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

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

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

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

nickwignall.com

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Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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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