Everyone worries from time to time. Healthy worrying can alert us to potential problems that would need to be addressed with a proactive response. However, when worrying becomes obsessive and fearfully anticipatory, it greatly hampers and limits the quality of life for far too many people. These people are ever alert to future things in their lives going wrong, consistently making negative predictions about a future event or possibly attributing anything bad happening would happen to them.
These people often hear “Just don’t worry.” This is easier said than done. These people already know in a deeper level that it is foolish to worry the extent that they do but they can’t shut it off like a light switch. The more they would try to stop thinking about something, the more it would be impossible not to think about it. As the old adage says, “The more one resists, the more it persists.” This is especially true because generally in life, bad things invariably do happen. In that there is no guarantee that these bad things won’t happen to them, only reinforces the negative self talk. On some level they think that worrying will result in their being ever vigilant, ever alert . This in turn will somehow prevent the worse from blindsiding them. Their solution becomes their problem.
How can these people get back control of their lives? The following are some strategies and techniques people can use.
- Get out and move a muscle. This could be through exercising, walking, running, all sorts of dance, some type of recreational sport or take a yoga or tai chi class. Do this with other people. The socialization will help you focus on something else.
- In order to relax the body, slow breathing and muscular relaxation techniques, practiced numerous times daily over the course of a month will become habit forming. This strategy will automatically kick in whenever serious worries begin.
- Practice mindfulness by staying focused on the present. Be aware of how your body is feeling, how you’re breathing and get in touch with your feelings. As thoughts drift in and out of your mind, merely observe them drifting as clouds in the sky and allow thoughts of the here and now enter your mind.
- Distinguish between the possible and the probable. Everything in the world is possible. However, for chronic worriers, everything that is possible becomes probable. Learn to distinguish between the two. For those things that can happen unless something is done about them, than assertively develop a proactive plan that stands the best chance of success.
- Develop courage to face what’s worrying you in spite of the accompanying fears. Sometimes your worst worries become actualized. Even if this happens, there always can come forth a positive outcome. Courage, is defined here, as pushing forward to find that positive outcome in spite of being afraid.
- Get involved in the world around you. Immersing yourself in the world around you leaves little time for worrying. No two thoughts can occupy your mind at the same time. Helping to make the world a better place helps you become a better person with little time to worry. Remember, the above strategies will not happen all at once. In our society, we want instant results. When attempts do not bring results as quickly as we would like, there is a tendency to become frustrated and give up. Devoting the time necessary will bring forth dividends. Just think of all the time you took with unnecessary worry and how little you got from it.
As always, feedback, questions or suggestions are welcomed. Kindly e-mail Ray Shocki PhD, LCSW, LMFT at email@example.com.