“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”~ Arthur Somers
There are certainly times when worry is appropriate and even helpful. If we step onto a frozen pond, worry that the ice will not hold causes us to retreat and perhaps saves our life. Worry about a child near a campfire causes us to diligently keep watch on the child, perhaps preventing disaster. Worry about photo radar causes most drivers to slow down. These kinds of worries are about concrete and imminent situations.
Sometimes however, worries can get carried away and even become dysfunctional. Worry about things that “might” happen can create a cycle of fear and anxiety. Worrying that our teen may do drugs and die of a drug overdose creates tremendous fear in a parent. Just thinking of that scenario causes the parent to feel the complete devastation such an event would cause. The physical body experiences all of the feelings it would go through if this actually happened. The horror of this imagined experience creates more fear, and hence the parent becomes anxious each time the teen goes out with friends.
This type of worry/fear/anxiety cycle can occur in relation to finances, physical health and social situations among many others. People can even worry about how much they worry, or become anxious about their anxiety. In the extreme form this manifests in anxiety attacks or obsessive/compulsive thoughts and behaviors. Clearly this is no way to live.
We can begin to alter this worry habit by always asking ourselves how things are in this present moment. If we are okay, then we need to just stay with that until something actually happens to make us not okay.
We can also practice “thought stopping,” refusing to entertain negative thoughts, and replacing them with positive ones.
For those who feel they absolutely must worry, a “worry budget” is in order. You can only worry for thirty minutes each day. You must set aside a specific time for this so that worry does not contaminate the rest of your day. For those who feel this is not enough time, they will need to prioritize their worries, and only worry about the big things that are actually real, if indeed there are any of those.
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