Are you a worrier? Do you worry that you worry too much? If you or a loved one worry excessively, keep reading.
There is a myth surrounding the idea of worry.
People make the mistake and “think” that worrying about the future can help prevent harm by preparing themselves (for whatever they are worried about) and thus enabling them to perform better and problem solve.
The medical fact is that worrying actually induces a state of stress and lowers your cognitive performance. So instead of helping you, it makes things worse. (Unless the worry is regarding a very short term situation and/or the situation is life-threatening.)
The truth is worrying has a real negative effect on your brain and your body. People who worry are at greater risk for stress and cardiovascular disease. Your brain (and your body) think that the worry is real, which then makes you more likely to make an emotional decision rather than a rational decision.
The more you try not to worry the more you DO worry. Like the famous example where you are told not to think of the elephant, the more you actually DO think of it. The same is with your brain and worrying.
Here is an interesting factoid:
First-degree worry is characterized by worrying about a future event.
Second-degree worry is characterized by worrying about worrying. (Which then can turn into snowball thinking and catastrophizing whereby everything starts to spin completely out of control).
So how can we get in control of our worries?
Here are some simple worry reframes that can help stop you before your worries begin to snowball out of control.
- We don’t fear the things we think we are fearing, we fear that we won’t be able to handle it! By looking back on your past and remembering that anything that has ever happened to you before, you have handled, so too, going forward you will be able to handle this challenge. Make your mantra “I’ll handle it.“ Repeat it again and again.
- Designate a specific time for worrying.
Designating 15 minutes of worry time enables you to create a “container” for your thoughts. Each time your brain starts to worry simply tell yourself, let’s save these thoughts for 2 PM, worry time.
- Change the channel. Our brain doesn’t have the ability to not think a thought. When we tell our brain “Do not think of purple elephants,” all we see are purple elephants. However, WE COULD replace the worry thought with a positive happy thought. Find your happy “picture“ and think about that instead.
- Worst case-WC Best case-BC Most likely-ML Tool. This is a cognitive tool that allows you to dump your worries, and get out of a downward spiral, so you could focus on the most likely realistic outcomes to the challenge.
You start by listing The Worst Case scenarios/thoughts that are running through your head, then you give each one a percentage of likelihood given the adversity.
Next, do the same with the Best Case scenarios. Here, though, have fun and list unrealistically positive outcomes. This will help you get out of the downward spiral of the Worst Case thoughts.
Again give each a percentage of likelihood. Finally, list the Most Likely scenarios and give each a percentage.
Once you see and realize what the most likely outcome is you’re better able to problem-solve.