If you’re a worrier think about this for a minute.
I’m not talking about coming up with a plan and then taking action AFTER you worry about something. I’m talking about the time and energy you devoted to running the conversations and/or scenarios through your head. Did any of that actually solve the problem?
Will planning out a conversation you need to have with someone likely go EXACTLY how you plan it?
Will going over an argument over and over again change the outcome after it’s already happened?
Will playing out all the things that could go wrong with your kids prevent anything bad from happening?
None of this stuff can be changed by worrying. So why do we do it?
I think for a lot of us worriers, especially those who learned how to worry, we don’t know how to handle things any differently. We absorbed that behavior early on and thought that was how everyone thought or behaved. Then we kept doing it for so long that the behavior pattern became second nature and automatic.
Now that we’re aware we do it, how do we help ourselves not to?
I think for a chronic worrier just saying we aren’t going to do it anymore would be nearly impossible. That’s not how change works. Lasting change has to be gradual change.
A few ways to work on worrying ….
Realize it’s really a waste of time
The thirty minutes you spend planning out a difficult conversation that won’t go the way you planned it (no matter how hard you try) can be better spent actually having the conversation.
The time you spend ruminating on the task at work you forgot to do can be spent planning out how you’re going to rearrange your day so you have time to get the task done tomorrow.
The time you spend wondering if a family member is doing okay can be better spent by calling them and asking how they’re doing.
Realize it’s a waste of mental energy
Worrying is a lot of work. It gets us upset. It keeps us from thinking about more pleasant things. It takes control of our brain and doesn’t allow productive stuff to get done.
The mental energy spent on the worry could be spent on the plan to change the situation so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. You’re helping your future self by coming up with a plan to change something instead of spending that time and energy just rethinking something a dozen times. Solving the problem should be the goal, NOT continuing to worry about it.
Schedule worry time
If you catch yourself worrying no matter what you’ve done to distract yourself then stop fighting it. Allow yourself to worry … to a point.
It’s like people who want to give up sugar and say they’re never going to eat sugar ever again. That works great UNTIL they smell chocolate chip cookies. Then all they can think about is how wonderful those cookies would taste. If they’d decided they would allow themselves one sugary treat per week then they can plan for what they really want and really enjoy it. They wouldn’t end up bingeing on every sugary thing in site when they’re stressed.
It’s the same with worry. Just telling yourself you’ll never worry again isn’t going to work. Allowing yourself a few minutes to worry or scheduling a time (only 10 – 15 minutes) during the day to actively worry might keep you from doing it all day long. When you catch yourself heading down the worry path just say to yourself “it’s not worry time” (preferably out loud) and move on to something else. You can even keep a list of the things you plan on worrying about and if a worry thought pops up during the day then write it down. Yes, it seems ridiculous, but it works. Allowing yourself to worry actually can reduce the habit and the amount of time you spend doing it.
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