If there’s one voice I can recognize and can almost always expect, it’s my inner worry voice. It’s not like a Morgan Freeman voice, that’s calming. It’s more like a shrilling alarm unexpected and overpowering.
It's one that has gotten the best of me in the past, but also one that I've gotten used to.
We all have an inner worrier, with millennials taking the cake on out-worrying the rest of the world.
Of course, some level of worry is necessary, it even keeps us safe from physical and mental harm. In fact, one study shows that as much as 85 percent of the things we worry about – never actually happen.
That's a relief… Right?
It is, but if you're anything like me – you're far too familiar with your thoughts spinning out of control, derailing your mood and behaviours, and then never coming true.
It's not the ‘not coming true' part that's bad – it's the mental and physical fatigue that comes with it.
But, digging a little deeper allowed me to discover something else – there’s a way to stop this!
I began to challenge my worried thoughts: When do they come up? What triggers them? How can I react to my worries when they do come up?
I learned this when I discovered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, CBT. It was then that I was able to identify worried thoughts and how they affect my actions and behaviours. This allowed me to label negative thoughts and to work on changing my negative thinking through keeping a thought journal and building and completing a fear ladder.
What I learned is that it's often not the situation itself that causes us harm, but our thinking towards it. Accepting and shifting our thinking can help ease a worry spiral and can even take away the power of worry.
“Anxiety makes us doubt our ability, and so our fear feels like fact,” Ellen Hendriksen, Ph.D.
And that's what CBT can help you do – dealing with worry by challenging your worried thoughts with reason and facts.
So, the next time you feel overwhelmed with worry try these three steps:
1. Recognize Negative Worries
There are two types of worries: useful and negative. Useful worries help us imagine setbacks and challenges so that we can make plans to overcome them. While negative worries paralyze us in fear and prevent us from taking action or moving forward.
To recognize negative worries ask yourself:
- Is this a real possibility?
- Is there an action I can take right now?
2. Challenge Your Worries
If you've identified your worries as negative worries, try to challenge them instead of fuelling them with more worry and negativity. An example of this might be:
Worry: I am not experienced enough to take on this project alone.
Challenge: If I wasn't capable of handling this project my manager wouldn't have assigned it to me.
Some other examples might be:
Worry: This week is going to be stressful.
Challenge: I am equipped to handle what comes my way.
Worry: I'm not qualified to take on this task.
Challenge: I'm capable of learning and growing through this experience.
3. Make It a Habit
Easier said than done. But worrying is a habit, and changing that habit means you have to recognize it and challenge it whenever it arises. Know that treating yourself with compassion is important. Sometimes it can become hard to challenge your worried thoughts.
Changing the way we think takes time and effort – it takes practice. But you have the power to do it.