I am a chronic worrier. Honestly, I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t worrying. It’s always been bad, off and on, but lately, its getting to the point where it is almost debilitating. I don’t want to do anything except curl up in bed and pray to never wake up. So, my husband insisted that I needed to find something that would help me. I love God’s Word, but it just wasn’t helping me to stop worrying. Maybe I’ve just heard the same Scriptures so often that they don’t offer new meaning. But I also believe that God helps us discover more about the human mind so that we can improve and learn how to let Him change us more effectively. After all, He did create science and everything science discovers. It might be new to us, but it isn’t new to Him.
Anyway, I recently got this book, “The Worry Cure” by Dr. Robert Leahy in hopes that it will help me. Now, I haven’t gone through it fully yet. And I’ll do another post when I’ve finished it. But I wanted to show you what the beginning was like so that we can truly see (together) if this book can help those of us who worry way too often. I’m going to be completely honest in these posts so that you can see my struggle, maybe see some of yourself in it, and we’ll find out if Dr. Leahy has the right idea.
First, Dr. Leahy discusses why we worry. He said that most people worry for several reasons: they think it will help them find a solution to a problem, they don’t want to overlook anything important in their lives, if they think about a problem long enough maybe they can figure it out, they don’t want to be surprised, and they want to be responsible individuals (pg. 15-16). He also goes on to tell us that a lot of worrying stems from our childhood. Either you experienced trauma or you had a parent (or both parents) that also worried and you picked it up from him or her.
In my case, I picked up my worrying from my mom, who received it from her mom, and who knows how long this “line of worry” goes back? But the line stops here, I can tell you that. I refuse to pass on this chronic worry to my future kids.
He goes into a lot more detail and all of it makes perfect sense, but I won’t go into it here, mainly because I would basically just be copying from the book and pasting it here (lol). If you’re really interested you can buy the book (it’s not expensive at all) and find out for yourself.
One thing I did want to mention because it really resonated with me when I read it, was when he said how well-meaning friends and family always try to give a chronic worrier advice. Things like (pg 28):
- Try to be more positive
- You have nothing to worry about
- Everything will turn out OK
- You need to believe in yourself
- I believe in you
- Try to get your mind off it
- Just stop worrying!
He said that while it’s great that you have people who love you and want to help you, this advice is worse than useless. If any of this worked, we wouldn’t be chronic worriers in the first place because we’ve already tried this advice a thousand times.
He also gives us a list of twelve of the absolute WORST ways you can possibly try to stop worrying. I’ll list them here, but if you really want to see how he breaks them down it starts on page 31.
- You seek reassurance
Basically, you try to get other people to tell you everything is going to be okay, but that only works for a short period of time. Then the worries will return because you aren’t actually facing your fears head-on and you always doubt that person’s word when you’re alone.
- You try to stop your thoughts
I’ve done this one so many times and it really does make things worse. The more you try NOT to think about something, the more you think about it. You can’t help it because that’s how the human mind works. So, when someone says to just “stop thinking about it”, that’s impossible and Dr. Leahy gives you scientific evidence to back that up.
- You Collect Information
Sometimes when we worry (especially about our health) we try to get all the information possible about that subject. Unfortunately, we are usually negatively biased toward that problem and only find information that confirms our worst fears and makes us worry more, not less.
- You Check – Over and Over
Like people who constantly check their appearance or to see if the oven is off or door is locked, a lot of worriers have to check things over and over. The problem is that this checking becomes a compulsion and only temporarily relieves your worry before you have to check it again.
- You avoid discomfort
Oh man, I am hugely guilty of this! I hate being uncomfortable, nervous, or not confident about a situation so I usually avoid it like the plague. But this is terrible because life is full of discomforts and unless I want to stay in the house and never do anything, I can’t avoid them.
- You numb yourself with drugs, alcohol, or food
We all know why this doesn’t work. It doesn’t solve the problem that is causing your worry, it merely numbs you to the pain temporarily. But once that feeling wears off, we still have the same problem or situation that we have to deal with to move on in life.
- You overprepare
This is mostly if you are afraid of public speaking. People will usually overprepare for an event and end up making the situation worse, rather than if they just know their material ahead of time and then let the words flow naturally.
- You use safety behaviors
That’s things like gripping the wheel tightly when you’re afraid, not meeting someone’s gaze when you’re nervous, etc. He goes into a lot more detail than I can. But I do know that I rub my neck or hands when I’m worrying (my husband pointed that out).
- You always try to make a great impression
This is for people who always want people to like them. I personally am not really plagued by this, because I don’t really care what people think of me, but I know people who do and it can be a huge problem. You aren’t always going to make a great impression because we all make mistakes.
- You Ruminate
This means going over and over something in your mind. I do this one a lot too and it drives me INSANE! I overthink things to the point where I wish I could just knock myself out sometimes so I’d stop. I haven’t gotten to the part in the book where he teaches you how NOT to do this though.
- You demand certainty
This is another big problem for me. I HATE uncertainty. But life is always uncertain. We never know what’s going to happen today, let alone tomorrow, no matter how much we plan. So learning how to handle uncertainty in life is a vital skill that I know I desperately need to learn.
- You refuse to accept the fact that you have “crazy” thoughts
This one was interesting because Dr. Leahy was basically saying that it’s normal to have violent, irrational thoughts as long as you don’t act on them. Being afraid of those thoughts or thinking something must be wrong with you because of them is not healthy (he says).
So, those are the twelve ways we are NOT supposed to handle our worry. I haven’t reached the part of how I AM supposed to handle my worry, but when I do I’ll write another post.
I hope this stuff connected with you the way it did with me. If so, I definitely suggest you buy this book. But, if you want to wait until I go all the way through it, you can do that too. Let me be your guinea pig!
My next post will be my Worry Profile so you can see how he determines worry, what my scores are (they’re pretty crazy), and hopefully how it will help me implement the tools he gives in the rest of the book so I can conquer my worry once and for all.
If you worry a lot or are even a chronic worrier, please post in the comments below and tell me about it! I’d love to hear your story!