How to Worry: A Primer

I wrote this in the morning and it’s getting moldy just sitting in my draft bin.  So, because I don’t want you to be without some new worrying skills, I offer you…

How To Worry!

My friend Susan recently said to me, “it seems your thinking in the shower produces good ideas.”  WELL, I DID have some ideas about worrying in the shower this morning, so lets see if she’s right.

I worry.  I would like to say it’s genetic and not my fault but the bottom line is “I” worry and “I” am responsible to do something about it.  Worring is a sink hole in the path to my best efforts.  I don’t want anything to come in between me and those goals, so I’ve been looking for ways to be with, respond to, and/or reduce worry.   I think I have figured out how to reduce the hold worry has on me, without ever really trying to make it go away. 

To do this, I start with something I enjoy.  I really love  Sundays for example.  I love my Sunday paper and watching CBS Sunday Morning.  Public Radio programs on the weekends are my favorite and I even…wait for it…like Sunday football.

Here’s my first point:

In the shower this morning, I started to worry.  Random worries, that’s how it is for me.  What will happen when the market opens tomorrow?  What if I can’t make enough money at X.  What if that X becomes President?  Can I get a visa to move to another country if he does?”  Just a slurry of fret. 

As I was soaping up I thought (this is important) “It’s Sunday. I love Sunday’s so I’ll just worry about all this stuff tomorrow.”  Put off the worring until later!  Why not?  It’s not going any place. I don’t have the answers right now so why screw-up my Sunday with it? 

I think I have stumbled onto something really great for us worriers.   Tell yourself,  “I’ll worry about this tomorrow, or in an hour, or few minutes.”  You are not denying the worry it’s moment, you’re just telling it, “we’ll talk later”. Worry actually seemed alright with all of this, and it seems, as long as I don’t deny it, it’s alright with being back burnered.  This “free floating foreboding” kind of worry seem OK with it at least.

I think this way of talking to our worries is really healthy and here’s why.

1)  We are not getting pissed-off at ourselves FOR worring.  It is very, very, good for us not to get mad at ourselves, better than eating super foods I think.  Because beating ourselves up for worrying is an insidious and corrosive thing to do. Not only are we upset that we are a “worrier” now we are both worried AND MAD at ourselves for being a worrier.  Good Lord…ISN’T IT TIME WE THROW OURSELVES A BONE?!!! ?

2) Next good thing.  Lots of us worrying types are also….procrastinator types.  Also a good thing.   BECAUSE we have experience in putting things off until later.  So not a big stretch to think, “I’ll worry about this a bit later.”  I love this.  Seeeee, the things we are used to chastising ourselves about have all come in handy.

3. By putting off what we worry about today until tomorrow, fills in that sink hole so it’s easier to take steps in the direction of ones goals.  Even hard steps.  If we can just put off the worrying we can do something that can, strangely, deflate the very worry that was keeping us from our greatest selves.  Can I hear a Wooo Hoooo?

If we are going along fine and then the sink hole opens up. Not a problem.  Just try a few things.  First, see if you can put off the worries for a few more minutes while you just get your ass out of the mud.  Still stuck and sinking fast.   Reach for “support”  don’t ask for a rope, can’t ask to be rescued.  But you can and should ask for support. 

4. Here’s how to get support.  Contact someone you know that has your very best interest in their heart.  NOT the person who’s used to tossing you that rope every time your sliding.  If you don’t have someone you know can give you support. COMMENT on this blog post or  CLICK MY CONTACT PAGE! and write me a note.  I for sure have your back!  I will scream myself horse for you and I don’t keep a single rope in stock! 

So just write : Rachel, I want to _______ but I’m in the sink hole and am just sinking fast.  We will find out what you need to do for yourself to get outa that muck.

There’s also this…

5. You can always go ahead and be worried and stuck.  Yep.   I would actually strongly suggest you write out everything that’s dogging you.  You might be able to see it for what it is much better this way. You will end up with a list of stuff you can and can’t do things about.  This is a very handy list to have.

To review:

1. First find something you enjoy that’s right in front of you.  A cup of coffee, late afternoon light, the chair you’re sitting on, your old hound napping by your side.

2. Think, why mess-up this thing I enjoy by getting worried about stuff.  I will worry a little later and just enjoy this.

3.  Since I’m not worring right now, what one little thing can I do in the direction of something I want in my life? 

4. Start doing it.  Soon as you feel the ground giving way, maybe even before, seek support.  Support and rescue are not the same thing.  Ask for a “you go girl” or “go dude” from someone who you know has your best interest in mind.  Do not ask for a rope.  The rope, by the way, might get you out of THIS sink hole but it WILL swing you into a deeper one. Mark my word.  Keep moving.  Worry will have a harder time finding you if you’re in action!

5. But, if you can’t keep moving,  worry, but worry on paper. Write down all your worries.  Then you’ll have a list of what you can and can not do anything about.


19 responses to “How to Worry: A Primer

  1. Great idea to put off worrying, especially when you are already doing something enjoyable. I also find it helps to schedule worry time, say from 9 to 9:30, then get busy doing something.

  2. Oh “scheduled worry time” …I like that idea. How I am with to do lists, I might not even get to it!

  3. Wonder what a “worrywart” is and if you truly are one?

    The job of worry is to anticipate danger before it arises and identify possible perils, to come up with ways to lessen the risks, and to rehearse what you plan to do. Worrywarts get stuck in identifying danger as they immerse themselves in the dread associated with the threat, which may be real or, more likely, imagined. They spin out an endless loop of melodrama, blowing everything out of proportion. “What if I have a heart attack?” “What if there is an earthquake?” “What if someone breaks in when I’m asleep?”
    While worrywarts insist worrying is helpful, little is solved. Stuck in thinking ruts, they stop living in the here and now–the present moment. Worrywarting is torment–a kind of self-imposed purgatory that makes you feel bad, stresses you out, and wastes precious moments of your life.
    Worse yet, worry begets more worry, setting into motion a vicious circle of frightening thoughts and anxious response. It is self-perpetuating, pushing into greater anxiety and more worry. Allowed to continue unchecked, chronic worry can evolve into panic attacks and, in extreme cases, agoraphobia, which is a paralyzing fear of having a panic attack, especially in public. It can be so severe that, in the worst cases, the sufferer can’t leave home.
    For how to stop worrywarting and start worrying smart, visit my site.

  4. Dr Potter wrote:
    Wonder what a “worrywart” is and if you truly are one?

    What I want to say:
    I think if you are someone who worries you know you are a person who worries.
    I deal with this issue, and I know other people do too. That’s why I wrote the post.

    I am not sure how I feel about your use of the word “wart” and here’s why. A wart is any “unattractive detrimental feature or aspect.” A part of what I was getting at in my post is that if you consider this aspect of yourself a bad thing, an unattractive detriment, a wart, you beat yourself up not once but twice. I hate that. I caused myself a lot of pain feeling badly that I had these feelings of worry, fear, anxiety and panic. All the things you’re talking about.

    A matter of fact I have learned that it was these very feelings, more spicificly, the way a responded to these feelings … that crippled me. My disability had nothing to do with my eye sight. It had everything to do how I thought about and lived out my feelings.

    I don’t want people to think that their feelings are warts Dr. Potter, that makes me very sad. They’re feelings, and like you said, there are good reasons for having them.

    I have learned to take action under the understanding that worry, fear and panic might not ever go away. I act because I don’t want to lose my whole life to them, waiting for the feelings to subside. This is not just lip service for me, I have had panic attacks. I have asked myself to do thing in the face of complete panic.

    How? Not trying to hide the feelings, healthy support and a deep desire to live my life despite the feelings. The side effects have been that some of the issues have begun to fade but I don’t focus on that, they can come back and I don’t care. I got shit to do!

    I started by letting go of being upset with myself for having the feeligns and also by not WORKING at stopping them. That effort only made me feel all the more broken. Not only did I have all these unwanted feelings, now I was a loser because I had no ability to stop them.

    I looked at your site, I like what you had to say about having a place to go worry. That’s kind of like what I was thinking when I gave worry space to happen later. It clears my head. It gives me room to stop the cycle without beating myself up for having it.

    Your comments have stimulated more thoughts but I will stop for now.

    Thank you for adding your thought to this blog.

  5. I have to say this too,

    I don’t think worrying is helpful. I think most people who worry understand this with their intilect.

    It’s not the intilect that’s worrying however. It’s a younger, scared part of ourselves that does not understand this talk.

  6. This unfortunate commentator seems to lack a sense of humor and be unable to see the lovely way you make fun of yourself and worriers like you.

    I don’t think I’ll go to her site, however, because she’s an awful writer — academic, clotted language. Emotionally, totally turned off. Analytical and weirdly condescending. I smell jealousy. 🙂

    I think I’ll stay with more sincere bloggers who speak from their feelings and learn from their experiences — and who have a sense of humor.

  7. What a weird reply that “doctor” made to your lovely blog! You just gotta wonder what her agenda is, don’t ya?

  8. GREAT blog… As one worrywart to another (I inherited mine) Let me tell you I agree with some of your way sof dealing with it… .

    You described it well.. Its like random worries that just bounce around the head.

    Having a set time for dealing withworries and listening to them is good.

    I telll my self often that It has been my worrywartness that has saved our family from a lot of things, or has had the emergency back up plans DE % F ready to go as A B C plans failed.

    God gives us all special gifts and every once in a while I remember its not really a curse unless I let it get out of balance.

    KUDOS for great article.

  9. Rach, as usual you take a tricky subject and make it ‘usable’! Keep up the great work!!! I found the posts interesting but I noticed that the one from some ‘doc’ looks like it is not in direct response to your blog. It looks like maybe a ‘cut and paste’ from an article or whatever. Maybe she has a ‘bot’ that looks for the word ‘worry’ and then inserts her comments. They just don’t look like they fit what you wrote about…except that they respond to the word ‘worry’. Is that acceptable to do???

  10. Alrady,
    Thanks for your reply.

    There clearly are benefits to being someone who is prepared and aware. It’s really only taking from the quality of ones life when it’s the only filter one views life.

    I do need to say that I am uncomfortable with the term worrywart. Even tongue and cheek, it’s really not the kind of messege I want to share here or with myself.

    It’s saying that your feelings are an unattractive detriment and is that really fair to do to yourself? You even said your worry has saved your family from lots of things, this does not sound like a wart to me.

    Thanks for your contribution to the converstation.

  11. Ah, yes, the sweet smell of shameless self-promotion from the fair Dr. Potter. She shows us how easily you can control your worries and cut and paste the back of your book in a single bound. Maybe she has x-ray vision, too? If Ivisit her site, I wonder if she will reveal her many fabulous powers?
    We all worry. And some of us worry that we worry too much. But some of what has been written here sounds like worrying too much that we might be worrying about worrying. Rachel has it right. Get busy and be pro-active. Worry while you take out the garbage. Worry while you finish your project. Or just put it off until a later time. I worry all the time, but it never slows me down.

  12. Rachel, your friend Susan here checking in. I think you should take more showers, if this lovely post came from a worry in the shower….I like the way you ACCEPT worry and DANCE with it, treat it like a scared child and teach it (gently but firmly) that it does not rule the roost….that the adults are in charge but they are kind and gentle and really know how to care for worried young souls. Now that Dr. Potter worries me 😉 Her words are so harsh. She sounds like she has not had a gentle kind spirit help her accept and calm her own worries. Too bad for her…I hope she continues to read your blog and learn from you. Oh….and this was a particularly beautiful blog post, Rachel! Love your work!

  13. To the Dr. whose advice I will definately not be taking. !!!!

    No amount of qualifications or degrees ever replaces, integrity, authenticity and professionalism. We are all entitled to our opinion but not at the cost of others. The reason why I love reading and so look forward to Rachel’s blog, is because no matter how sensitive the subject. Rachel always builds people up and speaks from the heart.
    There is NO competing with that. Keep writing Rachel!!

  14. I enjoyed your post and saw a bit of myself in your story. I understand the perspective of “Doc Potter,” but it was off-key. You were sharing your soul; she was offering unsolicited clinical advice.

    There will always be perils when the intensely personal shares space with the ruthlessly commercial. This new social media simply digitizes the dangers.

    I say push through the risk – and keep sharing!

  15. Great Post. So where did you learn to worry?

  16. Rachel!!! You are brilliant…so glad I follow you on Twitter. This post is awesome – I am a born procrastinator – I love that I will now be using my procrastination for good!!!

  17. Rachel

    Thank you for your light touch to this dark place. I have suddenly found myself struggling with really juicy anxieties & am working to gently extricate myself from new dreads. Some of my new mantra’s have been working to cajole me on, but I like the way your thinking both interrupts and redirects the energy of the worrier. Thanks.

  18. To the last commenter…You’re welcome. I will be writing more on this topic in the very near future. Dread is a hard place to be, I have felt it and it can be hard to pick your head up off the pillow or stop moving depending. It’s all consuming sometimes. Keep an eye out for future posts. And join my telecalls when you can, this will be a part of today’s call actually (Sept 27)

  19. I have done the same thing on my birthday – the conversation goes “I have so much to do” and the reply is “But today is my birthday so I’ll do what I want” and it feels so freeing.

    Love the warmth and comfort of this post.

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