FSCR: Why Is Worry Stopping You?
By Ella Wiggers
Many people can relate to what it feels like to have a sensation of anxiety. When our anxieties continue to become worry, this can be a debilitating condition. The basis of worry is a focus on some aspect of the future, but worry chooses to believe that the future holds a negative outcome. Someone with chronic worry has a desire for control, but the more that an individual worries, the less able their body can deal with stress. Anxiety can be helpful if it spurs you to solve a problem, but if it is unrelenting, is about worse case scenarios, and “what ifs” then it is doing more harm than good. Chronic worriers operate under the misconception that over-thinking and controlling every situation will allow them to problem solve and plan for the future. Ultimately, this thought pattern can hinder their cognitive processing and activate fear areas of the brain. Worry can also drain our mental energy, increase our anxiety, and impact our daily life in negative ways.
So why do people continue to worry? People may hold both negative and positive beliefs about worry which contributes to why they worry. On the negative side, individuals may know that worrying is harmful to their physical and mental health. The pessimistic thoughts are bothersome to them and may keep them up at night. They also may have a fear that they will lose control of their worrying and not be able to stop it. These thoughts may feed their worry. False- positive thoughts about worry could be that worry helps them to avoid bad things, prepare you for the worst, and develop solutions. These thoughts may help them make sense of worry. So individuals may keep worrying because in a sense, worries have been working for them. You can’t break the habit of worrying if you believe worrying protects you. When you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, then it is possible to regain control of your worried mind. When you worry, you may feel temporarily less helpless since running over the problem in your head distracts you from your emotions and makes you believe that you’re accomplishing something.
Worrying and problem solving are two different things. Problem solving involves evaluating a situation, coming up with steps to deal with it, and enacting a plan. Worrying rarely leads to solutions, it gives you something to do, but nothing is accomplished. So how do you deal with worried thoughts? First, determine if the problem that you are worrying about is solvable. It is important to determine if your fear is realistic, if there is something you can do, or if the problem is out of your control. If you determine the problem is solvable, then list possible solutions, create a plan and enact it. When doing this focus upon what you have control over rather than, what is out of your control. This will help to ease your worry. If you determine that the problem is unsolvable then it is best to learn to cope with the situation that is out of your hands.
Another big part of overcoming worry is about accepting uncertainty, no person can predict what is going to happen in the future. Thinking about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make anything more predictable. You may feel safer when you worry, but it is really just an illusion. Focusing on the worse scenario outcomes won’t change anything, and it will keep you from enjoying all the good things you have at this moment.
One last way to deal with worry is to challenge anxious thoughts. When thinking about the issue that is causing worry, try to question the thoughts involved. Some example questions that you could use to look deeper into your worry could include these:
¯ “Is there evidence that this thought is true or untrue?”
¯ “Is there a more positive way of looking at the situation?”
¯ “What is the likelihood that what I am worried about will actually happen?”
¯ “Is this thought helpful or hurtful?”
Once you have evaluated your thoughts, you can choose to change them into more realistic and positive ones. This can take practice and support since cognitive distortions can be a pattern of thinking that becomes automatic. Those those who suffer with chronic worry, may have a tendency to overestimate the possibility that things will turn out badly, they may underestimate their abilities, or jump to the worst case scenario. These ways of thinking are not only unrealistic, but not helpful. If you feel that chronic worry is effecting your life, you do have options to control it.
Family Services of the Chautauqua Region is a resource to support and assist anyone who would like to better manage their anxious patterns of thinking. Please contact us if you would like to set up and appointment.