Concern and worrying is something that accompanies many mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Moreover, worrying can be annoying enough on its own, especially when your worries wear you down without end.
It is important to realize why you worry. It is something all humans do, even those who are not struggling with a mental illness. Concerns are simply an important part of the mind’s alarm system. Without worries we would all take disproportionately large risks, because we would fail to take into consideration the dangers in what we are doing.
There is a correct and healthy level of concern, where you worry about things that really hold danger, and where you take precautions to reduce the level of risk. I for example, would never board a plane designed by an engineer who never had any concerns.
In fact, concerns have a very real industrial value. After the Challenger disaster in 1986 (where a space shuttle exploded shortly after launch), NASA started to look specifically for pessimists; people who were more concerned than others. They realized that such people are needed to identify potential hazards.
But when concerns start to become an obstacle in your of life, where you are spending hours each night staring at the ceiling and churn over the things you are afraid, then, your concerns have become too much. We must adjust our level of concern to the correct level, and here are a few techniques to achieve this:
Analyze the concern from multiple perspectives
Writing down your worries and looking at them those from several different viewpoints will help. If you are concerned about a teenager who is out and about, write it down, and write down why you are concerned, and what specifically concerns you. Then write down what you can do to reduce your concern. In this example, it could be beneficial to collect the teenager at a certain time, or for you to have a good talk with them about what your teen must careful of. If you are concerned about something at work, you can write down the specific things that you can do to solve the problems.
Find a box or a drawer, and a stack of small pieces of paper (cut a piece of printing paper in 8). Every time you are worried about something specific (as opposed to being anxious about nothing specific), write down on a piece of paper what it is that you are worried about and then put the paper in the drawer or box. For example, you may be concerned that your plane will crash on your next trip. Do this every time you are worrying too much about one thing or another. After a certain period of time, for example, half a year, take the box and read all the papers. Sort the pieces of paper in two piles; one for worries that actually materialized, and one for those that didn’t. You will see that the pile for those concerns that never materialized is much smaller than the other. There is plenty to learn from this exercise.
Those of you who have read more of my posts will know that I’m a big fan of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The techniques used in this practical treatment are effective against depression and anxiety, and this has been proved through the huge amount of research that has been carried out on it. These techniques can also be very effective against exaggerated concerns. The techniques work because they train you to become more aware of the difference between healthy, rational thoughts and unhealthy irrational ones. Similarly, you can train yourself to distinguish between reasonable concerns and those that are merely a nuisance. I would therefore recommend to anyone who is struggling with excessive worrying to read a few books on the topic.
Rise from Darkness provides a starting point to using some of the techniques.