Positive beliefs about worry

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I was speaking to my mum the other day, and she was explaining to me how worrying about her mother was keeping her up at night and making her ill.

“It’s difficult for us caring people,” she said. I immediately felt guilty. Does my lack of sleeplessness mean I don’t care about Grandma?

I mentioned this to the “Psychological Well-Being Practitioner” who I have phone calls with as part of my CBT (It’s not therapy it’s “a programme of guided self-help with telephone support.” I just love how the NHS will never use one word when they can use ten.) She said that a lot of her clients have positive beliefs about worry, and that a common thought is that “worrying makes me a caring person.”

Which is really interesting.

Because really, the person who you are worried about doesn’t know that you aren’t sleeping. And you worrying about something or somebody you have no control over doesn’t actually help them. So I’m sure they won’t mind if you didn’t.

But I’ve fallen into this trap myself, thinking that being worried about my friends makes me a good person. When really, it’s all about action.

The question you should ask yourself is, “Is there anything you can do?” If the answer is yes, you problem solve. If the answer is no, you should distract yourself. Because worrying about an outcome you can’t control helps nobody. All it does is make you anxious. It should not be a tool you use to show you care.

Also interesting, is that yesterday I identified another positive belief I have about worry, when I used the scales at the gym to weigh myself and discovered that I had put on weight. I realised that I’ve been hanging on to my anxiety about food because I believe that it enables me to stay thin.

This thought doesn’t stand up to a lot of interrogation. Surely I don’t really think that without anxiety my eating habits will change so dramatically that I will put on a lot of weight? And what would be wrong with this? Isn’t it better to be happy? Isn’t not feeling guilty when I eat worth losing a bit of thin privilege for?

Let me know in the comments if you have any positive beliefs around worry. Do you think it helps you better prepare for things? Do better work?

How much worrying is too much? Does it ever help us?

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