding all these really neat places that i fit in. i'll be back here soon as i can reply or post and make sense. thanks for being so available. can i trust you??lol just kidding, i have problems with trust so i worry and have made myself really sick.
thanks hugs from sugar
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