Don’t Worry; Be Happy

by Dr. Lorin Bradbury

Question: My husband tells me I am a worrier. He says that if I don’t have something to worry about that is real, I will dream something up. I disagree with him concerning dreaming things up, but I do worry a lot and it affects my sleep and the quality of my life in general. What are some things that I can do to overcome my worrying?

Worry is actually a form of fear at the lower end of the fear continuum. When we worry, we are afraid that something is not going to turn out the way we want it to turn out. However, as you well know, your worrying does little to solve the problem, costs you sleep, reduces your quality of life, and makes you less able to deal with problems tomorrow. I do have some suggestions that have come from years of living.

1. Evaluate past experiences in which you worried. How many of those problems actually came to pass? It has been said that 90% of the problems that end up in the emergency room are self-limiting, and 90% of people’s worries never come to pass. I don’t know how accurate those figures are, but the point is, many medical problems, especially those that worry people in the middle of the night will get better on their own and most people find their worries are for naught. You might begin by keeping a log. Write down the thing you begin worrying about and later write down whether the thing you were worrying about actually happened. Certainly, some of your fears will come to pass, but you will likely find that most don’t.

2. Bring the problem into perspective. In view of the big picture, really how big is the problem? The old saying, “I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet” is pertinent here. Be grateful you still have feet to put shoes on when you can afford them. We have a tendency to make a mountain out of a molehill, but by bringing your problem into perspective, you can shrink that mountain back into the molehill it really is.

3. Instead of panicking, think of solutions. Become a problem solver. If you have multiple problems, take one at a time and break the process of solving the problem into steps. This way you will see progress, and the progress will encourage you to keep moving toward your goal of solving the problem.

4. Exercise prayer. You will be amazed at the power of prayer, both to change the problem and to change your perspective of the problem. Many times in prayer, the answer will come to the problem, or you will realize that the problem is not as big as you thought it was.

5. Get some exercise. Sometimes people who are worrying draw into a shell. Go for a walk. Run up and down the stairs. Get some fresh air. Along the way, notice the trees, the flowers, and the natural beauty around you. In doing these simple tasks, you have allowed room for other to enter your mind, and your worry will likely be reduced.

6. Schedule your worrying. This may sound crazy, but instead of worrying all day, carve out a time in your day when you can think intently about the problem. You might be surprised when you do this how solutions show up, or you might just decide the problem isn’t worth thinking about once the appointed time has arrived.

7. Ride the rapids. I don’t mean literally ride the rapids, but instead of trying to fight your problems, imagine your life as a river and your problems as rapids in the river. It’s dangerous to fight the rapids or to try to turn your canoe around in the midst of the rapids. Instead, go ahead and enjoy the rough water. Squeal as you go down the river, and view it as an exciting ride as opposed to the most horrible thing that could possibly happen. You will be surprised how quickly you will be out of the white water and on to less worrisome days.

Lorin L. Bradbury, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Bethel. For appointments, he can be reached at 543-3266. If you have questions that you would like Dr. Bradbury to answer in the Delta Discovery, please send them to The Delta Discovery, P.O. Box 1028, Bethel, AK 99559, or e-mail them to [email protected].

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