Yes, worry can be a spur to constructive action. But, again it can also be a weapon of self-destruction. Thus, the question, how to stop worrying?, becomes pertinent. Here’s how to stop worrying, and what to do about those worries that leave you paralyzed, tense, and depressed.
Worry, it’s the flip side of stress. And in a world growing increasingly stressful, there are increasingly more and more worriers. But there are worriers, and then there are worriers. Broadly, they can be classed into two categories: First, those characterized by the inability to determinate between controllable and uncontrollable situations, feeling helpless, while also harboring guilt.
These kind of worriers also generally end up being depressed. They automatically assume that their efforts won’t make the difference, and so wont act even when the situation is within their power to change. And so they come to feel helpless, victimized, and depressed.
At the other extreme are the other kind of worriers: the people who believe that nothing is beyond their control and take on every problem as their own. These people constantly worry about problems they can never solve – a self-destructive type of behavior characterized by Type As that can lead to frustration and burnout.
There are physical consequences, too. Extended periods of feeling helpless and gloomy can depress the immune system and increase our vulnerability to disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, cancer, and even AIDS (Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome).
Type A behavior, on the other hand, has been linked to heart disease as well as high blood pressure and ulcers – anything related to the cardiovascular and gastric systems.
The answer to the question, how to stop worrying? lies in first to determine which worries are within and which beyond our control, then decide whether or not to take action. In doing this you will quickly discover that the majority of worries are not worth worrying about.
“Most worriers are anticipatory worriers,” says Barry Lubetkin, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Institute for Behavior Therapy in New York City. We majorly worry about the future happenings with a fearful and negative mindset. other, myriads of reasons can cause one to worry as well.
How to Stop Worrying? Try These Techniques
Dr. Lubetkin explains several techniques he uses to help anxious and worried people at the Institute for Behavior Therapy. One is called coping desensitization. If you are worried about a problem in the future, imagine yourself in the fearful situation.
Then imagine that you are coping with it, or even enjoying it. The man who fears airplanes must replace his terror with positive images, such as the view from the window or a pleasant in-flight meal.
Another technique, in response to how to stop worrying, is called cognitive tracking or reality testing. Ask yourself if your worries are supported by the facts. In similar situation in the past, were you unable to cope?
The man afraid of failing to satisfy his wife should ask himself if he failed before. If not, he can stop worrying. This method works ell if you set aside 15 to 20 minutes a day to relax and think the problem through, says Dr. Lubetkin.
Then there’s the “worst case ” method. If the future looks bleak, try imagining cuts, poisoning, broken bones. For a long auto trip, imagine flat tires and running out of gas. Ask yourself if the worst would really be all that bad, and imagine yourself coping with it.
For some who suffers from nameless dread. Dr. Lubetkin suggest a time sampling. In this method, you devote the last 10 minutes of every hour to writing down in a journal the things your mind is “dwelling on.” This helps isolate and identify the themes of worry.
Add Some Certainty, Stop Worrying
Periods of psychological safety seem to insulate subjects from the harmful effects of stress. – Dr. Israel Posner, Ph.D.
We should keep that in mind as life’s woes begin to burden or confuse us. Because, by learning to enjoy regular “periods of psychological safety” (whether by exercising, taking in a movie, or pursuing a hobby), we add some measure of predictable comfort, and hence certainty, and health to our lives.
Exercise and talking to your friends are two proven remedies for allaying mild worries. Leo Hawkins, Ed.D., a human development specialist at North Carolina State University, says, “When I start worrying, I put it aside temporarily and take some physical exercise. Afterward I try to look the problem squarely in the face, Then I talk things over with someone.
If we tell someone what’s troubling us, it gets our problem out in the open. We can examine them better. An understanding ear can bring comfort, but talking about your worries can also help you organize your thoughts, recognize your own faulty thinking patterns, and come up with potential solutions better.”
Get involved in jogging, or yoga until you reach a state of pleasant exhaustion (Yoga can arrest anxiety), Tend your kitchen plants. Wash your car. Keep in mind, too, that worry can be a valuable tool for someone who knows how to turn it to his advantage.
“Worry keeps us focused and vigilant during crisis,” says Dr. Lubetkin. “Constructive worrying” leads us to solutions instead of away from them, says Dr. Hawkins. At its best, the discomfort of worrying forces us to act. Worry is, ” a precious opportunity to start talking straight to yourself,” says one self-help expert, and another urges us to “recruit it as a spur to necessary action.”
But what about those worries that are best forgotten, and not acted on, Psychologist Jerry Suls of the State University of New York advises, quite simply, that we take to heart the words of religious philosopher Reinhold Neibuhr, whose following statement was used by the USO to inspire troops to world war II, and more recently by Alcoholics Anonymous to strengthen fledgling members.
Give us the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changes, the courage to change the things that should be changes, and the wisdom to know the difference. – Reinhold Neibuhr
Here are other tips that may help you cut your worry time.
Don’t Resist worrying
If you try not to worry about something, chances are you will think about it more, says Daniel M. Wegner, a University of Virginia psychology professor who has studied intrusive thinking for years. “Think about it, write about it, talk into a tape recorder,” he says. “You may get used to it and cool off.” And, researchers have found, just the act of staying with the worry for the long haul, really concentrating, can force you to stop worrying and start problem-solving.
Be Analytical while Worrying
Psychologist Bernard Sjoberg advises people to critically examine their thoughts. You may be thinking in irrational patterns, for example: “If I loose my job, my life will end.” Psychologist Phyllis Kraft Sherlock encourages worriers to make a distinction between matters they can do something about and those they can not.
Brainstorm for Solutions for Worrying
” Instead of repeatedly asking, what will happen if I loose my job?” says Palo alto, California, Psychologist Robert E. Decker, ” ask if I loose my job, what do I have to do with whom by when?” and write down a job search plan. ” Or, write down a number of possible solutions to a problem and then list the advantages and disadvantages of each idea.
Break the loop of Worrying
Student Ken Tomasello plays his guitar when worries hit him. Maida Naden heads for the golf course. Such diversions provide more than a mere change of pace from repetitive thinking. Advises therapist Decker, “Often the best solution to your worry will come when you are not thinking about it.”
Want to Stop Worrying? Worry more
One theory has it that worrying can boost our chances of survival in a dangerous world. In one of the related studies, the subjects were asked to keep their eyes fixed on a screen and to press a button as soon as they saw a small dot appear next to various words.
It was found that the worriers were faster to respond whenever the dot was near a word describing danger (such as death) than when the dot was near a neutral word (such as table). Non-worriers were faster when the dot was near a neutral word.
This shows that worriers are better at responding to negative cues in the environment. When given the ambiguous cues the worriers selected the more threatening interpretation. In The Work of Worrying, the late Yale psychology professor Irving Janis wrote that worrying lets us rehearse negative possibilities, and therefore prepare for the experience.
Because we have put in some worry time, for instance, we may decide, ” Maybe I shouldn’t walk down that dark alley after all,” or “I don’t think I will vote for the candidate who seems happy about the nuclear weapons.” On the evolutionary scale, according to this theory, worrying is an advanced activity.
That’s not to say that the non-worriers among us should emulate chronic worriers. Excessive or obsessive worry doesn’t help anyone, and can in fact wear the worrier down to the point of paralysis. There’s a big difference between briefly considering dire possibilities and worrying yourself into a state of constant agitation.
What people worry about depends partly on actual circumstances – a slow economy with lots of layoffs, say – and partly on personal predilection. A study determined that the biggest thing on student’s minds was relationships. When a scientist conducted a survey about people’s fears of nuclear war, she learned that nuclear war activists worried about the matter virtually all of the time, while most other people rarely gave it a thought.
Another study found out that the most frequent responses on worry fell into six groups: intimate relationships, work, finances, social skills, achievement outside of work, and a concern for the world at large, with its increasing homeless population, depleting ozone layer, and the like.
But you say waking up to fret about global warming at three A,M, doesn’t seem that helpful. Mary McClure Goulding, a psychotherapist and co-author of the book “Not to Worry,” says, ” Worry is only useful for the certain amount of time it takes you to decide what you are what you are going to do to make the worry not come true.”
In other words, those hours around three A.M. are well spent only if they led us to get a breast exam, rewrite our resume, or study for those finals. Worry, of course, doesn’t always lead to action. In fact, some people feel that as long as they are actively worrying about something – torturing themselves – they are excused from taking action. Sometimes it can be less emotionally demanding to worry about the little things than to take action on the big ones.
Or worriers may choose to fret about the abstract larger picture, rather than experiencing the discomfort of an up-close event. Worry can also be used superstitiously, a s a way of fending off disaster, some people cling to the notion that if they worry about something, it’s less likely to happen. The fact that many of our worries don’t come true may reinforce the idea.
Set aside the Worrying period
If you want to worry less, Borkeovee has an ironic suggestion. Try to worry more. In three separate studies he determined that it was possible to get people to cut down on the amount of time they spent worrying by instructing them to confine their worries to a half hour “worry period” scheduled at the same time everyday.
Any time the worries came in the mean time, participants were told to fend them off by focusing on the present surroundings or concentrating on the task at hand.
Then, when the designated time rolled around, they could drag out their worries and worry as much as they wanted. Whether people used the worry period to write out their worries, brainstorm for solutions, or just plain worry, the results were the same.: a reported drop of 30 percent in the overall amount of time people spent worrying each day.
If you want to try the technique , set aside a half-hour period when you can be relatively free from distractions, interruptions, and other outside influences. The setting should be relaxing, but not conducive to falling asleep. Sit in a chair. Make sure you have something specific to worry about.
If possible, jot down notes during the day, saving up your worries. The more the better. During the worry period, concentrate on the worries as intently as you can for at least 15 minutes.
the idea is to get wholly involved to the point where you can desensitize yourself to the worry. If your goal is to get rid of the emotional aspect of worrying, just worry during the set period. If you want to problem solve, take yourself through a series of mental steps that will help you analyze your situation.
Ask yourself, what is the problem? What are the possible solutions? What is the likelihood that each solution will work? End your worry period with a plan of action.
And by the way, don’t worry that if you consciously devote time to your worries, they will just mushroom into more hours of fretting. In the original study on this technique – on how to stop worrying – when the subjects were told to do nothing but worry for a full half hour, many found it a daunting task. A lot maxed out after ten or fifteen minutes. They said they were just tired of worrying.