Elyssa Barbash Ph.D.

Trauma and Hope

Worrying: A Waste of Time and Energy

Why you should stop worrying and start living.

Posted Jan 02, 2019

Worrying is one of the most futile or purposeless things that people can do. Unless your worry can tangibly help you identify solutions that you can implement to prevent a negative outcome, worry is often something that people do to feel as though they are being productive when really they’re only creating more distress for themselves.

Since I work quite frequently with anxiety disorders, most of the time I end up having discussions with my patients about worry. People tell me such things as “I can’t control my worry,” “I worry about things that I know will not happen,” and “I have a hard time getting these ideas out of my head.”

And that is exactly what worry is. But the first step to reducing the amount of worry in your life is recognizing that it is purposeless. Again, unless your worrying is going to lead you to identify a great solution (or, heck, just any tangible solution) that you can implement in order to prevent something from happening, most of the time worry is:

1. Concern about something that does not even actually exist (possibly yet, but probably ever)

2. Concern about something that does exist, but that is entirely out of your control

3. Nothing more than an “action” that we as humans engage in to feel as though we are being productive

4. Something that gets in the way of our actually living our lives

With regard to number three, many times people actively worry because they believe they are actually doing something by giving their attention to a perceived or real situation. But again, unless you can do something that will have an influence on the outcome, what is the real purpose of worrying?

     "In reality, unless you can do something and your worry is going to get you to the point where you identify what that something is, worrying only leads you to feel stress, anxiety, discomfort, and discontent."

Treating Worry

For those individuals who tell me that they have a hard time getting their worries out of their head, I totally understand (really, I do).

There are specific strategies, however, that therapy and professional assistance can implement to help you curb the worry that you experience. At a minimum, the strategies are helpful at reducing your anxiety. Rather than allowing your worrisome thoughts to spiral out of control, these techniques help you to reel in your thinking and recognize when your thoughts are not realistic or helpful. This, in turn, leads to your understanding that you do not need to focus on these thoughts or allow them to continue to plague your mind.

However, just as in any type of psychotherapy, this change cannot happen without your very active involvement. It requires work and active engagement in the process, but it is some of the most beneficial work you can do.