“Calm Your Worries” series, Part 2
Well-Meaning Advice for Worry and Why it Doesn’t Work for You.
Are you a chronic worrier?
If so, chances are that your friends and loved ones have tried to help you deal with your worries. You probably know they only mean the best and just want to help, but you have likely found much of their advice to be unhelpful, or worse, it made you worry even more.
Here’s what people have told you to do about your worry, and why it’s not working for you:
1. Just ignore the worry thoughts! Don’t pay any attention to them and they’ll go away.
This sounds reasonable, but if you have a fair amount of chronic worry this advice is not a method that will work for you. Not yet at least, and not in the way they say it will.
There are two reasons for this. When you are in a physically worried state, (Yes, feelings are a physical state!) you cannot just switch off your worry. It is not physically possible without doing some work first. In fact, it is not much more possible for you to do this than it would be for someone who is having a seizure to just shake it off and get back to work. Worry has a neurological component and when it is strong, it cannot be voluntarily ignored.
Another reason that it is futile to just “ignore the worry” is that you have parts of your personality that have been raised and groomed to worry. These parts of you worry as a way to keep you safe. Honest. Believe it or not, they are most likely trying to help! As internal protectors of you, these parts believe that the worry is necessary and that something very bad will happen if they do not worry.
Your worrier parts have a whole lot of drive and energy and are not easily convinced that things “will be just fine” if you ignore them.
Think of it this way: If you are a dog owner, like me, I’m sure you feel responsible for the safety of your dog, right? Imagine that you see your dog running into the road. You think you hear a car coming. Instantly you are very worried for your dog’s life. Oh no! You yell at your dog to stop.
Your dog does not hear a car and ignores you completely. Do you calm down at this time? Do you accept the dog just ignoring you and think, Oh, okay. I’m sure the dog knows better than I do, and move on with your day? Of course not! You scream louder, run to the dog, do anything to get your beloved dog’s attention. You have dire news to share with the dog and it needs to hear you!
In the same way, your worrier parts feel there is terrible danger ahead if you ignore them. They will turn up the volume in any way they can to keep you safe.
Ignore worry = louder worry!
2. Don’t be so negative. Look at the bright side and be positive about things.
While this advice on the surface makes all the sense in the world, especially with our understanding of positive psychology, it is far from helpful to you if you suffer from chronic worry. Internally, this sets up a little battle inside you rather than a soothing situation. There are several reasons for this:
First, your body is not ready to receive a super-charged positive message. The message will be either dismissed, mistrusted, or completely opposed when you are feeling really worried. This is not a strange thing at all. In fact it is normal.
Second, the parts of your personality that are really worried feel incredibly threatened by this message. They will tell you all kinds of reasons why it is stupid to be positive – thus reinforcing the worried message even more. As these difficult feelings increase, your body will feel more and more worried about all that is happening inside you at that moment. It will feel like a war because there is a conflict happening inside you.
This sweet, kind attempt at positivity will feel like waging war against your worrier (who thinks it’s your closest ally). And guess what? You’ll worry about that feeling too.
3. Just distract yourself. Be happy, keep busy, go, go, go….
This could work! (And I know you want it to work, because I did too!) There are times when keeping busy, doing your thing, staying super active, working hard, or talking, talking, talking can feel great and give you a break from all that worry. But you and I both know it’s not that simple.
Why not? This solution is very exhausting to maintain. It eventually leads to more stress. And then – WHAM! – the worry is back, sometimes more than before.
But why? What is happening here?
Distraction and busyness can feel very similar to worry in the body. They are active, moving and driven. And they solve problems. However, if they are fueled by a worry that is just being avoided by staying occupied, the worry will eventually return.
In fact, you may have just found a new thing to be worried about: I’m not busy or active enough! Oh no! What can I do? Should I get a treadmill? Should I work all the time? Why can’t I ever just sit and rest? If I rest am I a lazy person?
This pattern of full activity and then exhausted collapse can lead to a cycling that feels manic. Why am I always either completely down or completely active? There must be something very wrong with me! And on and on…
Being distracted and staying occupied function as parts of our personality. They manage our inside world (feelings) by managing our outside world (doing stuff). Go figure! So rather than finding calm for the one manager, you’ve created more managers. Now you have more parts of your personality trying their best for you by doing stuff, running you into the ground, and you are still not feeling better. Sound hopeless?
If the conventional wisdom doesn’t work, what does? Never fear… I mean, don’t worry… I mean, read on in the following posts! Great solutions await you! For even more help right now! Click Here!