What we do when we worry

Jeff Salter

Worrying can take on a life all of it’s own. We can aid and abet it’s progress (particularly at 3 a.m.) until we have done the job of letting it become us rather than treating it as a transient mood, feeling or emotion. All moods, feelings and emotions are transient. Remember when you last felt overwhelmed, deliriously happy, on the brink of tears, full of love? We remember because they are never permanent states, but at the point at which we are experiencing them, they feel like that is all there is.

Seth Godin speaks about how we can be active participants in amplifying our worries. Many of us ‘experience failure in advance but our active encouragement can make it much worse’. We can drag other players into our catastrophe by verbalising and acting in ways which keep our worry centre-stage and feed our self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.

‘Why are you talking to me about the weekend? I can’t think about that, don’t you know I’m meeting Rita today?’

‘The client has said he needs this altered by Tuesday. All leave is cancelled until we get this done’

Your worry is slowly translates into action and reality for yourself and now others. They become part of your drama, bit players in your script of worry.

In the cold light of day (and, of course, if we are advising others), we can think of ways to translate the examples above  into something less connected with and reinforcing of our anxiety. Psychological flexibility allows us to put worry where it deserves to be. We don’t need to identify with it or battle with it or ignore it; we can choose to starve it of the help it needs to become all-encompassing.

Consider how you get alongside difficult emotions, acknowledging them without allowing them to own you and then saying words and taking actions that represent the real you rather than the terrified you and move towards calm rather than frenzy.

As Godin concludes, ‘The Situation Room might be a profitable TV show, but you don’t have to live there’.