Worry is a truly poisonous emotion. It has no real value other than to highlight the fact that you have become too obsessed with something. Do not confuse worry with concern. Concern occurs when you know that either something is wrong or, something could go wrong. This affords you the opportunity to identify any corrective measures that you can take (if there are any) and, implement them. Once you have done so, your concern should be eased. Worry occurs when you continue to focus on what could go wrong, often to the detriment of getting things done. Worry corrodes your self-esteem and confidence which in turn will affect your performance e.g. if you worry excessively about your presentation skills, you are more likely to screw up your presentation.
Don’t focus on what you can’t solve
When you’re a chronic worrier, unsolvable worries can be highly toxic to your physical and mental well-being. Also, if you’re a chronic worrier, you may think that every problem is unsolvable. You’ve got to learn how to distinguish between those problems you can solve and those you can’t in a realistic manner.
Dealing with worries you can’t possibly solve means that you must get in touch with your emotions and find out why you’re so anxious about something you have no control over. Worrying about a nuclear war falls under this category. It will likely never happen, but you may be obsessing over it anyway.
3 Questions to help you deal with worry
When you begin to obsess about a problem, stop a minute and try to answer the following questions:
1. Is the problem imaginary or truly imminent?
You need to get real with your time frames here. Is the problem likely to occur in the very near future? If the answer is ‘No’ then you are worrying needlessly as there is more than enough opportunity for you to prepare and take preventative action.
One area where this can arise is employment. Many people fail to put themselves forward for promotion as they fear that they will eventually be found out to lack the necessary knowledge and skills. What they forget is that as they progress in the position, they will have plenty of time to gain the knowledge and learn the skills they will need. It is essential that you remember that life is one long learning process and unless the potential problem is imminent; you will have plenty of time to learn what you need to know and take the actions you need to take.
2. Is the concern you’re feeling realistic?
Sometimes it can be very easy to get carried away due to a lack of realism. Realism is the greatest tool in the battle against chronic worry. It may be a case that the potential problem that you worry about is unlikely to ever occur. For example, you may be worried that people are going to hate you if you get one thing wrong. Unless the thing that you get wrong is incredibly severe; this situation is unlikely to ever occur. One of the best ways that you can get a sense of realism is to ask yourself how you would react if the shoe was on the other foot. If you wouldn’t hate the other person for their mistake, why would you expect them to hate you?
Realism is also important when it comes to your expectations. I am about to begin some voluntary work, creating a website for my local GAA (Irish sports) club. I could worry about people not liking the new site but it’s just not realistic to expect that everyone will like it. Also, there will be thousands of pages on the site over time, and I cannot expect that everyone will like every page. By setting out with the realistic expectation that I cannot please everybody; I am far less likely to worry excessively about the issue.
3. What can you do about the situation?
Again, realism is essential. You cannot control every element of your life. There are things that you can control and things which you have no control over. If you can control something then rather than worry about it, you should take the necessary action to deal with it. If you cannot control it then all the worrying in the world will not solve the problem. Therefore, there is no point in worrying; you must learn to let it go and move on.
In his excellent book ‘Slaying the Dragon’ former US sprinter, Michael Johnson tells us how he reacted when things went wrong. He identified everything that went wrong and wrote it down in a list. Then, he divided that list into two smaller lists – things he could control and things which he could not control. He would throw away the list of things which he could not control and focus solely on the items under his control. Using this approach, he went from major disappointment at the Barcelona Olympics to double gold medal winner at the Atlanta Olympics, four years later.
The approach Michael Johnson advocates are one of the greatest ways to deal with worry.
Brainstorm solutions for what you’re worried about. The solution doesn’t have to be a flawless one, but when you’re focused on what you can do about a situation, the worry melts away and a plan of action takes its place. That’s much more empowering than constant worry. Worrying can become an avoidance tactic that you use when you’re afraid of an outcome. Many chronic worriers endanger their health, relationships and much more by procrastinating about taking action – whether it works or not. At least you’re attempting to do something about the problem. Taking action can dissolve your worries quickly. Rather than crying and feeling sorry for yourself, you’re actually taking the steps needed to rid yourself of unnecessary anguish that’s hard on your body and mind. Next time that you are being overcome by worry; implement the steps above and watch the worry melt away.
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