Take it from a "could be" over-worrier. Some worrying is normal and can even be good us. Then there is the excessive worrier. Let me differentiate between the two. Good worrying could come from stressful events such as preparing to take a test or a job interview. Worrying to an extent about these events could help get a person ready by pushing a bit more studying for the exam or preparing more for the upcoming interview. On the other hand, an excessive worrier may react to an event too quickly or in such an intense manner that one becomes irrational and not able to think clearly. It has been proven that people with high anxiety levels have trouble shaking off their worries and that is when physical symptoms come into play.
With excessive worrying, you focus on what might happen, as your mind just takes off on its on into overdrive. If chronic worrying begins to affect your every day life and spills into your job, relationships, sleep, appetite and lifestyle, then there is a problem. That is when overeating or undereating, smoking, drugs or alcohol come into the picture. There are ways to help solve this problem. There is no shame in asking for help. Worries are a normal part of life. It is when it begins to overtake our lives that we need to take action. Our brains can actually be trained.
In our newspaper the other day, I saw a comic strip called, "Pearls Before Swine" by Stephan Pastis. The title of a paper that Pig was writing was called,
'My Daily Worries Broken Down By Percentages':
40% - Worries about things that have happened
30% - Worries about things that will happen
20% - Worries about things that may happen
1% - Not worrying that I'm letting my guard down
Then Rat enters the picture and says, "Fun Day!" This is when Pig replied, "I worried you'd say that."
There are negative beliefs about worry and positive beliefs about worry. If you believe that your constant worrying is harmful then more than likely it is. On the other hand if you believe that your worrying helps you avoid bad things and prepares you for the worst, you may be causing other problems. You may even be trying to convince yourself that it is the responsible thing to do. Actually, once you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind. There are steps to take to train our brains.
- Have a specific worry period and use this time to write down your worries, think about them and allow yourself to worry for a reasonable amount of time
- Distinguish between what is a worry that can be solved and those that are unsolvable. If it is solvable then brainstorm ways that you can take care of the problem. If the worry is not solvable, accept the uncertainty. Most chronic worriers try to predict what the future has in store for us. Thinking about all of the things that could go wrong does not help. Worst case scenarios will stop us from enjoying the present.
Training our brains is possible. It is not a negotiable to be happy. Our emotional health and our happiness is not a bonus. While navigating life's ups and downs, we need to understand that we won't feel positive all of the time. We are human beings and we have a full range of emotions. Practicing happiness is a skill. Challenges are constant but struggle is optional. Get in the mindset of practicing happiness.
After your worry period that you have allowed yourself, be sure to find the little things that you are grateful for and things that bring you joy. Practice kindness not only to others but self-kindness.
Life is not about being perfect. Practice!