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If you worry like it’s your job, it’s time to work on your resume.

by Nicole Matusow

No, it’s not your responsibility to worry that something terrible is going to happen to your loved ones when they leave the house. It’s not imperative that you be anxious about how others see you. And, I’m pretty sure that stressing yourself out about all the things you need to do next week is not something you need to make sure you do every single day until next week.

It’s just not your job (or anyone else’s) to worry. There, now stop worrying.

Did you? Of course not. I know, easy to say, not easy to do. Well, it might be easier than you think. It’ll take some work on your part, but with practice, you may see results and find some relief fairly quickly.

Although a bit of worrying can sometimes serve a purpose, chronic or excessive worrying and anxiety can be bad for your health. Experiencing anxiety may be genetic, environmental, or both. Whether it’s from a past trauma or experience, or a chemical imbalance in the brain, there are ways to take control of your anxiety and how it affects your life.

Speaking of control, it’s that I-have-no-control feeling that often leads to intense anxiety and worry. Worrying about anything from how the weather is going to affect our plans to how to prevent cancer from spreading in our loved ones gives us a sense that we can control the outcome. We can’t. What about when we worry about finances or how well we’re going to perform at work or in school? Do we have control over such things? We do. Great, so we can continue to worry about them. But we don’t need to.

This is not new information. Between this vintage Jack Lalanne segment, a newer cheat sheet version called The Worry Tree, and the ubiquitous Serenity Prayer, anxiety and worries could have been eradicated long ago. But like I said, it takes work. Just like those inspirational quote memes your friends post on facebook, if you don’t incorporate change into your life, the effects of such affirmations are fleeting.

The concept is simple; the execution is challenging, but possible. It begins with awareness, as does any change in behavior. Here’s how it works:

  1. Notice the worry and ask, “What am I worried about?”

  2. Then ask, “Can I do anything about it?”

    1. If no, work to push the worry away, and refocus your attention.

    2. If yes, make a plan of what to do and when to do it, push the worry away, and refocus your attention.

Let’s use the previous examples. You’re having an outdoor party, and thunderstorms are in the forecast. Worrying that your party is going to be ruined is your reflexive response. Checking the hourly forecast as often as possible is your flawed solution that gives you the illusion of having control. Can you do anything to stop the thunderstorms? No. Then stop. Refocus. But wait! Can you do anything to prevent your guests from being soaked? Yes! Get a canopy. Move the party indoors. Plan accordingly. If it’s not within your control, don’t worry about it; if it is, do something about it.

It’s hard, I know. But, I see its success every day with my patients. If it can work for them, it can work for you. Work is the operative word, but it works.

Of course, dealing with your worries in this way doesn’t address the underlying causes of your maladaptive coping mechanisms to defeat anxiety. A combination of a cognitive behavioral approach (as exemplified above) coupled with psychodynamic therapy (understanding the role of your childhood experiences) is like a 1-2 punch to conquer anxiety and excessive worrying. Medication gets an honorable mention.

Try the steps. Repeat daily. Quit your worrying. Don’t quit your day job.

You might also like: Do you express your feelings or keep them in a bottle on your night table?

Nicole Matusow is a psychotherapist, artist, and writer in New York City.

Nicole Matusow, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist

New York City
(646) 580-3123