The idea that we can control our worrying sounds ridiculous, but it is possible and learning to do so can help us reduce anxiety. There are different types of worry and one thing we need to understand is that not all the problems that cause us to worry have solutions.
A person may be anxious about the possible escalation of hostilities between the USA and North Korea. It helps to think about that concern and examine it. Yes, it is a possibility. Next, we might ask is there anything I can do about it? Well, no there isn’t (apart from praying). Now the hard part – does my worrying help or change the situation in any way? No, it doesn’t. Does worrying affect me? Yes, it does. Ideally, once we realize our worrying has no impact on a situation and only makes us feel worse, it would be great to say – I’m not going to think about that problem ever again. For most of us, that’s not very realistic. As soon as I decide I’m never going to think about something, what’s the one thing that doesn’t budge from my mind? Yes, that thought. One very helpful technique is to allow ourselves to have a designated ‘worry time.’ I may decide that my worry time is 4:30 pm and I will worry about the situation for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes (set a timer), that’s it until the next day. If the worrisome situation comes to mind, at other times, I remind myself that it’s not the time for it, but I will think about it at 4:30. It does help to have something else to focus on at those other times. For me, I will decide beforehand that if that thought comes to mind, I will pray for someone/something. Another person may journal or participate in a hobby. It sounds like a silly thing to do, but it is very effective. We’re not saying we will never think about it, but we are controlling when we do. Hopefully, over time, the need to worry will decrease.
Some of the situations about which we worry are ones over which we have some control. As we ask ourselves if there’s something we can do about it, we might realize that there actually is. Rather than worrying about it (which changes nothing and causes stress and anxiety), we consider ways that we might be able to fix or correct the problem and take those steps.
These couple of techniques are very simple and highly effective, but they must be practiced so that they become habitual. We can train our brains to stop worrying all the time and in time reduce our anxiety. Next week, we’ll look at some other ways to manage anxiety.