Do you plague yourself with the “what-ifs?” Are you a pre-worrier? Does your mind seem to create the negative list, even when you know it causes you added stress and anxiety? Wait. What? Who me?
I think most of us can answer yes to all of these questions. So, here’s a concept to consider – retraining your brain. Habitual worriers have been known to break the habit. It just takes a bit of practice.
I found Dale Carnegie’s three-step process, in “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” to be rather interesting. His first step is to analyze the situation that you’re worrying about with an eye towards the worst-case scenario. The second step is to accept the worst-case scenario, and the third step is to turn your focus towards improving the situation in order to achieve an outcome better than the worst-case scenario. Does this sound like jibber-jabber to you?
Let’s apply Mr. Carnegie’s process to a hypothetical situation. Your landlord has raised your rent by a considerable amount. In compliance with the first step, let’s analyze this. What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe you think you can’t pay the increased rent and you worry that you’ll be evicted. Well, if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it, so you’ll have to move (second step). You then begin to look for a new apartment (third step) and you find one that’s slightly farther away from work, but at least you can afford it, and you’ve avoided having an eviction on your credit report. Thank you, Mr. Carnegie. That exercise was helpful.
A psychologist friend of mine suggests that instead of worrying less, we should worry smarter. What does that mean? Consider worry as a way of problem solving. When you’re plaguing yourself with the “what ifs,” you can provide your own follow-ups. If the situation is “A,” then the next step would be “B,” and if the problem is “C,” then a possible solution might be “D.” Suppose you’ve received a problematic result from a recent blood test (situation “A”). You begin your worry journey by considering medicine and nutrition to mitigate the situation (next step “B”). If you’re experiencing difficulties with your back or your right knee (problem “C”), instead of pre-worrying about surgery, a possible solution might involve a chiropractor, or physical therapy, or acupuncture.
All of these suggestions are, obviously, easier said than done. In an attempt to retrain my own brain, I’ve successfully accomplished two things. The first is to share the worry with a close friend. I typically ask him to let me vent first, and then we can brainstorm solutions together. The second thing is not quite so easy for me. Ideally, I would focus on what I can control instead of what I can’t. Like worrying about how the rain is going to impede the progress on my front landscaping project. Since I can’t control the weather, I told myself, I have to quit worrying about it.
Is this making sense?