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How to Manage Worry

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"Don't you worry about that!" was a favourite saying of Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson.
But what is it about worry that gets to us? Worrying by definition is a waste of time.
Thinking about things without being constructive with problem solving or some other form of thinking through process is basically wasted energy.
Why give energy to something that comes to nothing? Worry can often be seen as not belonging to the worrier because the subject of worry is often not oneself.
If others would behave in different ways then it would be better wouldn't it? You wouldn't have to worry so much? It is this type of thinking that makes it easy to blame others for causing the worry.
An example may be a family member not phoning in when delayed and all sorts of dire scenarios being imagined prior to the wayward person getting home.
The worrying is often not perceived as being under the worrier's control.
It seems to come from outside of the worrier to a great extent, although the worrier can recognise they are having these particular thoughts.
The thoughts of accidents, and other dire happenings just keep popping into his or her head: there is no stopping them, or at least there does not appear to be any stopping them.
Given that the worry is not seen to belong to the worrier then this means that the solution is to attempt to control the other's behaviour by influencing them in some manner.
This rarely has the desired result in reducing the worry.
Another way of looking at the tendency to worry is to see it as belonging to the person who worries but to see it as a personality trait rather than as a habit.
Although there may be a tendency for people who are anxious to worry more, it is possible to reduce the worry through the application of some effort and finding the technique that works for each individual.
You could consider training your thoughts.
You are not your thoughts.
You do not need to take notice of your thoughts if you do not want them.
They may well vie for attention, but you can make the conscious choice as to whether you want to take notice of them or to take more notice of other thoughts that you might think.
You have the choice.
It is you who are truly in control, however much it might seem otherwise.
No-one else can do it for you.
If you, the worrier, take control of the worrying then the amount of worry you experience can be reduced.
Some techniques will be described later that you may find helpful to begin taking control.
What is it at the core of this worry? It could be something about trust.
Something about trusting oneself, others and the world.
Trust is pretty basic.
While it is true that one does perhaps need to be somewhat suspicious and it may be true that one cannot predict that a nasty thing will not happen, one cannot predict that it will either! Worry is not protective of actual future outcomes and it is far more energy saving to take situations one step at a time, depending on the facts and information available.
A question might therefore be: how much do you trust yourself? If you have low self esteem it may be that you do not actually trust yourself much and this reflects in your thoughts, beliefs and decisions.
So could this be why you worry? When you consider this question, if you get a gut feeling that it is right then it could be worthwhile to start to look at improving your self esteem.
You can do this all by yourself with quite a bit of effort on your part or you could find someone to help you, which will still take effort.
The important aspect of changing any habit is to keep on practising so that the new behaviour (way of thinking) becomes an automatic process.
This takes time.
Briefly, the idea is that rather than relying on others to think you are good, you have to do this for yourself.
It is about taking care of you.
If you can begin to accept yourself as a worthwhile human being simply because you exist.
That is the first step.
Then it is a matter of setting yourself small achievable goals for yourself, and praising yourself when you achieve them.
An example of a goal may be just getting through the day OK, or doing well in a particular situation.
The second aspect of trust relates to trusting others.
In a simple example where the other involved is someone close to you and is the object of worry, what is it that you do not trust? Is it something about them? Their thinking? Feelings? Behaviour? If you explore your ideas on this for a while and do not find anything specifically about them, then you probably need to read the next paragraph.
Given that your exploration leads you to discover that you do not actually trust the person then this can be looked at in a couple of different ways.
The first is in relations to your expectations of that person.
It could be that you are expecting too much of them.
In other words, your goals for them at this time are too high for them to even reach a first step.
The second relates to your expectations of how much you in control of that person.
Each person is in control and responsible for him/herself.
We are responsible for and control the thoughts and feelings that we experience as well as our behaviour.
Control can be conscious or unconscious.
However we do not have control as such over others.
You may therefore consider letting go of these expectations or make them more realistic.
The last aspect is in trusting the world.
It is helpful to have some sense of the world being more or less stable.
The more unpredictable the world is seen then the less trust one can have in it as being stable.
It is easier for living if one believes that in general the world is safe.
Worrying tends to see the idea of the world as being unsafe, when essentially the chances are that it is actually still safe.
Thus one way to reduce worry is to consciously think up counteractive statements that will contradict the thoughts going through your mind when you worry.
These positive statements will enable the more negative thoughts to be let go of with some practice.
Since worrying either places you in the future or in the past, by employing techniques that bring you into the present moment, you will be able to reduce worrying.
One way would be through meditation techniques, or simply using the breath as a focus of awareness.
Breathing in and out to a count of 4 or 6, and whenever your thoughts wander, gently bring yourself back to focussing on your breath.
You might like to concentrate on some point on the wall.
Another technique which is helpful for any recurring negative thoughts is called the stop sign technique.
When you notice that you are having such thoughts then you imagine in front of your eyes a large stop sign in the usual red and white colours.
At the same time, yell inside your head a very loud STOP! This will obliterate all your thoughts, for a time.
When you realise that you are thinking those same thoughts again, repeat the process.
You do need to be persistent with this.
What you will notice is that the gaps between the negative thoughts become longer and wider until the thoughts no longer intrude on your consciousness.
Whichever particular technique discussed appeals to you, try it and see if it feels comfortable for you.
You may find it better to combine a couple of them or do all of them.
If you can be reasonably persistent then the chances are that you will achieve better results.
Be sure to continue to reward yourself at each small step along the way.
You will at some stage notice that you are not worrying as much as you used to.
This is progress.
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