Are you a worrier? 

Are you constantly thinking of all the things that could go wrong? 

Or do you seek to control situations outside of your control? 

If you answered yes, this episode is for you, my friend. I am breaking down what it means to be a worrier, the high cost of worrying, how to know when worry is excessive, and giving you steps you can act on right now to worry less and live more in the present moment. 

Prefer the audio? Listen here.

What Does It Mean To Be A “Worrier”? 

Being a worrier is when you catastrophically project into the future and imagine undesirable events that have not yet occurred. Worrying is often a learned behavior and may also be compulsive. 

There is a high cost to being a worrier. It creates a ton of anxiety which invokes a fight, flight, or freeze response. 

Ultimately, worrying does not change anything, but many worriers operate under the unconscious illusion that worrying will change something. It’s like we think diligently worrying about someone will magically make them safer. 

This is an illusion because these situations are often out of our control, and worrying doesn’t help anyone (least of all, us). 

How do we become worriers?

Maybe you come from a long line of worriers, where everyone in your family worries incessantly. You may have learned to worry from them.

Of course, over the last three years, fear of the unknown also turned people who were not worriers into worriers. We are only now coming out on the other side of this uncertainty. 

There is no judgment here, but if you get your worry under control (which I know you can because I have helped thousands of people do it in my career as a psychotherapist), the quality of your life will be more peaceful. 

Codependents Tend to Worry More

I think worry disproportionately impacts codependents because we are overly invested in the feeling states, situations, decisions, and outcomes of the people in our life to the detriment of our own internal peace. 

(I say “we” because even though I am a recovering codependent, it is still in my nature to think about others.) 

Codependency typically leads to worry, and when we worry, we tend to seek control: we want to stop a friend from marrying a horrible person. We lie for our partners so they don’t get in trouble for skipping work because they’re hungover. 

In this way, codependency is an overt or covert desire to control outcomes – outcomes often not even ours to control. 

Of course, concern about the people we love is normal. But worrying is not necessarily based on data. Instead, worrying is often a learned pattern of thought or behavior. 

To begin unlearning this behavior, download the guide, which contains my four best tips to help you worry less. 

The High Cost of Excessive Worrying

People sometimes wear their worries like a badge of honor and take pride in their identity as a worrier. But worrying cannot prevent undesirable things from happening, and catastrophically projecting into the future robs you of the present. 

For some people, worrying is compulsive. They have formed worry muscles and well-worn neural pathways in their brains around worrying. It makes sense: if you are used to worrying constantly, not worrying can be uncomfortable.

This obsessive or excessive worrying is not free. The anxiety it invokes costs a host of stress-related physical and psychological issues. 

When we worry about something, our body does not differentiate between the worry and something horrendous actually happening. When you worry, the same cortisol and adrenaline still get released in your body. The wear and tear on your nervous system from imagining the worst is real

Many of my therapy clients protested, “But I need to be prepared for the worst!” 

The truth is, it is impossible to prepare for the worst things life can throw our way. Feeling devastated during a “trial run” will not save you from being devastated all over again if the traumatic event does occur. 

As a worrier, you might also pass the cost onto the people in your life.

If you are a parent or a friend, there is nothing wrong with saying, “Text me when you get home.” This is not excessive. 

However, saying, “Let me know when you land, when you get to the hotel, and when you get home from the bachelor party no matter what time it is,” is excessive. 

It’s kind of like, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the anxiety create the worry? Or did the habit of worrying create anxiety? 

This is different for everyone, but if you are wondering, is it possible to stop worrying as much as I do? The answer is yes. But you have to want to change.

You can form new habits to lessen your worrying with the following four strategies. (Want to return to these strategies later? Download the guide here and return to these tips as needed.) 

Four Strategies to Lessen Your Worrying

One: Plan In Your Worrying

Allot yourself five or ten minutes a day to worry. 

If you find catastrophic thoughts creeping in throughout the day, say, Nope, my worry time is from 4:00 pm to 4:05 pm. I will think about all of these things then.

Try not to negatively or catastrophically fantasize outside of this five or ten-minute timeframe. 

When you find your mind drifting to fearful future projections, bring yourself back to the present moment.

Your fear mind may find it soothing to know you will eventually think about these things, even if it is not right now.

Two: Take Your Worry Down the “What If?” Highway

My mother taught me this strategy many years ago, and I still find it helpful. 

Here is what going down the “what if?” highway looks like:

In seventh grade, my mom asked me, “What’s happening with the boy you like?” I replied, “Nothing. I’m not saying anything. What if he doesn’t like me?” 

“And then what would happen?” she probed. 

“Then I would feel rejected and humiliated,” to which she again asked, “And then what would happen?” 

“I would probably call my friends and see if they could get together so I could feel better.”

When I reached the end of the “what if?” highway, I usually realized the things I felt were life or death (especially in my young life) were not

Three: Acknowledge Your Resiliency

We are not fragile. 

I have survived every trauma and every horrendous thing in my life thus far, and so have you. 

You are much more resilient than you know. 

To integrate this belief, I find it helpful to think about events that prove to me how incredibly resilient I am. You do not have to relive horrible events. Just take comfort in knowing no matter what happens, it will not take you down for good. Sure, a devastating loss may take you down for a bit, but it will not take you down for good unless it is your time to transition. 

Four: Write It Out

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about doing morning pages as a “mind dump.” If you have not heard of morning pages, it involves free-writing for three pages first thing every morning.

I find this helpful, especially if I have a lot on my mind and am negatively projecting into the future.

When I have something heavy on my heart, I do my morning pages, and I inevitably worry less because I am honoring my worry by writing about it, not shoving it down. 

Are you willing to try one of these suggestions to see if you can lessen the depth of your worry neural pathways and create new neural pathways? I invite you to pick the thing you worry about the most and go through these exercises, which you can do by using the guide

Let me know how it goes – comment below, or tell me on Instagram (@terricole). I am interested to hear how this landed for you. 

Thank you for taking the time and being with me today, and as always, take care of you.

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