Give up Worry by Recognizing it as a Bad Habit
Here are 9 tip to put boundaries around your worries.
Posted Jan 28, 2011
Give up Worry by Recognizing it as a Bad Habit
Worry is made up of nagging, persistent thoughts that circle around in your head. It is "what if" statements, worst-case scenarios, and awful predictions. The act of worrying is an obsessive, habitual behavior-and one that you can give up. But before you can give it up, you must accept that the act of worrying serves no purpose. Worrying is stealing your energy, fatiguing your muscles and body, exacerbating your aches and pains, increasing your vulnerability to stress and infection, distracting you from the present, interfering with your sleep, inappropriately increasing or decreasing your appetite, and keeping you from more pleasurable or important tasks. It is time to recognize the act of worry serves no purpose and has become a bad habit. Here are 9 tips to help you put up boundaries around your worry.
Control Worry, Don't Let It Control You
Instead of listening to your worrisome thoughts, intervene before you get caught up in an unhealthy habit. A worrisome thought that crosses your mind is a warning signal. This signal may be appropriately alerting you to danger. In this case, the appropriate course of action is to examine the concern. First, ask yourself what is the worst that could happen? Second, ask yourself if this outcome is likely and probable? Third, ask yourself if the outcome is a real problem? Next, only if the concern is likely and presents a real problem, consider all your courses of action. Last, evaluate each course of action, and a solution that makes sense.
Differentiate Realistic Concern from Worry
Realistic concern is a warning signal that you are in trouble. It's the internal alarm system that indicates that you are indeed facing a difficult situation. Realistic concern is based on a specific upsetting, dangerous, or risky situation that you are NOW being faced with and are ill equipped or prepared to face it. For example, your computer crashed an hour before an important meeting and the vital information that you need is on your computer. Worry, on the other hand, is thinking about things that might happen now or later with no credible evidence to support it. For example, not returning a phone call to a client by the end of the day and worrying that person may stop doing business with you and taking it as a sign that you will lose many more accounts in the future.
Keep Lifting Even When the Weight Feels Too Heavy
It's important to determine if you are facing a genuinely worrisome difficulty that you have no control to fix. Accept you cannot take responsibility for everything and everyone. Often one is frustrated when a problem is out of your hands or you are delayed in taking action due to circumstances you cannot control. When there is truly nothing you can do about it, learn to tolerate the powerlessness.
Remember that powerlessness is just a bad feeling. It will go away all on its own even if you do nothing to help it subside. Accept that bad feelings can't hurt you if you accept they are necessary and temporary components of life. Tolerating bad feelings will make you a psychologically stronger person. Dig in and bear the discomfort. Make it a challenge and hold on.
Just the Facts: Knowledge Is Power
Thoughts pop into all of our heads. The key is to accept that every thought that crosses through your mind is not necessarily true. Worries are just fleeting thoughts that represent the concerns that preoccupy your subconscious. Before you let your worrisome thought wreak havoc on your system and stress you out, accept that just because you have a worry does not make it a true concern. Stick to the facts surrounding your worries. A key strategy is to ask yourself what evidence you have that the worry thought is true or not true. If the worry thought is true and based on real facts, then you can reign in your worry by examining your actual risk and reminding yourself of how you are equipped to handle the problem. However, if you find that you have no facts to support your worry, then it's important to let go of it. Nothing in life is certain so letting go means tolerating that uncertainty.
Remember: Worry Doesn't Keep You Safe
Remember that you can't magically ward off danger or risk by worrying about it. Worrying about something can't make that thing happen-or not happen. By spending time worrying about the coulds, mights, and maybes, you'll end up missing out on living in the present and enjoying just being in the moment. Worrying keeps you in your head and not fully engaged in living. Think about the how many precious, happy moments you may miss because you were distracted by worry. It can also unknowingly cause a disconnect between yourself and important people or situations in your life. Think about the time when you were so deep in thought that you had no idea that your son scored a goal, your daughter shared a loving comment about you, or your boss was telling you important information about an upcoming meeting. Was that worrying worth it?
Don't "What If" off A Cliff
The "what ifs" of worry only serve to escalate the intensity of your anxiety and fear. Those "what ifs" are like snowballs that roll down a hill and get bigger and more threatening. The key strategy here is to not let your worry escalate by adding worst case scenarios to the picture. Stick to the specific situation at hand and gather as much information as you can to figure out the most realistic possibilities. It is much easier to deal with the known than to worry about things that are highly improbable. Rather than "what if," deal with the "what is."
Think in the "For-Now," Not in the "For-Ever"
Luckily most of our choices can be amended. The question is, what makes the most sense at this point in time with the information that currently exists? There are no crystal balls and no guarantees of what lies ahead. Think of all the possible things that can happen to affect any given choice we make. If you accept that the choice you make was reasonable and valid given the information you had at that time, then you can avoid despair and frustration when that decision you made didn't turn out for the best. Instead of kicking yourself, comfort yourself when things take an unexpected unpleasant turn.
Be a Scout: Be Prepared
Think back to all the difficult situations and problems you have faced in life so far. Have you survived? Of course you have, you are here! The good news is that facing thorny situations just leaves you even more prepared for the future. Knowing you have battled these tough times reminds you of how resilient and equipped you are for adversity. Think of all the problems you have addressed in your lifetime and tell yourself you are more than able to face life's stressors. Your past has prepared you for whatever lies ahead, so remove the fear and let the scout in you lead the way.
Wear Your Invisible Shield
A cloak of protection surrounds everyone. The name of this invisible shield is confidence. Confidence is what equips us to face difficult and stressful situations without worry. Confidence fortifies us to know we can make good decisions, problem solve, operate independently when we need to and get appropriate help when necessary. It is confidence that reminds us that we are capable of performing what life asks of us. It tells us we are competent and capable. It allows us to ask for help when we need it delay actions or decisions when we are don't have the answers.
Confidence also reminds us that each person is a unique, complex, desirable package. Every person out there has something wonderful to offer others. Believing in you means you have the most reliable shield of all, confidence.
Sokol, L., & Fox, M.G. (2010, September). How to put boundaries around worry. Retrieved from http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/Emotional-Health/2010/06/How-to-Put-Boun...