Today is the final installment in our series on How to Reduce Worrying. We finish off with looking at additional strategies to help you get your worrying under control.
Use Your Worry Period for Problem Solving
When you start your worry period (refer to Part 3 for an explanation of what a “Worry Period” is) there are several strategies that can be used to make it particularly helpful. Just the fact of having a worry period will make it possible to postpone worries during other times.
The worry period can be used to start reducing the strength of your worrying habit. Use the worry period to list the worries you have and then to distinguish between those worries which you can do something about and those that are out of your control.
For those worries that you can do something about, use the worry period for problem solving and decision making:
- What steps can you take to reduce the likelihood of the bad event happening?
- Is there information you can find that will give you a better understanding of the chances of such an event happening or information that can help you come up with a solution or alternative?
Talk to someone about your concerns and get their perspective on the reasonableness of the worry or possible solutions. Decide on possible actions you can implement over the next few days that may reduce the likelihood of the bad event happening.
You can also use the worry period to work on cognitive restructuring – this involves several steps:
- Identify the specific thoughts that you have when you worry. What is it, exactly, that you are saying to yourself when you are worrying? Write these thoughts down. Your observation of those worries during the day should provide you with the information you need for this exercise.
- Take each thought and logically analyse it. That is, what is the evidence for that thought? What is the probability of it actually happening? Has the event happened before? Is it reasonable or logical to predict that the event will happen, based on the evidence you have?
- Even if the event does happen, will you be able to handle it? What actions can you take to minimise the effects? Have you handled similar situations in the past without terrible consequences? A year after the event, should it happen, what difference will it make by then?
- As you answer these questions, find those that indicate that the likelihood of things working out all right is good and that you would have ways of coping with the event should it happen. Create new thoughts from these and write them down next to the relevant worrisome thoughts you wrote down previously.
Use these new, more adaptive and reasonable thoughts whenever you catch one of the worrisome thoughts intruding during the day. At first the new thoughts may not ring true in comparison to the old worrisome thoughts. Remind yourself that they are true, based on your logical evidence based analysis. They will, with repeated practice, start to feel truer as you use them to replace the worrisome thoughts and as you catch them earlier and earlier.
For some worries, it may be useful during your worry period to ask yourself: “What is the worst thing that can happen?” Sometimes it turns out not to be so terrible, that you would survive it, that you would be able to handle it and then move on with your life. The future is sometimes scary because it is unknown. By looking at known and likely possible outcomes, the future becomes less scary.
Track the Outcome of Your Worries
There is another useful piece of information that you can gather during your worry period each day:
- Write down every event that you’re worried about and list next to it the possible outcome (good and bad) that may happen
- Keep that list until the event actually happens and see what outcome occurred
- Do this for every outcome that comes along and keep track of how often things actually turned out good, bad or indifferent, and whether you handled the outcome well or not
Over time you will be able to collect your own evidence about your worries and your ability to cope with events that you are worried about.
It is very likely that you find that few things really turn out badly or that, even when they do, you are capable of handling them quite well. Such evidence will increase your confidence in yourself and your trust that, whatever the future holds, you will be ready for it.
California State University. (n.d.). How to Reduce Worrying. Retrieved from: http://www.csun.edu/sites/default/files/how-to-reduce-worrying.pdf [Accessed on: 13 October 2014].