The Worry Trick

How Your Brain Tricks You Into Expecting the Worst and What You Can Do about It

Wising up to the mind game and revolutionizing your bond with worry.

We’ve all been there. You’re living your usual day – commuting, having dinner with the family or perhaps, you’re attempting to drift into sleep. And then, out of nowhere, an intrusive thought invades.

The report for your boss that’s due tomorrow. The thoughts start spinning out of control. Is it what she wants? It seems a bit verbose, what if she thinks it’s too long?

The domino effect is set in motion. What if I’m shown the door? With the dentist appointment just around the corner, I can’t afford to lose my job.

Sound familiar? Regardless of the specific thoughts or circumstances, the culprit is always the same: Worry.

Worry isn’t all evil – it can serve as a warning signal for potential issues we need to address. But let’s face it, if worry was just a harmless advisor, you wouldn’t be here seeking a way to stop it.

For many, worry is an unwelcome tenant. You can’t evict it, you can’t regulate it, and the “just stop worrying” mantra does absolutely zilch. It’s a futile war.

But there’s a catch. Worry isn’t exactly playing by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules. This AstraEd Summary unveils the sly game worry plays with your mind, empowering you to redefine your strategy and perception.

Time to dive in: What’s this worry trick?

The sneaky cycle of worry fuelling more worry

Try this: Predict tomorrow. If it’s a weekday, perhaps you’ll kickstart the day at your usual time. Head to work. With the infamous traffic, a delay isn’t out of the question – it’s been there, done that. Or worse, a serious car accident. Highly unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibility.

The point is, we navigate through life assuming we can anticipate what’s to come. Most likely, tomorrow will be another run-of-the-mill day, much like most days of your life. A mind unfettered by worry knows this. It welcomes doubt, entertains it, and lets it go effortlessly.

But when you’re held captive by chronic worry, your lens changes. Future uncertainties feel like imminent threats.

And worry relishes this. When you perceive doubt as a ticking time bomb, you react in a way that amplifies the worry. Feeds it.

Ponder over this. How do you respond when worry creeps in? That initial flutter of doubt? Seeing it as a threat, your reflex is to squelch it. This internal squabble is a losing game.

Let’s be honest, worry is about the future – about potential happenings, however improbable. But you don’t hold a crystal ball to see into the future. And proving something won’t transpire, however hard you strive, is a Herculean task. To a worrying mind, the harder you try and fall short, the more evidence piles up that disaster could strike!

Logic and arguments just fuel the fire. How about distraction?

Ever tried not to think about your childhood pet? Even if Flopsy the bunny hadn’t crossed your mind in years, he’s likely hopping about in your thoughts now. Distraction? Not your best bet.

That’s the cunning ruse of worry. Doubt perceived as danger, a knee-jerk reaction to extinguish it. The more you struggle, the more the trick works, and the worry escalates.

If your attempts to quell something only fan the flames, it’s high time you rethink your strategy. Forget about wrestling with worry. Instead, work on reshaping your relationship with it.

Let’s delve into this proposition.

Subdue your reflexes and focus on transforming your relationship with worry

In your life, you form a distinct relationship with your worry, much like everything else – your career, alcohol, or your significant other. This relationship can be either healthy or detrimental.

For many, worry is just another element of life – it comes and goes, sometimes assisting in focusing on a problematic area or merely mirroring a state of general anxiety. It’s like an occasional interaction with a neighbor or a colleague – nothing more, nothing less.

The real issue lies in chronic worry – constant, inescapable, and paralyzing. This is what needs introspection and ultimately, transformation. If you’re drowning in a sea of worry, you probably have one of two relationships with your worry.

The first scenario is perceiving worry as a valid and significant alarm. You take it gravely, hence you hunt for ways to prevent the feared event, reassure yourself that it won’t materialize, or try to shield yourself if it does occur.

While these responses are instinctive, they are essentially harmful – worry is duping you into worsening the situation. Arguing, dodging, investigating, or crafting little rituals to ward it off, all endorse its validity, triggering an escalation in worry.

The second potential relationship with worry emerges when you begin worrying about your excessive worrying. You might grasp the irrationality or debility of this relentless worry, so you aim to tackle it head-on. This leads to distraction or attempts to quell the thought, resorting to alcohol, medication, or comfort eating.

As you might guess, none of these tactics succeeds in improving your relationship with worry. You’re trying to douse a fire with gasoline – precisely what worry wants.

What seems like the logical solution, fails here. Remember, your instinctive reaction is misleading, and to outwit the worry game, you’ll have to do the exact opposite of what your gut is dictating.

The goal isn’t to banish worry. It’s about cultivating a healthier, more manageable relationship with worry, preventing it from duping you into allowing it to dominate your life.

By now, hopefully, you’ve identified your rapport with worry, and acknowledged that an unconventional problem requires an unconventional solution.

Let’s explore what these counterintuitive responses might look like.

Recognize how your worries announce their arrival in your mind

What are worry’s favorite words? If you need a clue, replay a couple of worries in your mind: What if I lose my job? What if I fall sick?

Bravo, you’ve pinpointed the first loophole in worry’s game. These two words – “what if” – can be your first weapon to counter worry. Since worries declare their arrival in this manner, you can intercept them and understand their real intent.

If the thought of confronting your worries fills you with… well, worry, remember that we’ve already established that neglecting them is ineffective.

To revolutionize your relationship with worry, you need to be a step ahead. Let’s start by dissecting these worry statements. They begin with a “what if” clause, followed by the dreadful possibility du jour – let’s term this a catastrophe clause.

What does the “what if” clause truly imply? Consider you’re thinking, “What if I’m in a car accident?” It’s not a thought that comes when an accident is actually happening. There’s no “what if” about it – it’s unfolding.

Or imagine you’re driving and you unintentionally run a red light. A car accident could definitely ensue at this stage, but you’re still not thinking “What if I have a car accident?” Your reflexes are in charge, and you’re trying to avert the accident.

You only entertain “what if” when everything’s normal. The “what if” clause is not a protective shield. It neither saves you nor prevents anything. It simply means “let’s pretend”. Let’s pretend I’m in a car accident.

The catastrophe clause can be any hypothetical scenario, turning into a game of fill-in-the-blanks. When you overlook the “what if” clause and focus on the unlikely disaster occupying the catastrophe clause, you’re left with a string of seemingly legitimate concerns.

You need to train yourself to spot this “what if” clause. Get a pack of candies or mints with a listed quantity on the packaging. A 60 pack of Tic Tacs would do.

Each time you notice a “what if” thought, consume one of those Tic Tacs. This will help you tally your worries. After a week, you’ll be much more adept at recognizing these thoughts, allowing you to observe them passively.

The goal? You’ll break the harmful habit of automatically disregarding or distracting yourself from your worries. When you’re not distracted, you can intercept the “what ifs” and start perceiving them as the “let’s pretend” game they genuinely are.

 

Let’s Turn Worry into a Stand-Up Comedy Act

Picture this – you’re at a posh dinner soirée, and by some stroke of bad luck, you’re tucked in the corner next to the resident debate champion. You toss out a casual comment on the delightful weather, he argues it’s horrendous. You mention your fondness for basketball, he firmly champions football. It’s as draining as it is unappetizing.

So, how do you navigate this verbal minefield? Engage in a verbal duel? Nah, that’s just feeding the argumentative beast. Ignore him? That just stokes his fire. Resort to fisticuffs? Tempting, but let’s keep our cool, shall we?

Here’s how you handle this situation, which is really just an elaborate allegory for worry: Humor him. Play along, assure him he’s absolutely spot-on. You don’t need to buy into his fallacies, just keep the peace and savor your dinner.

Think of worry as the annoying heckler at your comedy gig. Incorporate it into your routine, and voila, you’re back in control.

This might sound simple, but implementing it, particularly if you’ve been in the worry-wrestling ring for a long time, is challenging.

One strategy to start cracking jokes with your worries is to exaggerate them. Let’s say you’re fretting, “What if I flub my presentation tomorrow?” Just add a ridiculously hyperbolic “yes, and” to the end. “Yes, and then my coworkers will chuck me out of the office amidst peals of laughter.” Or “yes, and it will make the headlines in the company newsletter.” You’re not disregarding your worry, just adjusting your response to it.

Here’s a little experiment for you. Write down one of your worries in all its spine-chilling glory, in about 25 words. Now, grab those 25 Tic Tacs you’ve been hoarding to keep track of your worries.

Stand in front of a mirror, read out the worry, and swallow a Tic Tac, 25 times. Take note of how distressing the worry feels on the final repetition compared to the first. Spoiler alert – it gets less intimidating.

Humoring your worry allows you to see it for what it truly is – a doubtful heckler, not a dangerous thug.

That being said, this method isn’t foolproof or always practical, particularly for deeply ingrained worries. In the next section, we’ll walk through three specific daily exercises to disarm your worry.

Three Foolproof Daily Practices to Bulletproof Your Mind Against Worry

Much like chronic ailments, worry doesn’t come with an express checkout option. It’s a game of resilience. Here are three daily practices that can bulk up your immunity against worry. Consider them akin to a daily supplement or workout regimen.

First up, pencil in some quality time with your worries. Just like a busy executive who has office hours for their team, schedule a rendezvous to focus on your worries. Lock this worry window into your calendar.

You’ve seen that trying to suppress worries only amplifies them, so let them have their moment in the sun. Don’t attempt to solve them, tweak them, or debate them – just let yourself worry.

Doing this aloud while looking at yourself in a mirror can be very effective. Sure, it feels a tad silly, but visualizing and vocalizing your worries provides a more pragmatic perspective. It’s also a handy trick to defer your worries to a less inconvenient time.

The second daily anti-worry ritual is a straightforward breathing exercise. Yes, “take a deep breath” sounds trite, but trust me, it works – when done correctly. The secret is to exhale completely before inhaling, enabling a deeper breath. Breathe in slowly through your nose, hold, then exhale through your mouth.

If you struggle with remembering to breathe consciously, use familiar cues from your surroundings as reminders – a car honk or a text message ping, for instance.

Lastly, make mindfulness meditation a daily habit. This process of quietly observing your thoughts is all the rage now, with ample resources to kickstart your journey. If you’re a beginner, here’s your first lesson:

Find a serene spot and settle down comfortably for a couple of minutes, attuning yourself to your thoughts and sensations. Gently focus on something constant – usually, it’s your breath, but it can be anything, like the hum of a ceiling fan.

When your focus wavers – and it will – don’t grapple with these distracting thoughts. Observe them as they come, then gently bring your attention back to your focal point. Practice this for ten minutes daily, and you’ll notice increased self-awareness and peace with your worries.

Incorporate these three practices into your daily routine, and soon, you’ll master the art of deflating worry’s power and nurturing a healthier rapport with it.

The Final Word

Our instinctive reactions to worry, unfortunately, serve to exacerbate it. Worry isn’t a nemesis you need to combat or evade. The chronic worry that keeps you tossing and turning at night or mars your family time is merely worry playing mind games with you.

Much like a matador provokes a bull with a vibrant cape, worry baits you with tantalizing but ultimately vacuous “what if” scenarios. Recognizing this, you can pull the wool over worry’s eyes. Humor your worries to drain their power, or resort to simple breathing or meditation exercises to stay in command.

Banishing worry is a futile effort – you need to foster a healthy, manageable relationship with it. Yes, life’s troubles can be overwhelming and worries are an integral part of the package. But remember, they don’t have to hog the limelight.

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