Why We Worry (and How to Stop) | Nick Wignall - Deepstash

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Why We Worry (and How to Stop) | Nick Wignall

https://nickwignall.com/why-we-worry/

nickwignall.com

Why We Worry (and How to Stop) | Nick Wignall
I had a client, once, who summed up her problems with anxiety in colorfully pithy terms: If I spent a quarter of the time and energy I spend worrying about work on actually doing work, I'd be retired on a tropical beach drinking mai tais in my hammock every morning instead of being the ball of stress that I am.

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Worry

... is an attempt to mentally problem-solve something that either isn’t really a problem or isn’t a problem that’s solvable.

Worry leads to unnecessarily high levels of stress and anxiety and is a potentially tragic waste of time and energy.

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Worry ‘Tastes’ Good

  1. Worry feels good because it gives us something (rather than nothing) to do. And this makes us feel a little less helpless and out of control.
  2. Like the body craves calories, the mind craves control. When faced with a fearful situation that we can’t actually do anything about, we give ourselves the illusion of control (and relief from helplessness) by engaging worry.

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How to Cure Worry

In order to stop running away from the feeling of helplessness, we have to train ourselves to be okay with feeling helpless and out of control.

When you worry, try to identify the cause or trigger for the worry and notice how it makes you feel emotionally. Be willing to just feel and be with your uncomfortable emotions.

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Worry and bad problem-solving

Worry is an attempt to mentally problem-solve something that either isn’t really a problem or isn’t a problem that’s solvable.

And while problem solving is typically helpful in our lives, worry is just a waste of time and energy if we know it can’t actually produce any results.

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Worry is like junk food

Worry is like junk food

Just like the body craves calories, the mind craves control. In fact, we can fool our minds into thinking we’re actually solving a problem by running it over and over and over again in our minds. And to make things worse, like junk food, worry also happens to be constantly available, dirt cheap, and instantaneous.

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The illusion that we are taking action

Worry briefly feels good, especially compared to the alternative—doing nothing and just feeling afraid. Worry feels good because it gives us something (rather than nothing) to do. And this makes us feel a little less helpless and out of control.

We may not be able to actually do anything about a problem, but worrying about it makes us feel like we’re doing something.

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It's ok to feel helpless

It's ok to feel helpless

Worry is our attempt to out-run helplessness. But to stop worrying so much, there’s really only one way out: Acceptance.

Specifically, in order to stop running away from the feeling of helplessness, we have to train ourselves to be okay with feeling helpless and out of control.

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Facing uncomfortable emotions

When you find yourself worrying, try to identify the cause or trigger for the worry and notice how it makes you feel emotionally. Just feel those emotions and notice them without thinking about them. Stay in the present instead of jumping into the future. 

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Mindfulness is a great exercise

... for learning to accept how we feel and break the habit of worry.

Notice little fragments of worry here and there. Notice yourself being pulled by years of habit to start thinking and worrying. Then choose something different. Choose to stay with the emotion, even if it’s just briefly. Then choose to re-direct your thoughts and behavior elsewhere.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Anxiety is rewarding

Each time we worry and nothing bad happens, our mind connects worry with preventing harm:

Worry → nothing bad happens.

And the takeaway is, "It's a good thing I worried."&nbs...

Beliefs about worry

  • If I worry, I'll never have a bad surprise.
  • It's safer if I worry. We believe that the act of worrying itself somehow lowers the likelihood of a dreaded outcome. 
  • I show I care by worrying. We need to distinguish between caring about a situation and worrying needlessly and fruitlessly about it. 
  • Worrying motivates me. We need to differentiate between unproductive worry and productive concern and problem solving.
  • Worrying helps me solve problems. Extreme worry is more likely to interfere with problem-solving. 

Tools to assist us with worry

  • Calm the nervous system with guided muscle relaxation, meditation, and exercise. 
  • Notice when you're worrying and any beliefs that reinforce worry.  Awareness of the process gives us more choice in how we respond.
  • Embrace uncertainty. Most of the things we care about in life involve uncertainty. It takes considerable practice to begin to embrace it.
  • Live in the present. Practice focusing your attention on the present in everyday activities like taking a shower, walking, or talking with a friend, as well as in more formal practices like meditation or yoga.
  • When we face our fears head-on, they tend to diminish. Deliberately accept what you're afraid of: "It's possible I'll miss my flight." 

Worrying about the future

Worrying is the mental habit of trying to solve a problem that either can’t be solved or isn’t really a problem. 

It gives us the illusion of control. Worrying about i...

Isolating yourself

When we hide our pain and isolate ourselves, we throw away the most powerful antidepressant: loving support from people who care about us.

You don’t need coping strategies when you’re sad discouraged, or helpless. You need people. You need support. You need someone to give you a hug and listen carefully to your story.

Keeping quiet

Most of us hesitate to push back and stand up for ourselves because we’re afraid of being perceived as aggressive or rude. And so we default to being passive.

But there’s a middle road between being passive and aggressive: You can be assertive. It means standing up for your own wants, needs, and values, in an honest and respectful way.

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Stressing about sleep

Before a stressful work event, we tend to worry about what will happen if we don’t sleep well:

  • We worry that we’ll be physically tired.
  • We worry that ...

Sleep mistakes

... we make when it comes to sleeping well before a big day:

  • We try too hard to sleep and we end up making it harder to fall asleep.
  • We overestimate the negative consequences of poor sleep.

Sleep restriction

It's a technique for improving the quality of your sleep by using the power of Sleep Drive (the body’s natural need for sleep). Sleep Drive is built during the day: the longer you’re awake the stronger your need for sleep. 

Sleep Restriction temporarily restricts the quantity of your sleep so that you’re awake longer and therefore build up more Sleep Drive.