“And I don't worry about nothing, no; Because worrying's a waste of my F'ing time.” - Axl Rose
Being a worry wart is bad for you. It’s linked to poor sleep, addiction, PTSD, and chronic illness. But here’s the thing. Many of us suspect worry is constructive or motivating. I mean, if we worry and then act to relieve the anxiety associated with said worry, then it becomes a good thing, right?
Not really. The reality is there are better ways to find motivation. Ways which do not steal our joy and damage our ability to cope with stress. Now, try not to worry too much about your worrying. There’s some good news. First and foremost, we worry less as we age. Secondly, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been proven to help chronic worriers.
CBT is pretty straight forward. Anxious patients are guided through three primary steps: Identify worries, Challenge them, and then Replace them with better ways of thinking and coping.
But there are a few tips and tricks about how to get these three steps accomplished.
When identifying the worries, remember that, while minor worries will exist in everyday life, chronic worrying is not beneficial. Again, this seems obvious, but many people come to associate worry as an essential part of their productivity, problem solving and identity. If you want to better manage worry, you have to give up the idea that it’s somehow driving you to be a better person.
From there, when worries come, experts recommend stopping them at the door (so to speak) and inviting them to come back later. More specifically at a set time of day, for a set amount of time, when you will work on worries. The work includes listening to them, writing them down, giving them “space” to exist and be addressed.
It is at this point, during the work period when you reshape the worries into something more reasonable and actionable. This includes calling your worries out when they are too general, outside your circle of control and influence, or leaning toward catastrophic when that clearly isn’t necessary (aka: awfulizing).
This is the stage where you move from worries like: “I will never get all this done and I’ll get fired” to “I can get most of it done if I work 4 hours after dinner and then I’ll talk to my boss about prioritizing my workload tomorrow.”
And now comes the part we all know is beneficial -- taking care of yourself so that stress and worry is less likely to take a foothold. These strategies include strengthening your faith in God, healthy eating, reasonable sleep habits, mindfulness, gratitude and exercise like Yoga.
So take a deep breath, schedule your worry time, and move on with your day. You’ll be healthier and happy for it in the end.