The truth about worrying

Would you describe yourself as a worrier? Do you catch yourself thinking about the future in a way that makes you feel anxious or apprehensive? Do you consider all the ways a situation might go wrong? Do you worry excessively about your job, your finances, the safety of your children? Do you think everything you do has to be done really well and, if you think you won’t be able to do them well enough, do you procrastinate or avoid doing them all together? Are you your own worst critic? Do you struggle to get to sleep because your mind just won’t shut off?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, chances are you are a worrier.

That often comes as a surprise to us, particularly when we have been in a long-term relationship with worry. We tend to put it down to just being a thinker or to having a very active mind. We are also good at defending our status as a worrier. It is just who I am. It’s my personality. It’s in my DNA.

Nature or nurture

Worry is different from anxiety. Anxiety is a normal human response and, in moderation, can be a good thing. It is what helps us to do well in an exam, or to perform better in competitive sports. Worry, rather than responding to actual circumstances, tends to focus on feared outcomes; on “what ifs”. What if I make a mistake? What if something bad happens to my child? Rather than propelling us to do better, it hinders, and often overwhelms us.

Worry is likely a learnt behaviour. I have noticed that people who have experienced difficult or troubled family dynamics as a child tend to become worriers as adults. Similarly, if we have parents that tended to worry, chances are we will be just like them. It’s just what adults are supposed to do, right? Or is it?

To worry or not to worry

Our relationship with worry can get really confusing too. We will alternate between giving ourselves permission to worry and doing everything we can to avoid it. Talking ourselves into worrying usually involves thoughts such as “I won’t get this task done unless I worry about it“, or “They will think I don’t care if I don’t worry“. Have you ever stopped to consider how much easier it would be to get that task done without all the worrying first? Similarly, worrying about a loved one; does that actually help them or you in any way? Your loved one is more likely to be upset if they knew you were worrying about them.

Our other option is to push that worry topic to the back of our minds. We are all good at doing this. We do this because it provides a quick fix and a momentary escape from the subject matter. Trouble is, it takes a lot of energy to keep that topic suppressed and we usually try to keep ourselves busy with other things to stop us returning to it. By the end of the day we are exhausted from all that busyness and flop into bed just longing for sleep. What happens instead is all these suppressed topics start popping back into our mind and keep us awake.

The bad and the good news

The bad news is that, whether we allow ourselves to worry or try to suppress it, neither approach works. We simply perpetuate our status as a worrier.

The good news is that you can defeat worry. As worrying is a learnt behaviour and, in many ways, simply a bad habit, you can unlearn it.  A course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) will provide the battle strategy to help you do this. CBT helps correct the negative thinking patterns that allow worry to thrive, and provides coping strategies to help you deal way more effectively with potential worry topics. Rather than being overwhelmed by too many worry topics, you will be dealing with them as they arise.

This is the kind of difference CBT has made for clients I have seen:

“I have learnt a lot and have noticed a positive change in my thoughts and behaviour. I know, as long as I keep using the tools, I’ll be able to continue to recognise and dismiss the worries.”

“After years of worrying I feel I now have the tools to move forward.”

 “The techniques he offered me were exactly right for my worries and anxieties, I have turned a corner very confidently and am able for the first time in a long time to move forward with my life.”

 Worrier or warrior? The choice is yours.

If you would like to make an appointment, please get in touch.


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