Kicking the Worry Habit

Will any amount of worrying change the future? Will worrying pay your bills, prevent an accident, make your job more secure, or improve your health?

The truth is, you can spend the rest of your life worrying and you will not have changed a thing. By occupying your thought worrying about the future, you actually immobilize yourself in the present.

Worry means spending a lot of time thinking about negative possibilities. How much time do you spend each day engaged in worrying?

Worry is a problem if:
— Your thinking is causing intense emotional distress and has been interfering with your daily functioning for some time
— In general, it is not quickly or clearly providing solutions.

Worry becomes a problem when persistent worrying takes over your thoughts and emotions. Some stress experts warn that chronic worrying may be the number-one killer in this country. Every time we allow ourselves to experience anxiety (the clinical term for worry), we change our physiology (changes in blood chemistry, blood sugar level, blood pressure, muscle tension). If persistent worrying or anxiety is a part of your lifestyle, these physiological changes are prolonged and undermine your health. Chronic worrying can affect the whole body. The short-term effects of chronic worrying include depression, mental and physical exhaustion, chronic fatigue, insomnia and general achiness. In the long term, the person whose lifestyle includes worrying predisposes him/herself to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

The Real Reasons Behind Worry And Anxiety. Worrying is a habit. Habits are developed because you have practiced doing them so often that you start doing them without being aware of it. Worrying can become a mental habit. How do people get hooked on such a non-productive and self-destructive way of thinking? What are the psychological payoffs?

§ By using the “present” to worry, you escape getting involved with whatever it is that is threatening you.
§ Worry allows you to escape the creative use of your time. It’s an easy solution for what to do with your time.
§ You don’t have to risk failure, rejection or loss. You can use your anxiety as an excuse for your immobility and misery. How could you possibly do anything fun or exciting with all the worrying you have to do?
§ Worry is a way to prove how much you care for another person. For example, you can tell yourself what a good parent you are because you worry about your children.

Strategies For Eliminating Worry. Worry is something that we can change if we see it as a bad habit. It’s nothing more than our own thought process. You can train yourself to become a non-worrier, just as you trained yourself to fret.

Below are some strategies for eliminating worry:
1. Take responsibility for making your “present” life work for you. All you really have is your immediate experience. Take the challenge of appreciating and enjoying your life.
2. Have the courage to face whatever you are running away from. Take action here and now.
3. Ask yourself about your obsession to worry…“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Then come to terms with it and get on with your life.
4. Recognize the futility of worrying. People sometimes believe, “If I only worry enough then…” Is there really anything you can change by this investment of your time and energy?
5. Practice “non-worry behavior.” Each time you’re inclined to worry, remind yourself, “No amount of worry will change this situation, so I’m not going to worry at this moment.” Give yourself shorter and shorter periods of time to worry. If you were really conscious of how much time you invested in worrying you would see that you were putting hours into it. And generally, it’s the same tapes swirling around in your head again and again.
Copyright 2005 Healthy Exchange. Used with kind permission of Jenican Communications.

[LCL NOTE: If you have been troubled by chronic worry, LCL can provide confidential help — just call.]

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