Overcome Your Constant Worry
Episode #7 of the course Overcoming social anxiety by Eileen Purdy MSW, M.Ed.
You know your constant worry and fear about social situations is irrational but you don’t know how to make it go away. Let me help.
Your worry may have started because of a specific cause (e.g., being laughed at in school) or unfortunate event (e.g., tripping when you entered the conference room), but if you continue to be plagued with non-stop worry long after the event has passed, then you have a case of the worry-habits. Yep. You can even diagnose it yourself.
Fear is designed to serve your immediate, short-term self-protection needs. It is designed to activate your system and address the situation in the here and now. It is automatic and your friend.
Worry, on the other hand, is a different story. Sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking worry is helpful. Maybe you attribute worry to what motivates you to do things you need to do or protects you from bad things happening. But if that is the case, it is only because you’ve created that belief system around that idea.
This belief system is very common. Take a look at the top five worry myths that hook people and see if any get you.
1. Worrying will stop something bad from happening in the future.
2. Worrying about a negative outcome will prepare you for it.
3. Worrying helps you come up with all your options for a particular situation.
4. Worrying makes you feel as if you are actively doing something about the problem.
5. Worrying sometimes helps you avoid thinking about something else.
If you find that some of these faulty beliefs might be contributing to your anxiety, you can learn to overcome them. If these beliefs are the way you see events or situations, you have reinforced the notion so much that they have become a habit in your way of thinking. The good news is habits can be changed with awareness, effort, and practice.
In order to do this, you need to be aware of the times you are slipping into worry. When you recognize you are worrying about something, stop and determine if these thoughts are helpful or unhelpful.
They are helpful if they spur you to take a needed action, help you problem-solve, or remind you to take care of business for things you can control in the present. And then the worry dissipates.
On the other hand, they are unhelpful if you experience worry or anxiety over things you can’t control. They could even be about something you know is unrealistic or irrational. Unhelpful, right?
If your thoughts and feelings of worry and anxiety fall into the “unhelpful” category, you label them “false alarms.” One way to remember this is, as Dr. Dan Siegel says, you have to “name it to tame it.”
You label your repetitive, unhelpful, worrisome thoughts false alarms because they are misguided attempts by your brain to protect you by making you feel like there is something you can do. Even after you ruled out that possibility.
Here are your five steps to overcome constant worry:
1. Whenever you have an anxious thought or feeling, first determine if it is helpful or unhelpful.
2. If it is helpful, let it motivate you to do what you need to do. Then allow the anxious or worrisome thought to dissipate.
3. If it is unhelpful, thank your brain for trying to protect you and then label it a false alarm.
4. Turn your attention toward something else—something concrete in the here and now. Stop yourself from being pulled into thinking of the past or the future.
5. If it doesn’t start to go away, check to see if you are being hooked by one of the top five worry myths and repeat the steps.
Tomorrow, we’ll cover something that is a common cause of worry: the dreaded small talk situations.
“Making Friends with Anxiety: A warm, supportive little book to ease worry and panic” by Sarah Rayner
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