Don't Try Harder, Try Different!

Simple strategies for handling anxiety and stress.

Control is an Illusion Part 2

Trying to control the uncontrollable?

Ok, so worries do not make things happen. SO, maybe they serve this purpose: Maybe worries work by having us think of every bad thing that might happen. If we can do that, then we can prepare for every bad thing that might happen. And, if we are prepared for every bad thing that might happen, then we will not need to worry about it anymore since we are ready for it.

This sounds like it takes a lot of effort, but it is what a lot of people do, and it is another huge waste of time. For example, I could offer you a free trip to Hawaii and you may say that you appreciate it very much. Or, you may say that you are not going to go because: There could be a fire in the hotel, a shark might eat you, you might get lost, there could be a slippery rock by a waterfall and you might slip on it and break your neck, you could drown, and then there is all that lava!!! Well, it seems that there is no way we are going to Hawaii - it is just far too dangerous.

If this is the way you look at things, then nothing will be fun, or exciting, or rewarding. Everything will just be a potential disaster diverted. When you look at everything like this, then there is very little to look forward to. So, you then start to worry about all of your worries, and an unending cycle is begun.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

How do we get out of this? It seems that doing the opposite of what you normally do is in order here. In the last post we discussed purposely worrying instead of trying not to worry. I am hopeful that you just got bored with your worries after a while. Now what I want you to do is to go out and have some fun. Prior to going out, make a list of everything that you can think of that might go wrong, and even though you have thought of all of these negative things, I still want you to go out and enjoy yourself. When you get back home, circle all of the bad things that happened that were on your list. I bet that there will be very few circles, but if there are some circles, then did any of those things turn out as bad as you had predicted? Probably not.

Your homework is to list your predictions of what might happen and still go out and do those things. It is time to learn that just because we think something bad might happen does not mean that it will.

Patrick McGrath, Ph.D., is the Director of the Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital's Center for Anxiety and OCD Program and president of Anxiety Centers of Illinois. more...

Subscribe to Don't Try Harder, Try Different!

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.