Will worrying change the outcome?

People with Anxiety worry. A lot. My clients are experts in worry, as they spend many hours a day worrying about things that have happened, might happen, or might never happen. They often feel powerless to change their worrying ways, try to map out multiple outcomes, and attempt to control the uncontrollable via worry.

Anxiety is unpleasant, sometimes awful, but also can be tamed. You know that feeling: the buzzing in your head, the feeling in your stomach, the clamminess, the racing heart. You know the inability to distract yourself, to think about other things, or to find rationality. BUT you can change your ways!

One question that seems to disrupt the process for my clients is “How much worry will change this situation?” As in, how much time do you wish to allocate to this worry project? And what would you be doing to do with your time if you weren’t stuck worrying? What else could you accomplish or experience?

Sometimes my clients agree to a certain amount of worry (5-10 minutes) and save their worry for that time. When the worry creeps in, they remind themselves to worry later, during the Established Worry Time.

Sometimes my clients see the humor and irony in the observation that the volume of worry does not correlate to actual control over the problem. Worrying more doesn’t solve it, make it go away, or correct the situation; worrying just eats up time, like substance use. Well, that isn’t very flattering.

Here’s another unflattering notion. Someone once said to me, “You must enjoy worrying since you spend so much time worrying.” He went on to say that I must find it beneficial, or enjoyable, or helpful, or something, since so much of my time was (mis)used in this way. That perspective certainly opened my eyes about how others perceive my worrying.

So, the question remains: will worrying solve your problem? Will worrying change the outcome? If so, carry on! Worry away! If worrying won’t change the outcome, consider how much time and energy you wish to expend to a project that will fail to recognize how much you put into it. Then go do something fun!

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