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To worry or not, that is the question. Monday June 10, 2013

One of the attractions of worrying is that paradoxically it can temporarily make us feel less anxious. When you run a problem over and over in your head it can distract you from your emotions and make you feel like you're accomplishing something. This is an illusion. Worrying and problem-solving are very different things.

Problem-solving has a number of distinct steps, each of which moves you closer to a solution. You begin with a realistic evaluation of the situation and then move to planning the steps required to deal with it. Finally, you put the plan into action.

On the other hand, worrying has little sense of direction. You go round in circles and seldom get as far as a solution. In fact, you could spend a lifetime worrying about potential catastrophes and still be no better prepared to deal with them.

So if a worry pops into your head, get into the habit of questioning whether the problem is real and solvable. Ask yourself, is there an action I can take which will deal this problem? For instance, if you're behind with your work, you can do something about that, right away. Once your start doing something about a problem, you automatically feel less anxious.

On the other hand, if you are worried sick by thoughts about an accident happening to your children, then that's not solvable. There is no action you can take to avoid random events in the future.

Distinguishing between problems that are solvable or unsolvable, real or imaginary/hypothetical can be an important step to achieve relief from anxiety.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Anonymous Mon, Jun 10th 2013 @ 8:08am

What a great Moodscope. Simple, clear and very focusing. I definitely have spent years worrying and going round in circles, so much so that I've managed to burrow into quite a hole. But when I think less and do more I always feel better. Thank you for your focused point today,

Anonymous Mon, Jun 10th 2013 @ 8:20am

Yes, good post. Reminds me of the Seeenity pyayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Melanie Lowndes Mon, Jun 10th 2013 @ 8:21am

For me a fantastic illuminating point is made at the start of this Moodscope - that worrying is a way of distracting oneself from an emotion - anxiety. I had not thought of this before. I generally find that the best way to deal with an emotion is to actually focus on it and feel it - feel it as an energy, where do I feel it in my body and ask it to move. So next time I find myself worrying I will try to feel how I feel instead. I do find if I allow myself to feel my emotions they move on.

Victoire Mon, Jun 10th 2013 @ 9:10am

Really useful post this morning, I am an inveterate worrier! have been since I was a child and i'm sure its now an embedded habit, hard to break. Someone once said to me that Worry is the illusion of Action, and this was quite a breakthrough for me, as I think that's the heart of its compulsion. You have the sense of achieving something through worrying it through (illusion that you can worry it through, as all that happens, is you worry round and round!). I find it hard to stop and problem solve in useful way because this sometimes triggers fresh anxieties and I end up feeling overwhelmed, but the key is to work out what I can change and what I can't. That old prayer, about Give me the courage to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference" comes to mind. If this isn't the right wording feel free to correct me!

Julia Mon, Jun 10th 2013 @ 9:20am

I agree with Melanie. I thought on reading the first line..Ah! so worrying is good for on..this is new and exciting!"
I have worried all my life trying to solve problems for my immediate family (when I was younger), and now I worry about things that I imagine might be happening (to my "new" grown up immediate family)
I look as worry as quite energy draining for the person who is doing all the worrying but someone's got to do it! I think if no-one worried about anything in life, it would collapse. For me, it's a way of making sure that I am aware of what might go wrong and trying to avoid these things happening by taking practical steps (even if those steps are just in my mind). It does take a lot of energy on my part though and I complain frequently that if worry is shared, it would take a whole load off my shoulders. I think a little worry is very realistic and necessary but should not fall on just one person in any given situation, (family, work etc).

Julia Mon, Jun 10th 2013 @ 9:25am

Hi Victoire
I love that..Worry is the illusion of action! I must remember this..My post was written before I saw yours which is why I didn't pick up on the things you said. I like the fact the moodscope now publishes our posts immediately now however. I hope you are feeling OK today.

Caroline Ashcroft Mon, Jun 10th 2013 @ 9:58am

Hi Julia, I think publishing the posts immediately allows a better flow to the conversations. Pleased you like the change.

Victoire Mon, Jun 10th 2013 @ 10:21am

Hi Julia
I like it too that one's responses are up quickly, agree with you Caroline, it helps the flow... In answer to your question, I'm feeling anxious today! so the post on Worry especially timely. Worrying about one thing at a time is bad enough but its the generalised worry I find most draining. That is my state today. But working through a list of small tasks, one by one. This helps, a sense of achievement, however small. And when another worry creeps in (as it inevitably does) I try to "put it aside for later"...(we shall see how effective this is!).

Carole Baker Mon, Jun 10th 2013 @ 10:45am

Love todays Moodscope! I spend half my life worrying about things that I have either no control over, or that don't even happen. So plan for today is action not anxiety!

DIANA Mon, Jun 10th 2013 @ 7:39pm

I was told - BUT I HAVN'T ACTUALLY COUNTED - that the 'equivalent'
to 'DON'T worry' is expressed over 300 times in the New Testament
of the BIBLE. ( or maybe it's in the whole Bible...sorry not sure. ) 'Bible-thumping' is not fashionable I realise, but to me
this seems a happy thought !

Elizabeth Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 9:24am

Julia, remember the "breaking the worrying habbit" blog? Not sure if you know about it but it looks like you just named one of your misleading beliefs: "I think if no-one worried about anything in life, it would collapse." Obviously, people who never think ahead get in trouble, but less obviously worrying/fear brings you nothing. Perhaps it should be distinguished between worrying and avareness of potential problems (is there a single word for this? something like insight/foresight?), in the sense the second and third paragraph of this blog suggest.

In any case I'll try to distinguish this more for myself.

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