Why worrying is unhelpful and what you can do instead

Why worrying is unhelpful and what you can do instead

via Psychology Today by Melanie Greenberg

Worry can be thought of as the cognitive component of anxiety. We tend to worry when we aren’t sure what’s going to happen but we think that we may experience a negative event, such as a failure, loss, illness, or injury. Worry “represents an attempt to engage in mental problem-solving on an issue whose outcome is uncertain but contains the possibility of one or more negative outcomes; consequently worry relates closely to the fear process” (Borkovec et al. 1983, 10). When you feel anxious, it’s more in your body—your heart may start beating faster, or your breath may shorten. Worry, on the other hand, is more in your head. It’s a kind of mental anguish that most of us experience, but few know how to overcome.

What is the function of worry?

Research on worry suggests that it may reduce physiological arousal and negative images by keeping you in the verbal realm (Borkovec and Hu, 1990). Worry is left-brain-focused and may keep you fixated on the details, preventing you from seeing the big picture of a situation which may be more scary. Some researchers (Borkovec et al., 2004) suggest that worrying may be a way of avoiding the bodily signs of anxiety and stress (such as your heart beating rapidly) or negative mental images related to your stressor (such as the image of having to sell and move out of your house). Worry can also give you the illusion of control over future outcomes. Some people believe that if they stop worrying and relax, they’ll be caught unawares by some devastating event…

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