Work, family, finances, relationships, diets — all of it has the power to send us through a tailspin of anxiety. By constantly ruminating over things that haven’t happened yet, worry is like an emotional crystal ball that makes you peer into the future to predict potentially negative outcomes.
According to The National Institute of Mental Health, women are twice as likely to be chronic worriers and be diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Researchers suggest this reasoning might be rooted in the early socialization of women as children. With boys being conditioned to not be afraid, girls are often more protected from what they’re told is dangerous, allowing fear and anxiety to stick around.
But researchers are now looking at the advantageous side of worrying and operating it as a factor for motivation. In a study from the journal of Personality and Individual Differences, psychologists suggest an anxious mind not only becomes better at analyzing and breaking down language-based information, but also presents a certain kind of intelligence.
The Types of Worry
When worry is productive, it pushes you to solve problems that may prevent unwanted events. For example, if you plan a trip overseas, you might grow worried about travel accommodations and an itinerary. But this kind of healthy worry motivates you take action for the betterment of the situation by expressing concern and finding a solution.
On the contrary, unproductive worry is anything but useful. In his book, The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You, Dr. Robert Leahy describes this kind as a string of what-ifs that don’t lead to any concrete, practical solutions. For example, you’re on a first date and you ask yourself, “What if I don’t know what to say? What if I’m not likeable?” Occasional bouts are fine, but consistent worrying is harmful, without letting you enjoy the present moment.
How to Benefit From Worry
Set aside time to focus on the worry
This might be odd to some, but scheduling worry into daily tasks helps you gain a deeper sense of what’s really concerning you. Additionally, by writing them out, you realize many of these worries are repetitive and will naturally start to break them down. Not only does this create a sense of control over what might seem like out-of-control situations, but it will also give you clarity and focus.
Challenge your thinking
Similarly to how we affirm positive talk with ourselves, it’s important to restructure our thinking and worry to benefit our well-being. Write out and look at the evidence for and against the belief you have that something terrible is going to happen. Once you examine it, you’ll understand not everything you worry about actually happens. Moreover, if you keep a journal tracking back years, months or even days ago, look to it as a guide to show you in the present moment that you truly could handle the situation.
Stay in the moment
While meditating and yoga are great ways to handle and reduce worry, staying aware and present is the ultimate antidote to worry. Through this approach of mindfulness, you’re able to acknowledge worry and release it, as opposed to suppressing or being afraid of it. Since most of our concerns are about the future and sometimes effects of the past, staying in the moment means you’re not allowing yourself to feel burdened.
Since worry is our instinctive attempt to avoid unpleasant emotions, it’s important to accept your worry for what it is. Whether it’s about work, family or relationships, don’t let high levels of frustration stand in the way of your objectives. Create a list that helps you accomplish goals with the necessary steps you need to take to get there — and then take them! Even if they are unpleasant, you’ve made progress by getting them out of the way.
In no time, you’ll go from the emoji with the worried face to the beloved emoji of the grinning face with smiling eyes. Equally to how procrastination is about avoiding discomfort, do the thing you’re dodging the most because rather than worrying about these concerns, you’ll find you can cope with them effectively.