When I worry about some person, event, or potential catastrophe, I feel like no one has ever worried as intensely as me. Do you feel that way too?
What SHOULD we worry about?
If I didn’t worry about certain things, there would be something wrong with me. Let’s say that my husband takes the Bay Bridge on his way home from work every night. Suddenly I hear a news flash on the 6:00 news that the Bay Bridge has just plunged 3,000 feet into the water below. My husband may or may not have been on that bridge when it went down. This is something I definitely should worry about. I should call the police and the Bay Authority and my family. A normal behavior would be to worry.
For some people, worry is generational. I remember my mother telling me that she hated to drive downhill. Every single time we went down a steep hill, she would say how much it scared her.
After I got my driver’s license, guess what I was afraid of? Yes – Driving downhill! It became so bad that I would sweat bullets as I climbed up a hill in my car, knowing that in a few minutes I would be forced to drive downhill. Though my mother had never intended to pass on her fear of driving downhill, that’s what had happened. Thankfully, though, by driving down the same hill over and over, I finally got over that fear.
What about those people who worry about every little potentiality in every single situation or possible scenario? We all know a few or perhaps you fall into that category, as I did.
I would worry from the minute I woke up in the morning until the minute I finally dropped off into sleep at night. Not only did I worry about myself and every minute detail of my life, I tried to control everything. But I had it backwards. I learned that no longer did I have to control everything in my life – but that I could control my worrying. It’s not as difficult as you think.
How to Control Worrying:
* On a piece of paper, make 6 vertical columns.
* Number them at the top of the page from 1 – 6.
* In Column 1, think of one thing that you are worried about and write it down.
* In Column 2, write how you feel (such as anxious, uptight, terrified, angry, etc.).
* Column 3 – Write (from 1 – 100), how intense the feeling is.
* Column 4 – Write the worst-case scenario in 5 words or less. (For my worry about my husband on the Bay Bridge, I could write, “Husband drowns in car.”)
* Column 5 – Write three other possible scenarios that are more positive. (“Husband not on bridge,” “Husband worked late,” and “Husband crossed bridge before it fell.”)
* Column 6 – Write a more balanced statement by combining Columns 4 and 5. (“Husband probably not on bridge when it fell, but if he was, there is nothing I can do about it now.”)
* Now do something productive for yourself. (Call husband’s cell number, pray, call his work to see when he left, call the police, call the Port Authority, and ask family member to come over and sit with me until I know where my husband is.
* Every time your thoughts begin to paralyze your thinking, repeat the balanced statement in Column 6.
Does it Always Work?
With a situation as extreme as my Bay Bridge example, you won’t be able to eliminate all worry. But you will be able to make worry more manageable. If you are in a more controlled state of mind, you will also make better decisions.
With everyday worries, you can just about eliminate them by doing the exercise above.
It Has a Name:
What we just did in the exercise with the six columns is called Cognitive Restructuring, or in layman’s terms, we have restructured our thinking.
Practice Makes Perfect:
Try this technique with each and every worry you have. It will free up your mental energy for creating solutions, instead of listening to an endless tape of worries and negative thoughts. You don’t have to let your thoughts terrify you. After a while, you will begin restructuring your thoughts automatically and turning worry into productive action.