If you struggle with persistent anxiety, it is likely that excessive worrying is partly to blame. Although you may sometimes feel worrying is beneficial in that it protects us from being unprepared or caught off guard, for a vast majority of people it causes more problems than it solves. There are a number of ways cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help reduce excessive worry. One way is through evaluating the worry, to determine whether it is productive or unproductive.
There’s a hard truth in life that some people refuse to accept: We have no control over many of the things that happen in your life and some people who resist this truth are in danger of become control freaks. They micromanage, refuse to delegate tasks and try to force other people to change. They think if they can gain enough control over other people and the situations they find themselves in, they can prevent ‘bad’ things from happening. Although they often don’t think through properly what this ‘bad’ thing actually is.
Some people know they can’t prevent things they don’t want to happen happening, but they worry about them anyway. They fret about everything from natural disasters to deadly diseases. Their worries keep them occupied, but ultimately they waste their time and energy, because worrying doesn’t change anything.
If you find yourself wasting time worrying about things you can’t control, here are five things that can help
Look at what you are able to control.
When you find yourself worrying, take some time to look at the things you do have control over. You can’t prevent a storm from coming, but you can prepare for it. You can’t control how someone else behaves, but you can control how you react to it.
Learn to recognise that, sometimes, all you can control is your response. When you put your energy into the things you can control, you’ll be much more effective
Focus on what you can influence.
You can suggest things to people and influence circumstances but you can’t demand that things to go your way. For example; you can give your child the tools they need to do well in their exams and encourage them to revise but you can’t make them pass. Or you can plan a good party, but you can’t make people have fun.
To have the most influence, you can only focus on changing your behaviour. You can be a good role model and set healthy boundaries for yourself. When you have concerns about someone else’s actions, share your opinion, but only share it once. There is no point in trying to ‘fix’ people who don’t want to be fixed because the only person who gets upset when your expectations are not met, is you.
Identify your fears.
Have a long, hard think and be honest with yourself as to what you are really afraid will happen? Are you predicting a catastrophic outcome? Do you doubt your ability to cope with disappointment if things don’t go your way? Usually, our worst-case scenario doesn’t happen. However, if it does, you will of course deal with it, you just won’t necessarily like it. There’s a good chance you are stronger than you think.
Sometimes people are so busy thinking things such as “I mustn’t lose my job” that they don’t take the time to ask themselves “well what would I do if I did?” People avoid thinking their worst case right through to the end, but by doing this, and acknowledging that you will handle it can help get things in to perspective.
Differentiate between ruminating and problem-solving.
Replaying conversations in your head or imagining catastrophic outcomes over and over again isn’t helpful. But solving a problem is.
Ask yourself whether your thinking is productive. If you are actively solving a problem, such as trying to find ways to increase your chances of success, keep working on solutions.
If, however, you’re wasting your time ruminating, then it’s time to channel your thoughts to become more productive Acknowledge that your thoughts aren’t helpful is a step in the right direction.
By changing our thought process and what we tell ourselves can help keep us in check. When you find yourself thinking and catastrophising about something you have no control over then it is unhelpful. Telling yourself “people have to think that I my presentation is good at work tomorrow or it will be terrible!” is irrational – because it doesn’t change the fact that people might not like it. However, if you talk to yourself in a more helpful, rational way, such as “I would prefer it if everyone liked my presentation and it will be disappointing if they don’t, however I will of course deal with it” Then it will help you from stop wasting your energy on things you can’t control.
There are several questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your worry which should give you a better idea whether the worry is helpful or just background noise that only serves to increase your anxiety:
1) What is your worst case scenario in this situation?
2) How many times before has your worst case scenario actually happened?
3) What steps can you take to reduce any like hood that the worst case might happen?
4) What is your best case scenario in this situation?
5) What is the most likely scenario in this situation?
6) List all other possible scenarios/outcomes in this situation? How would you respond/behave?
7) If your worst case scenario was to happen – how would you deal with it? Visualise this in your mind. How would you respond/behave?
8) Is it productive worrying about this? Is it going to change the outcome?