Worry and worrying are problems that many people struggle with along road to recovering from an anxiety disorder.  I’m asked to cover this topic again and again.  So … a few words about worry and worrying.

Worry is simply thinking.  Thinking by itself has absolutely no impact on the real world.  Worry, therefore is not protective, predictive or proactive.  Worry does not keep you safe from disaster.  It does not keep bad things from happening.  It does not prepare you for when they do.  Worry is just thinking. Its not terribly useful.

Worry is related to planning.  Planning is thinking accompanied by action.  When planning, we take our thoughts and transform them into real world actions required to respond to and react to real world events.  Planning is useful.  Planning is helpful.  We all plan in some way. Worry, on the other hand, is thinking WITHOUT action. Worry is half a plan and has no worth or purpose.

Worry is not a life sentence. Being  a “worrier” isn’t your fate for the rest of your life.  You can change this

Being a “worrier” is often a self-applied label that we secretly wear as a badge of honor.  This is also not helpful.  Worry is not a substitute for love and caring, nor does it prove that you are loving or caring.  Worry matters only to the person worrying.  No matter how much you worry about someone, that person can never experience it because worry exists only in your head.  You can love and care for someone without engaging in worry about them. You can drop the “worrier” label and still be a kind, loving and caring person.

We can get off the worry train two ways:

1. Some worries can be transformed into actual plans.  By adding action, we can convert a worry into a plan.  Once you’ve created a plan, you can remove this item from your worry bucket and move along.  This sometimes involve recognizing that you are simply skipping the action part, or dropping the belief that you are incapable of action.

2. Worries for which there is no plan can be dropped on the floor. This is done by learning how to not engage with worrisome thoughts.  Learning to relax and refocus away from worry is a skill that can be developed through practice and repetition.  This can be difficult because you may be confusing worry with action and safety.  Disengaging with your worry thoughts may make you feel vulnerable to disaster.

Through repetition you will learn that you are just as safe when not worrying as you are while worrying.  Learning the skills of refocus and relaxation will help you break the link between worry and safety that perpetuates the habit.

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Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.