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Dealing with Persistent Worrying

Danielle Bertini

Worrying is a part of human nature. If people didn’t have the ability to worry, they wouldn’t be able to anticipate and prepare for life’s challenges. However, for some people, worrying gets to be overwhelming and can even lead to depression due to such a negative outlook on life. In this day and age, it can be easy to get wrapped up in anxiety and a negative outlook with recent world and domestic events. Nevertheless, a new study in ____ has found that many of the worries that occupy anxious minds never actually come to fruition.

In the study done by researchers at Penn State University, 29 people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) to write down everything they worried about for one month. Participants also recorded the outcomes of their worries. Researchers found that 91% of people’s worries never came true. Furthermore, for several people in the study, exactly none of the things they worried about actually happened. Another interesting thing that the study found was that even on the rare occasions when a person’s worry did come true, the outcome was often better than the person had initially feared. When the people in the study were presented with the evidence that their worries were largely unsupported, many of their anxiety symptoms improved (Heid, 2019).

It is important to note that the Penn State study only included concerns that could be proved or disproved within 30 days. This including thoughts such as, “I’m worried I’m going to fail my test,” but not, “I’m worried I’ll never meet the right person.” Regardless, providing evidence to people that their short-term fears are largely invalid can actually help lower long-term anxieties as well (Heid, 2019).

This idea can even be helpful for people who don’t have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. Robert Leahy, a New York-based clinical psychologist, suggests that you write down your concerns or negative predications and test them out to see how often they’re accurate (Heid, 2019). Another anxiety-reducing technique that Leahy describes in his book, The Worry Cure, is to set aside a block of time each day for worrying. This might sound strange, but sometimes prescribing the problem is a helpful solution. For example, at 3pm every day you will sit down and think about your worries. Not only can this help you escape the constant anxiety, but come 3pm you might realize that the thing you had been worried about earlier in the day no longer concerns you.

With most things in life, there is no one-size-fits-all cure for anxiety or worrying. Understanding that problem-worrying often takes years to build up can help you also understand that it is unlikely to dissipate in a day or a week. However, with a mix of techniques and therapy, it can be minimized. Similarly, it is important to understand that you can never fully eliminate worries, as unpleasant thoughts and negative emotions are simply part of the human condition. However, getting to a place of comfort with your thoughts is attainable.

References

Heid, M. (2019, August 15). Most Things You Worry About Will Never Actually Happen. Retrieved from https://elemental.medium.com/most-things-you-worry-about-will-never-actually-happen-83bff850c5f9

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