Worry and anxiety sometimes seem like emotional demon twins, with anxious feelings following worrisome thoughts. “Worry” means “to feel uneasy or anxious; torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; fret” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary). In the short term, worrying may provide a temporary measure of relief. If it continues, however, it makes things worse for you because it becomes an endless loop, playing your fears and misconceptions over and over in your head. Here’s the problem: worry creates the illusion that you’re working on your problem when, in fact, worrying accomplishes nothing.
Worry takes over your mind, tenses your body, drains your energy, and usually ruins your attitude. It makes you feel anxious, distressed, or uneasy because of your fears of what might happen. I’ve been a worrier all my life, so I understand what a negative impact it can have. However, I am now able to manage my worries by a simple process which allows me to get out of the unproductive loop. Here’s how it works:
First, set a ‘worry time,’ like 3pm, when you know you can concentrate for a few minutes. On a piece of paper, list all of the things that are worrying you. Writing helps clarify your issues.
Second, cross off items you have no control over, no power to change. Let these go; there’s no point wasting your energy on them.
Third, cross off the trivial items. Rate each item on your list on a scale from one to ten. It’s like when you’re at the hospital and a nurse asks you to rate your pain so she can give you appropriate medication. If an item rates low, say 1, 2, or 3, decide whether it’s worth doing anything about. Learn to let small stuff go.
Lastly, DO something about the remaining items. Worry immobilizes you, but activity energizes you.
If you practice these steps, you, too, can shift your worry and anxiety into problem solving.
by Kathleen Vestal Logan, MS, MA April 16, 2018