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Is Worrying a Waste of Time?

We all worry at times. Worrying shows we care about our lives and the things and people that matter to us. But when worry becomes excessive it can make our lives less enjoyable. Time spent worrying is really time spent not living! This vicious cycle of negative thinking takes us ‘out of the moment’ and either back into the past, going over what has already happened, or into the future stressing about what may happen.

The mind tends to want to remember and keep hold of worries. This makes sense if we are actually in danger. For example, if we’re being hunted by a hungry lion. In this situation we would definitely not want to lose the worry, we need the adrenaline to run away and save ourselves. But most worries are not life threatening or immediate and so replaying these thoughts in our minds like an endless cycle, hinders rather than helps us.

And did you know that research has shown that about 80% of the things that we worry about DON’T happen! Mark Twain once said “‘I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.’ This is so true! The majority of what we worry about never materializes in reality.

So to answer the question “Is worrying a waste of time?” I say “YES”! Worrying also saps our energy, draining it from us and making us feel tired.

I’m sure that if you asked an elderly person looking back on their life what they wished they’d done more of, the answer would not be “I wish I’d worried more”, (or “I wish I’d watched more TV,” but that’s a whole other subject!!)

So what can we do to combat worrying?

If you’re identifying with this and are a bit of a worrier at times, here are some tips to help you deal with worries instead of letting them consume you;

Write your worries down

Jot down your worries and this will get them out of your head and persuade your mind to forget them for a while. They are recorded in a permanent place, so it’s ok for the mind to let them go.

Tell someone about it

Talking about your worries will help you to release them; remember the saying; “A problem shared is a problem halved.” Whoever you decide to talk to; friends, family, your partner or a therapist, they may have some useful input, which could help you rationalize your fears and put your mind at rest.

Schedule your worry time

Choose a time of the day and take 20-30 minutes, your pen and notebook and allow yourself to worry in this time. Carving out a block of time dedicated to worry time, will help you train your brain to not worry at other times and to enjoy your life more in the moment without negative thoughts interfering constantly.

What if your worries are out of control?

Everyone has worries but if they are incessant and are really interfering with your life it may be that you’re suffering from anxiety. If this is the case you may need some outside help from a therapist, who will also teach you some coping strategies to deal with the anxiety. This in turn will help reduce your worrying and help you to move forward positively.

This article first appeared in the October 2018 issue of SE22 magazine.