Problematic worrying or "bad worry"
has the following characteristics:
- You have frequent episodes of worrying about your future
- Your future predictions are filled with worst case scenarios
- You feel that those predictions have a great likelihood of happening
- You cannot help thinking about those negative outcomes over and over
- You try to make them stop by trying to distract yourself or avoid worrying without success
- The frequency and intensity of your worrying do not make your problems go away
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Good worry x bad worry
We all know what worrying is like; it makes us think and think of the same thing. Worrying about an important task helps us keep our focus on what needs to be done. Good, healthy worry is often associated with responsibility, maturity and reliability. It also leads us to creative solutions for challenging problems.
Good worry is not debilitating. It comes and goes when it has served its purpose. If you are worrying about a presentation at work, good worrying lasts until you have delivered it. It might make you a little on edge for a few days but it is productive, since it gets you ready for a good show.
Good worry turns into bad worry when it does not evolve into something that is objectively verifiable as useful. This type of worry is persistent and it does not go away after a short while. It is bad for you because it does not serve to its purpose of helping, but to fuel insecurity and anxiety. Instead of boosting your performance, it makes you feel small and inadequate. Bad worry robs you of your self-confidence and makes you feel powerless. What for others is carried out without much concern, for you becomes source of emotional disturbance and physical discomfort.
How much worrying is bad for me?
Worrying becomes too much when it is transformed into a personality trait, regardless of what is doing to you or for what is supposed to be preparing you. So take the same example of having to give that big presentation. You have given the presentation, it was not out of this world but it did its job. Bad worrying keeps on making you nervous just by contemplating having to do a presentation again, even when you are not due to give one any time soon. It takes some negative aspects of your most recent presentation and magnifies them. It corrupts the way you evaluate your whole performance making you question your own abilities. It makes you forget the thousands of times you have given good or even excellent presentations.
Normal worrying is something to which anyone can relate. Be it your colleagues or friends, they all worry about something or other every now and then (even the laid-back ones). A normal worry tends to stands out from common behaviour. Exaggerated, over-the-top worrying hijacks your attention; you find it difficult to concentrate on anything but the worry itself. It is so often there, that the real you becomes overshadowed by it. It goes with you on your journey to work and it is still by your side when you are heading back home. It makes your leisure time feel less like free time. At the weekend, you catch yourself worrying, yet again, as if your whole life depended on it. With time, 'that problem' seems to become more complicated and less likely to be solved any time soon.
Is my worrying resulting in anxiety?
If you feel that the persistence of certain recurrent thoughts is resulting in…
- an inability to switch off (you often feel keyed up and unable to relax)
- poor concentration
- feelings of helplessness
- lack of sleep
- reduction or avoidance of social contact
- damage to relationships
- reduced productivity
- stomach pain, muscle tension, racing heart, tremors, dizziness
…it is time to get some help. Excessive worrying may lead to high feelings of anxiety.
Worry check list:
√ Do you find it hard to relax, even in your time off?
√ Do you find it hard to let go of your worries, as if that would result in something bad happening to you?
√ Do you feel restless and suddenly worried when you catch yourself without your worries?
√ Do you find yourself worrying about the same issue for a prolonged period of time (weeks, months)?
√ Do you often wonder how others can manage without worrying as much as you do?
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