From: The Worrywart's Companion:
                Twenty-One Ways to Soothe Yourself and
                Worry Smart, by Dr. Beverly Potter,
                McGraw-Hill, 2009.

                Copyright notice at bottom

What is Worrywarting?
Dr. Beverly Potter

Who Worries
Worriers come in all ages, from all walks of life and in both sexes. We all worry sometimes. But worrywarts worry a lot-sometimes to the point where it gets in the way of living.  People who have high anxiety levels tend to be worrywarts. While we usually think of women as being more prone to worrying, men, too, can be world class worriers, although men often deny that they "worry". While women tend to talk their worries over with friends, men are more likely to keep problems to themselves, holding worries in.  Some men use physical outlets like sports, exercise, even sex, to release tension created by worrying.

Worrywarts are thinkers with very active minds.  With their vivid imaginations they spin out possible future scenarios for virtually every situation of any importance.  This propensity to search for all threats and risks can be very advantageous in business and other ventures. And worrywarts are often shrewd in business and finance. They can ferret out problems and have a plan in place for solving them. 

Am I a Worrywart Quiz?
Wonder if you are a worrywart?  Take this quiz to find out.

Fixed on Fear
Worrywarts imagine frightening possibilities which they picture in vivid detail. Instead of moving to the next step of developing a plan for averting the threatening event, like deer who freeze up in the lights of an on coming car, worrywarts become paralyzed by their own scary thoughts bearing down upon them.  Their minds fix on a possibility, which may be quite improbable, replaying it again and again in their imagination, until it becomes a very believable pending catastrophe.

Analyze Everything
Worrywarts analyze everything as they focus all of their attention and mental capabilities on finding negative possibilities that might occur. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. This propensity to root out dangers is an exceptional survival skill in business and in life. But worrywarts don't stop. Their thinking tends to be rigid and often extreme. Like a dog working over a bone, the worrywart bites and rips at the worrisome notion. They dig their teeth in deeper when a possible risk is uncovered, tearing into it, ripping away to get to the central danger. Thinking is no longer balanced. Irrational ideas are accepted unquestioningly. Events are right or wrong, fair or unfair, black or white, and without realizing it, worrywarts often fall back to primitive rules that dictate what one should or shouldn't do and become upset when things are not done "correctly". 

Worrywarts are self-admitted perfectionists, especially with respect to their own performance.  As they push themselves to perform at very high levels, they focus their razor sharp intellect on small flaws and errors, overlooking progress and overall achievement. Less than perfect performance is seen as a failure, bringing severe self-recrimination.

Emotionally Sensitive
Worrywarts are extremely sensitive to other's needs, often becoming overly concerned about keeping other people happy, sometimes to their own detriment. Worrywarts have a hard time saying "no" to demands, even when unreasonable. If they do screw up the courage to refuse a demand they worry themselves with guilt. Not too surprisingly, worrywarts avoid conflict and find making decisions difficult.

Worrying Has Benefits
Worrying itself is not a problem. When worry is used positively-when we worry smart-it can be source of effective problem solving. Concern over approval of others makes having relationships possible. The desire to solve interpersonal problems, strive for perfection, meet high expectations, be dependable makes one a valuable member of society, and the drive to maintain control enables one to function in emergency.

Worry becomes a problem when our fears become exaggerated, when we catastrophize to the point of scaring ourselves, when our thinking gets stuck going around and around like  a tethered horse, and when our worries interfere with normal life. Then we are not using worry as a tool for bettering our lives, instead  we get stuck in worry and become worrywarts. 

Worrywarting Is Learned
If you are a worrywart-don't despair.  There is hope.  There is something you can do, beginning today, to change from being a worrywart to learning to worry smart.  You were not born a worrier.  You learned to worry. Worrying is itself a behavior-a mental act- and doing it is learned. Worrying can be helpful-when it is done effectively. 

Smart Worry
Like worrywarts, smart worriers look for dangers and analyze risks.  But unlike worrywarts, smart worriers move on to problem solving.  When there is nothing that can be done at the moment, which is so often the case, smart worriers use a variety of techniques to keep their minds off of the worrisome situation until taking action is possible.  Worrywarts worry themselves into a panic, making themselves miserable.  Smart worriers, in contrast, let terrifying images go and soothe themselves.
 Smart worrying, like worrywarting, is learned.  Smart worrying is more productive.  Smart worriers are happier and healthier.  You can learn to worry smart.  In reading this book you've already taken a giant step towards becoming a smart worrier.



Copyright: 1997, 2009. The Worrywart's Companion: Twenty-One Ways to Soothe Yourself and Worry Smart, by Dr. Beverly Potter, McGraw-Hill. This article can be downloaded and copied for personal use.  Any other use requires permission from Beverly Potter