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Worry the Time Thief

Worry is on a continuum from mild to chronic and everywhere in between. Worry is that ‘silent thief’ that steals our time and our energy. It has certainly been a characteristic I have continued to work with throughout my life. It is so easy to say don't worry, but remember, anxious people cannot hear facts. Before an anxious person can listen to what we have to offer, we must first emotionally connect with gently curious questions.

So many fear acronyms imply that if we stopped worrying, our lives would improve. Wouldn't that be easy?

Here are just a few F-E-A-R acronyms:

False Evidence Appearing Real

Forget Everything And Run

Finding Excuses And Reasons

Forget Everything And Relax

There are many more acronyms and they are all meant to call attention, create calmness and change context for the person who is worried. For example, if my worry is on the lesser end of the continuum, these acronyms are a reminder that can reorient my thinking. If my worry is measured on the continuum at the midpoint or beyond, these acronyms fall short of being able to calm my concern.

Worry leads to exaggerated stories of what might occur and what will happen if it does. I call it, “holding a mental picture of what I don’t want to have happen.”

I often wonder, “Do I want others not to worry because it makes me uncomfortable when they do.” When I'm around someone who worries, I feel disconnected, distant, uninvolved, and sometimes blamed. I confess, when I'm worrying, others feel that same way. I want to help them so I can feel better. Crazy concept, huh?

I remember when my sons first began to drive and had curfews. I recall as the curfew began to get closer to its expiration, I would make up worry stories about their safety. Are they okay? Will they be in before curfew? I wanted to hear the car in the driveway soon. Of course, this was all before cell phones.

If curfew passed, my stories would get bigger, and I would think of accidents, legal issues, and all the things that could happen to a young teenager who is new to driving. I became a novelist and wrote chapter after chapter about what may possibly be going on. Oh, the stories I could make up. Was that a siren I just heard? Is it the police or an ambulance? Oh my! Do I need more faith? By the time they returned home, I was irate or quite unwelcoming. I would talk about their irresponsibility and their violation of the rules.

My fear and worry were expressed in anger and not discussing what was actually going on with them or me. I presented as repelling and not attracting because my worried, made-up stories were conjecture and not complimentary at all. I questioned their intellect, logic, driving, judgment, and decision-making rather than trusting that they were taking good care of themselves.

Logically, my only options were to pray, control myself, and not let worry and fear get the best of me. At this point, if I had heard the words "don't worry," they would have fallen on deaf ears.

Self-control and joining with them by utilizing gently curious questions are the key.

Without information, I make up what I fear and react as though it is true. This made-up story is usually far from the truth and not a good story.

This is where I like to use the four questions that allow me to get more information which reduces my fear, anxiety, stress, and worry.

What do I know about my identified worry? (In this case, it is they are not home yet)

What do I not know about it?

What can I do about it?

What can I not do about it?

Through these four inquiries, I now arrive at a logical and intelligent conclusion that gives me clarity and reduces my anxiety. Remember, when my anxiety is up, my intellect is down.

How do you face your worry questions?

Do you become a novelist?

Can you see the benefit of gathering known facts to improve your intellect and subdue your anxiety?

Watch for the blind spots.

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What I don't know I don't know about myself

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1 Comment

I have learned sometimes to control the story I tell myself. Shift the ending to one of success or safety instead of a story of failure or disaster. I am, after all, the narrator of the story. Intention and practice help.

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