What, me worry?

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Worry is a complete cycle of inefficient thought revolving about a pivot of fear.

~Author Unknown

Are you a worrier? Most people worry sometimes, but some worry most of the time. We could learn a lot from our pets. They really know how to live in the moment. They only worry when there is an imminent threat, not an imagined one.

Humans, on the other hand, often worry about what might happen as opposed to something that is actually happening. Worry is fear based, often arising when the ego realizes it cannot control the future. Because it does not feel in control, it begins to imagine all the things that could possibly go wrong.

When the mind goes into fear mode, it starts with a little worry that leads to bigger worries until the worrier feels completely overwhelmed. I say, “when the mind goes into fear mode” because it tends to just happen; rarely do we make a conscious decision to not worry ourselves silly. Worriers tend to believe they can’t help it.

Some think if they don’t worry, they won’t be proactive and prepared for the worst. However, in most cases the worry just goes around and around, gaining steam. If we have a concern and so do some productive thinking, that is different from worrying. Once we handle a concern, we can let it go and move on. Worriers never seem to move on, other than moving from one worry to another. Worry makes us feel vulnerable, unsure and disempowered. Problem solving leaves us feeling competent and empowered.

Worry robs us of the joy of life and keeps us from being in the present moment. It can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties and even substance abuse. So if one has the worry habit, how can that be changed?

It comes down to a couple of things. One is our worldview. If we see the world as an unsafe place where bad things happen, we will always need to be on guard. If, instead, we see that life is filled with joy and sorrow, ups and downs, certainties and uncertainties, and that the journey is about rising to the challenges and continuing to move forward, we are better able to relax and take things as they come. We also must develop the ability to control our thoughts. It may be difficult, but not impossible.

Imagine the mind is like a television with many different channels. When you are watching TV, you may decide to change the channel if a violent movie is playing. Similarly, if the mind is playing a ‘worry channel,’ you can develop the ability to change the channel to one that is more positive.

The first step in learning to do this is to practise “thought stopping.” When you find yourself worrying, you need to stop those thoughts. If that seems difficult or the thought is persistent, do something else: phone a friend, play a computer game, read a book, put on your iPod or go for a run. The main thing is to begin, however slowly, to take charge of your thoughts.

Life will present challenges. When it does, decide if there is any action you can take. If there is, then do it. If your worries are of the ‘what if?’ variety, you need to practise thought stopping, commit to a more positive perspective and find more productive outlets for your creative imagination.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visitwww.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.

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