Everyone has moments of worry. We all experience different situations, stressors, and conflicts that will likely produce feelings that are often referred to as worry. Worry is commonly understood as the thinking part of anxiety. It is that feeling that some people describe as “I can’t stop thinking about it,” “I just can’t turn my mind off,” or “It’s all I can focus on.” This type of experience often leads to thought distortions and a downward spiral in mood, energy, focus, and overall functioning.
Worry with action and worry without action is a quick way to check what type of worry you are experiencing and then, based on your answer, a quick way to implement some healthy coping skills.
You first must notice that you are or have been feeling worried for some time now.
Once you can identify and name that you are feeling worried, you will ask yourself this question: Is there an action piece related to what I am worrying about? For example, if you are worrying about an upcoming test, your action piece would be to go study for the test and take all the necessary steps to be and feel prepared for your upcoming test.
Once you have plugged in your action pieces, your worries about the upcoming test will likely lessen.
If you are worrying about a pending conversation, you might plug in some healthy coping skills like:
Or mindfulness practices
You could write down items you want to cover during the conversation and perhaps practice what you would like to say with a close friend.
You may also find that you need to schedule the conversation or ensure you are not delaying or putting off the conversation.
Once you implement your action pieces again, the worry should lessen.
Now, if you notice that you are feeling worried and when you try to find the related action pieces, you discover that there are none, we implement a different pattern following the discovery of no action pieces.
You may find yourself worrying about what someone is thinking about you, or you may be rehearsing a previous interaction and worrying about something you said or did. You may be worrying about a job interview that you have not heard back on. It could be any situation where you are spending time worrying and notice that there is really nothing for you to do about the situation producing feelings of worry.
This is where we want to take a big time out! Push pause!
At this point, we are in the hamster wheel, worrying for the sake of worrying. Nothing changes even after hours of worry. Nothing is accomplished from this time spent worrying, and generally, it leaves you exhausted, frustrated, impatient, stressed, sad, and depleted, to name a few. This type of worry is just draining us of essential time, energy, and effort that we could use in more productive and constructive ways.
Once you have discovered that there is nothing for you to do to address the worry, situation thought, or experience, you have to bail out of the hamster wheel. This is easier said than done, and it does take some practice, but with some education, time, and consistency, you will be able to do it! It requires changing unhelpful thoughts to helpful thoughts. It requires implementing your healthy coping skills and self-care and learning how to redirect your focus. Sometimes you will just need some healthy distraction.