Worrying is psychologically debilitating.
Recently, I helped a client eliminate the worrying component in his narrative which was causing serious procrastination. This is not unusual, and here are some thoughts for those who find themselves trapped in this wheel of hell. I understand worry intimately. I know those who are chronic worriers and it can quite literally ruin your life. Everything elicits worry in their mind. The truth is that the majority of the things people worry about never manifest into anything at all.
I define worry as:
“Time wasted when you don’t know what the outcome will be, but insist on ruminating on the possibilities.”
This is what most people do when they worry – they mull over ALL the possible problems that could occur – often to the point of mental paralysis. This can lead to serious procrastination and even stagnation. The epitome of ‘going nowhere in a hurry!” Worrying is mainly a cognitive process (Breznitz, 1971) – that means it’s all in your head.
If you are someone who worries a lot – my advice is to PLAN more.
Planning gives you a chance to consider potential roadblocks during the planning process. Let’s say you have a big project that is due soon and you are “worrying” about all the steps that need to occur in order to complete it, as well as the outcome, how it will be perceived, etc. Fine. Try this instead:
Plan all the steps:
- Write them down.
- Schedule them in your calendar.
- Set up alerts (if necessary).
- Delegate those steps that can be/should be done by others.
- Then – Get busy!
If you are so wound-up that you are too stuck to get busy, then pick the smallest, easiest first step and just do that. Starting – on anything really – gets the process going and tends to spur us into action. You may actually notice that starting that first step reduces the anxiety that’s holding you back.
“Worrying is simply the feeling caused by not knowing if something will or will not happen.” Well, if you PLAN ahead – you don’t have to concern yourself about whether something will or will not happen – you MAKE it happen. Done. Worrying is a complete waste of time. Literally.
Instead of sitting around worrying about whether it will or will not happen, you could be making progress on changing the outcome of a situation. Well, guess what? If you sit around worrying about it – you have a significantly greater chance of that thing NOT happening. Good job! Worrying can make things worse in reality by disrupting your performance of the tasks and making you miserable in the process (Davey, Tallis, & Capuzzo, 1996). However, if you plan what needs to happen and can SEE – in writing – the potential of it happening – rarely will worry creep into your mind and impede your progress.
So, the next time you start letting the ‘worry-wart’ tendencies to start growing in your mind – plan everything out and get started. This starting will help ward off negative thoughts and once you see the progress made on your tasks, chances are that the worrying will become a non-issue. Don’t worry – You’ve got this!
Breznitz, S. (1971). A study of worrying. British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 10(3), 271-279.
Davey, G. C., Tallis, F., & Capuzzo, N. (1996). Beliefs about the consequences of worrying. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 20(5), 499-520.