Having a positive attitude is healthy. Positive thinking is beneficial. Being a positive influence on others is honorable.
But having positive beliefs about worry – believing it helps you to function better and avoid negative things in life – is not a positive behavior.
That’s because believing that worry is beneficial contributes to maintaining your worry and anxiety.
In fact, research shows that the more you experience positive beliefs about worry, the more severe your worry may be.
Compulsive worriers tend to believe that worry helps in some way, though they may not be fully conscious of this, according to Integrative CBT.
- Worry facilitates my problem solving
- Worry enhances my motivation
- Worry protects against my negative emotions
- Worry prevents negative outcome from occurring
- Worry makes me a conscientiousness person
If you believe worrying provides any of the five benefits listed above (or all of them), how likely would you be to give up worrying?
Holding any of those beliefs makes it harder to stop worrying because it is serving a purpose for you. It is making you feel secure and protected.
Being in a constant state of anxiety isn’t good for you, though, and can lead to many health problems, including heart disease, chronic respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions. Chronic worrying can interfere with your sleep, appetite, relationships, and work performance.
Persistent worrying can seriously diminish your quality of life. It is debilitating.
But you aren’t doomed – you CAN break the cycle.
Once you begin to see that there is little evidence to support your belief that worrying benefits you, you can work on changing that belief. And – once you do that, you’ll probably feel a lot less anxious.
In the article Why We Believe Worry Helps Us, Dr. Shannon Kolakowski explains that intolerance of uncertainty is the single best predictor of worry. If you can learn to accept that life is full of uncertainty, it will be easier for you to worry less.
Here are some helpful strategies from Dr. Kolakowski:
- Reevaluate your beliefs about worry: How has worry become a burden for you? How much time have you spent worrying, and how has it affected the quality of your life?
- Identify the type of worry you are experiencing: What is the source of your worry? Is it something that is happening now, or is it a concern about something that might happen later?
- Take action: Develop a plan of action for dealing with current problems, using the problem resolution format. (a) Define the problem and the problem-solving goal, (b) Brainstorm potential solutions, (c) Chose a solution, (d) Apply the solution, and (e) Evaluate the results.
- Expose yourself to uncertain situations: Because worry and anxiety are driven by the fear of the unknown, deliberately go out and do “uncertain” things, like shopping in unfamiliar stores, meeting new people, and breaking routines.
- Get support: Reach out to family and friends you can count on to be understanding. Seek professional help if you need it.
The following free self-assessments can help you identify what you worry about and how worrying is affecting your life: