“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” – Leo F. Buscaglia
We all worry from time to time. We experience a general feeling of nervousness or anxiety, a sense that something might be wrong or could go wrong, disturbing thoughts – worry. Statistics show that almost 2 in every 5 people worry about something at least once per day.
Others suffer from chronic anxiety, a more intense form of worry, which seems to take over the person’s life. For this post, though, we’re discussing ways of minimizing the everyday worry.
I’m usually not a worrier, but there was one event that I remember worrying over. My husband and children, who were at that time five and seven, rode a Greyhound Bus from Oregon to Southern California for a wedding. If I remember correctly, they were gone for about two weeks.
During that time, my mind conjured up ever possible accident that could happen and everything that could go wrong, where I’d never see them again or they’d be hurt or they just didn’t come home.
It was probably the worst two weeks of my life. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I had problems at work. At that point, I decided I was not going to worry any more so I started going to the Bible and prayer for help.
Philippians 4:6 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Harvey Begins To Worry
Harvey, a man in his mid to late thirties, couldn’t seem to get ahead in his personal life or his professional life. He had a degree in environmental engineering and had worked at the same company for about 10 years, working with soil testing and waste disposal systems. Every time a promotion became available, he was passed over.
He had been to see Joan, the company counselor, twice. Together they were working on dismantling his negative core beliefs planted in him by his dad who called him a “good for nothing kid,” saying he never wanted a kid or a family.
Worry is another self-talk activity, where you repetitively talk to yourself about negative things that could happen in the future or things that you are afraid could happen. You repeat this negative self-talk over and over and over. You rehearse what you would do if this event did happen.
As with any other self-talk, you rehearse it so much it, again, takes on a life of its own. You become convinced that it has a high likelihood of happening. Because your subconscious mind is designed to execute the instructions it is given, the possibility of it actually happening is increased, if it’s in your sphere of influence.
For example, my worry over my husband and children being in a bus accident was remote and I had no influence over the bus. But, in Harvey’s case, above, his worrying over not getting the promotion affected his work performance creating the likelihood of it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, one more time.
Worry vs. Problem Solving
Worry is different than problem-solving in that the worrier takes the worst-case scenario and all possible things that could happen or go wrong and tries to work out the solution for the problem before it becomes a problem. In doing this, you have no facts to work with.
Different scenarios are rehearsed deciding which one would be the best solution for when the problem becomes a problem. Instead of finding a real solution, the worrier often becomes so anxious over the possibility that they can’t think clearly or have actual facts to work with.
The interesting thing, though, is that actual problem solving is different.
According to the Centre for Clinical Interventions, “Problem-solving is a constructive thought process focused on how we can flexibly and effectively deal with a problem at hand. It involves identifying what the problem is and thinking of possible ways of dealing with the problem. We then choose which of these suggestions seem the best solutions and examine the pros and cons of each. Based on our evaluation of the solutions, we can then develop a plan of how best to deal with the situation by using one or more of the strategies we have thought of.”
Worry isn’t problem-solving because there is no real problem to solve. Any possible solutions usually don’t work because it’s an imaginary problem. If the problem became real it would probably have a different set of circumstances and facts.
Where there is a real problem, actual problem solving is a practical and helpful planning strategy to solve it.
Bottom line, worry is just repetitive negative thinking where you get stuck analyzing bad events that could, maybe, happen in the future – things that will probably never happen. You use all your energy on imaginary problems or situations and don’t have the energy to deal with real life.
For example, in my case, the chances of a bus accident were very remote and didn’t happen. In Harvey’s case, he had worried over the promotion several times before and every time it had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. He didn’t get the promotion because the worrying affected his work performance.
This negative thinking, worry, has a circular, spiral or snowball-like quality to it because the same negative stuff keeps getting rehashed over and over in your mind, and you have trouble disengaging from the repetitive negative thoughts.
The repetitive negative thinking then fuels the anxious thinking until it’s blown way out of proportion consuming all your energy for real life.
The cause of generalized anxiety or worry is not clearly understood. But, there are a number of things that can incease or trigger worry:
- Possible biological dispositions in how you experience negative emotions.
- Certain images from the television, newspaper, or magazines.
- Hearing information, like, newscasts from the radio or on your phone.
- Certain videos from the internet (YouTube).
- Being put in difficult situations such as being called on for a report, or to address a meeting at work or school, etc.
- Prolonged stress.
- Traumatic events.
What if questions that circle in your mind perpetuates worry. Questions could sound something like this:
- What if I lose my job?
- What if I miss my appointment?
- What if I fail the exam?
- What if my car won’t start and I’m late for work?
- What if my spouse or kids are in an accident?
- What if I don’t get the promotion?
- What if the boss doesn’t like me?
- What if the boss doesn’t like my work?
- What if…. What if…. What if….
What Maintains Worry
Interestingly, both positive and negative thoughts about worry form a vicious cycle that keeps them going.
For example, as in Harvey’s case, he ruminated on his not getting the promotion, thinking of all the reasons why he wouldn’t get it. Then his thoughts would go to why he should get the promotion and what he would do if he got it. Then his negative thoughts would kick back in and he’d think of problems he’s had with a project or mistakes he made and he’d flip back to the negative side.
Imagine with me how this circular thinking would wear you out until you couldn’t do your job or even had to call in sick.
I’ve been there. How about you?
Negative Beliefs About Worry
Some people worry about worrying. They worry about why they can’t stop worrying. They worry about worry being uncontrollable and whether it will totally take over their life. They also worry about it being dangerous and causing mental illness. These concerns can become very distressful which, in turn, perpetuate the worrying and, once again, turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Positive Beliefs About Worry
Many worriers hold false-positive thoughts that worrying is actually good and beneficial for them. Some say worry is a motivator to get them moving. Others say it helps them to prepare solutions in case events happen because they have trouble dealing with uncertainty. Still, others say it helps them prepare and avoid bad things from happening to them.
They are holding onto these worry thoughts, assuming they are good because it prepares them for the actual event, when in reality they are not good – they are only false positives.
Avoidance and Thought Control
Some people try to avoid worry or ignore a worry thought when it enters their mind. They also avoid triggers like watching TV or news reports. Avoidance can work a certain percentage of the time. But, it also limits the opportunity to experience events that disaffirm the worry, showing them that worry doesn’t work.
Thought control has limited success. Have you ever tried to tell yourself that you weren’t going to think about something, like chocolate? What happens? Usually, that’s all you think about. That’s all you see around you. Chocolate appears to be everywhere.
When you tell yourself you aren’t going to worry, you often worry more, which leads you to the belief that worry is uncontrollable – not true. You can control worry.
Challenging Your Beliefs About Worry
It’s time to play detective again, like in the last post.
Pick either past or present worry to challenge. Write about it.
Sidebar: why am I always saying write about it? When you write about a thought, feeling, situation, worry, you process it in outside of your mind, if you will. When you process it in your mind it can become more elusive. Putting it on paper allows you to analyze it more fully.
If it’s on paper and you are seeking help, it’s a more complete evaluation of the problem than just telling the counselor in words. When we talk to someone we don’t always give all the details.
Write with as much detail as possible:
- Write everything you can think of about this situation. List all the details, everything you worried about. List all the different scenarios that you thought about. The facts, please.
- Did the situation turn out the way you saw it in your head?
- How did the situation end?
- Was your prediction accurate or inaccurate?
- If what you worried about was inaccurate and unrealistic, how could it possibly be helpful, valuable or beneficial?
- Dissect your belief about worry by listing the evidence that supports your belief and evidence against for your belief.
“If you are able to do things that show your beliefs are not true, that in fact your worrying has no benefits or can get in the way at times, it is going to be hard to hold on to your beliefs.”
During the 40 days of Jesus temptation, “The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Luke 4:3
There is no record of satan actually appearing to Jesus in a physical form. He spoke to Jesus’ mind, just like he communicates with us – in our mind. I will venture to say that many of the negatives worry thoughts, are from satan, our enemy.
Psalm 112:7 “I am not afraid of bad news; my heart is firm, trusting in the Lord..”
Psalms 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
Psalms 33:20-22 “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
Philippians 4:6 “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Isaiah 35:4 “…Be strong; fear not!”
Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,”
Graham Cooke states, “Instead of giving in to our soul—our mind, will and emotions — we must lean on His (Gods) everlasting arms. The first place we should go when we’re in trouble is the heart of God. When we live under that umbrella of His keeping power, we no longer have to pray for His presence to come. It’s already with us.”
Worry is a sign that we are not completely trusting in God, but God is the source for everything we need. When we live under his protection we can rest because He doesn’t sleep. He’s never going to let us fall. He never loses focus. He’s always paying attention. He’s always watching. He’s always with us.
Psalms 17:8 says that He “Keeps me as the apple of His eye, and He hides me in the shadow of His wings.”
Can we be in a safer, more protected place?
Harvey’s Third Session
Harvey entered Joan’s office and sat in the chair in front of her desk. He was very quiet compared to the week before.
“What’s up?” Joan asked. “You seem very quiet and maybe a little down this week.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Remember you told me there was a promotion coming up. Well, they posted the job notice on the board. It’s a great job. I’d love to have it, but…” his voice trailed off.
“But, what?” Joan asked.
“All the guys are talking about it. Several of the guys have been called into the boss’s office to discuss the job. I haven’t been called in. I had really gotten my hopes up after talking to you the last couple of weeks. But, one more time I’m going to get passed over.”
“How do you know that?”
“I just know it,” he said. “I feel it. I haven’t been sleeping. I toss and turn all night. I’m tired when I go to work. I made a big mistake the other day. I know it’s going to kill my chances.”
“Did you fix the mistake?”
“Yeah, I fixed it, but I still screwed up,” he said.
“So you’re worrying about it.”
“Yeah, it’s going to turn out just like all the other times,” he said as he lowered his head to look at the floor.
“What if you challenged every worry thought about the promotion just like you challenged the thoughts from your dad? What if every time you think about the promotion you say,
‘I’m not going to think negatively, that promotion is mine.’ Once again change your thought to the opposite. How do you think you would feel?”
“I never thought about doing that. When I did it regarding my dad, I started feeling much better. In fact, I found his number and called him the other day. We talked for a few minutes. Nothing very important. But we talked,” he said with a smile.
“Good for you,” Joan said. “How did you feel after talking to your dad?”
“I felt good. Actually, I felt a load lift off my shoulders. I was relieved. We agree to talk every week and set up a day and time to talk.”
“That is awesome,” Joan said looking at Harvey’s face. The stress seemed to be lifting. He seemed more relaxed, maybe, even happy.
“Now, do the same about the promotion.”
I have found, from personal experience, that when I am worried or in pain (I am recovering from numerous physical problems and surgeries) or negative thought comes into my mind I do the opposite.
Whether it’s worry, fear, a new thought, or a negative core belief that you’ve had from childhood, you can begin to change it by doing, saying, and thinking the opposite. Don’t allow yourself to think, say or do the negative.
After doing the exercises above you have begun to identify and become aware of your negative core beliefs, the negative and positive worry thoughts, that are not productive.
Take the first step to dismantling and changing your worry thoughts.
In changing your negative core beliefs and dismantling worry, you are taking the first steps to grow a new “mindset.” A mindset that is positive and works for your good, not for your destruction.
It is a choice. You can choose to be the victim and focus on the negative, worry thoughts. Or, you can choose to change your mindset and attitude for a better happier life.
The first step is to do the opposite. You have listed some of your negative and positive worry thoughts above. When a worry thought pops into your mind, change it to the opposite thought. You can also change worry thoughts to positive by using the Word from the list above. For example:
“No, I am not thinking that, “I am not afraid of bad news; my heart is firm, trusting in the Lord..” Ps 112:7
“No, I am not thinking that, I cast all my worries and burdens on the Lord, and he will sustain me; he will never permit me to be moved.” Ps 55:22
“No, I am not thinking that, I am waiting on the Lord, he is my help and my shield. My heart is glad in him. I trust in His holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon me, even as I hope in you.” Ps 33: 20-22
“No, I am not thinking that, I am not anxious or worried about anything, but in everything I let my requests be made known to God.” Phil 4:6
“No, I am not thinking that, I am strong and not afraid.” Is 35:4
“No, I am not thinking that, The Lord heals all my diseases.” Ps 103:3
“No, I am not thinking that, He sent His word and healed me.” Ps 107:20
“No, I am not thinking that, I shall not die but live, and shall declare the works and recount the illustrious acts of the Lord.” Ps 118:17
“No, I am not thinking that, He heals my broken heart and binds up my wounds.” Ps 147:3
Get the point!!! You can do this.