When “what if” runs your life

How worrying can get in the way of living

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What if I’m late for work and they fire me?

What if they think I’m stupid and fat?

What if my mom is really sick?

What if my friends are hanging out without me?

What if…I spend years of my life wondering what if?

Many of us can spend hours of our day having a kind of internal conversation with ourselves. The conversation is almost always about something bad that might happen.

We’ll see something or hear something or even just remember something, and it starts the what if spiral.

What if I left the door unlocked? Then, someone could break in. And they could take my dog. And then I’ll have to spend all my time trying to find my dog. And…

You get the idea. All these what ifs are the tools of a worried mind.

But why? Why do we do spend so much of our time worrying?

Well, for people who struggle with anxiety, sometimes we think that worry is actually helping us. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar to you?

  1. If I worry, it means I care “Worrying about my friend Sarah’s creepy boyfriend means that I care about her.”
  2. Worrying helps prepare me for when something bad happens “Worrying about losing a race helps me figure out how to win it.”
  3. Worrying motivates me to do something about a problem “If I didn’t worry about being fat I would never exercise.”
  4. Worrying helps me feel better when the bad thing eventually happens “If I worry about being rejected, and then I am, it doesn’t hurt as much.”
  5. Worrying about something means it can’t happen exactly like that. “If I worry about my family dying in a plane crash, they won’t.”

Familiar? The thing is, most of the time, these just aren’t true. When worry becomes excessive, and a part of your daily way of life, it’s more likely it’s harming you than helping you.

Some signs that your worry is hurtful, not helpful:

  • You worry about things that aren’t immediate threats
  • You’re more often anxious than relaxed
  • You have difficulty enjoying yourself because of how much you worry
  • Your worries get in the way of you living your life

If these feel familiar to you, you’re not alone. 2 out of 5 people worry at least once a day. And excessive worry is one of the most common signs of anxiety. So, what can you do to change your worried ways? Well, we’ve got a few ideas that we’ll be sharing over the next few weeks. Starting with…planning your worry sessions.

Originally published at www.allmentalhealth.org

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