Hello everybody, welcome to episode 91 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. We’re coming back at you with a different spin on anxiety today: on being addicted to worrying.
We talked about it in episode 82, but today we’ll not only break it down a little more, but consider what deliberate steps we can take to better our relationship with worry. Let’s listen and do our best to help out…
QUESTION: “Hiya Greg! First time caller, long time fan! I've struggled to reach out during this time because it feels so selfish. I know everyone is having a hard time, and it feels wrong (in my anxious mind) to reach out for help and advice when we all are trying to keep our own heads above water. Nonetheless, here it goes: I feel like I'm addicted to worrying.
I've always been an anxious person, but it has, for obvious reasons, gotten so much worse during this time. I feel like I'm convinced that worrying is a responsible thing to do or the only way to ensure I don’t overlook something. Maybe I tell myself that if I keep worrying about a problem long enough, I'll eventually be able to figure it out? I feel like I have positive beliefs about worry, and it makes me sick to my stomach. I know in my heart I am doing more harm than good, but my mind won't listen. I can't stop worrying and feeling like I'm doing the right thing, by continuing to worry. How do I break this cycle?”
The Worry These Days
Yes, yes. The worry is practically spilling out of us these days, isn’t it?
This is a wonderful question, and I think everyone can relate to it quite easily. Also a very self-aware question which is wonderful. You’ve really done a good job breaking down your thinking patterns and your triggers which definitely helps both us, so thank you for that and of course for sending this one in.
Quick recommendation before we start: check out episode 82 of OLA which explores the relationship between confidence and worry. Also check out an old gregaudino.com video entitled In Defense of the Worry Warts. Just some extra content pieces that have a lot in common with this question.
Now, whether you want to call it worry or anxiety, I think you’re taking a wrong turn at a place that’s very easy to take a wrong turn at, and it’s with this idea of what’s right and what’s wrong. What’s responsible and what’s irresponsible.
These types of guidelines are good to keep in mind, yes, but when we believe so much in them and try to adhere to them all the time especially when we’re in fragile states of emotion, they become our enemies. We start to police ourselves a lot, shame ourselves, and we forget about the gray areas that come with not only these emotions but just the daily challenges we face.
How Worry Can Be Beneficial
Let’s start then by reminding ourselves of the attributes of worry and anxiety that you might have looked over in the face of this recent turmoil.
These feelings are:
A. Reflections of great intentions in terms of your care for others and yourself.
B. Wired into EVERY living creature for the sake of protecting ourselves from danger.
C. Unless B. doesn’t make it feel normal enough, these feelings are EXTRA sensible in the face of a pandemic.
If you’re still not sold on how beneficial worry can be, you and your fellow listeners may have noticed that I didn’t omit the first part of your submission, before you actually got to your question. It went as follows: “I've struggled to reach out during this time because it feels so selfish. I know everyone is having a hard time, and it feels wrong (in my anxious mind) to reach out for help and advice when we all are trying to keep our own heads above water. Nonetheless, here it goes.”
Ordinarily, this is something I’d politely cut from a question just for the sake of saving time. I chose not to do that in this episode, because I want to exemplify to everyone that if you hadn’t worried and embraced those worries by taking action on them and reaching out to me, you wouldn’t be getting help. Assuming this episode ends up being even remotely useful to you (fingers crossed), your worry and your use of it has just helped you make progress by not only getting help, but thrusting yourself into a community of love and support.
So we mentioned some of the better attributes of anxiety and worry. Now here are some things we know about you and your worries in particular:
A. It’s impossible to not overlook some things – most things. You can be as diligent and as detail-oriented as you want, you’re still going to miss things. This is especially true right now as none of the world’s greatest leaders and most devout researchers are even close to having all the information they need.
B. Though you have a bittersweet relationship with worry, you know something needs to change.
C. If you’ve listened to a single episode of this show, you know that long-standing inner changes don’t happen overnight unless you’re subject to a massive life-changing experience. And those don’t exactly fall from trees.
In others words, I can’t and I shouldn’t just tell you to “stop worrying.” No one should say that to you, including yourself. It’s going to be a gradual process, and it has to start with being okay with where you are now.
Hopefully after listening to what I’ve said thus far, the wheels are starting to turn a little bit in that capacity and you’re at least a bit more comfortable with the fact that you’re worrying.
Worrying: On Your Own Terms
Here’s what I propose: You let your worries stick around, but on new terms. And you might want to pull out a journal for this to help you keep track. With each worry you have has to come three things.
The first is acceptance. Written or especially vocal acceptance will be great, but silent acceptance will do as long as it’s acknowledged.
The second is possibility. Do not let your worry drag you down, but instead hypothesize as to how you can solve your problem (like you did by taking the step to reach out to me). For many worries, you’ll probably come up short on ways to control them. After all, if it were so easy to figure out how to control these situations, the worries would subside rather quickly. In this case, create possibility out of this worry can benefit you or at least shows a good side of you.
Worried about the coronavirus? Use the energy to make masks or bring groceries to an elderly person. Contributing goes a long way, and helps you feel as though you’re actively problem-solving.
The third and final ingredient is detachment. For every worry, you must also list a humbling fact that reminds you of just how little you can really do or know. For coronavirus, there are plenty. Because again, even those who are spending their entire days trying to figure this thing out are currently coming up short.
Summary: Addicted to Worrying
With excessive worry comes a pressure we put on ourselves to know impossible answers or be capable of solving huge problems. Over time, the goal of these three steps is to neutralize this weight we trick ourselves into bearing; to not shame ourselves for not knowing all there is to know and simultaneously create enough comfort that we can still generate solutions that we believe to be enough.
The ideal thinking goes something like, “I accept my worry, it’s probably out my hands because of x, y and z, but I can still do a, b and c. and that’s okay.”
Ok everybody, I sure hope we’ve gotten a better grasp on the intricacies of being addicted to worrying, I’ll say.
Asker of this question, I hope to at least reframed this cycle of yours and given you a glimpse of how it can not necessarily be replaced, but turned into a healthier cycle. Thank you again for sending this in. And as you guys all know, you’re encouraged to do the same.
We love hearing from you an doing what we can to help, so if you’re struggling, email your questions to us at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll take your questions there and answer them for you on the show. We are done for today, though. So I’ll look forward to talking to you guys again next time. Hope you enjoy today as much as I did. Take care everybody.