Reprinted from Vitality
Copyright: 1999 Vitality
Reprinted December 2008 by Meridan Health — Wellness Center
Dr. Beverly Potter
as interviewed by Sandra Gordon
CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF, worrying isn't necessarily negativečif it's done properly.
"Worry is like a mental fire drill. It helps you anticipate danger, identify risks and rehearse a plan before it happens," says Beverly Potter Ph.D., author of The Worrywart's Companion.
Worrying becomes a problem, however, when you get fixated on the worry, dwell on the imagined danger and allow this fearfulness to escalate into paralyzing anxiety.
The good news? You can change your thinking. To become what Potter calls a "smart worrier," instead of a worrywart, try practicing the following techniques when you begin to worry.
CALM YOURSELF DOWN
Many highly effective people are hard-wired to become problematic worriers. "They're conscientious, and they plan in advance," says Potter. "This kind of mental make-up sets the stage for worrywarting.
To become a smart worrier, realize you've triggered anxiety and learn to soothe yourself before your anxiety gets out of hand. To guell anxiety fast, Potter suggests breathing deeply. "Take deep, cleansing breaths slowly and steadily," she says.
WEAN YOURSELF FROM WORRYING<>For example: At home, your worry spot might be the basement. At the office, it could be a conference room. The technique? "At first, when you worry, go to your designated worry spot. Then gradually try to go to that spot less," says Potter. >
Another way to control worry is to compartmentalize it by training yourself to worry in one spot.
KEEP A WORRY JOURNAL
Put your worries on paper when you're overwhelmed by the magnitude of a worrisome situation. Even when nothing is resolved, lists help focus worries and make them finite. "The mere act of writing down concerns creates a safety zone between you and your thoughts so you don't feel so possessed by them," she says. Take your worry journal to your worry spot.
"Worrywarts imagine the worst-case scenario," says Potter. For example: In the midst of a work project, they imagine missing the deadline, then losing their job, house and family, ultimately becoming homeless.
"Statistically, most things work out OK, so why not imagine a happy ending?" asks Potter. "Concentrating on a happy ending builds hope and creates the expectation that all will be well in the end. Hope keeps worry in its place."
The Worrywart's Companion: 21 Ways to Soothe Yourself & Worry Smart, Dr. Beverly Potter
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