As I write this, I’m not worried about anything. Well, that’s not absolutely true. I’m slightly worried about my mother’s upcoming doctor appointment. Along those lines, I’m concerned the health care bill will never pass. In addition, my nine-and-a-half year old cat has taken to meowing whenever my husband leaves the condo. I wonder why she has growing separation anxiety.
Moving right along…
I’m very fortunate that Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., M.S., P.T psychologist, physical therapist, and author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness” has agreed to coach me through my worry project. As previously mentioned, I’m a forward worrier, so we decide to address certain scenarios I build in my mind on the off chance those scenarios come to pass. I like to think it’s my small contribution to planning ahead.
Dr. Lombardo mentions two reasons behind many types of worry.
“There is part of thinking that this worry has a purpose,” she says, explaining that worrying about a worst-case scenario is a way of preparing yourself emotionally should the worst case actually happen.
That’s true for me.
“There is also if I worry it won’t happen.”
Uh oh. That also sounds familiar. I realize that I’ve often hoped that by worrying about a situation, the Fates would cut me some slack and keep the thing I’m worrying about from taking place.
She gives me a great analogy about worry, one that makes complete sense to me.
“I used to live in Dallas, Texas. It gets really hot in August,” she tells me. “Come January, it gets cold. If it’s 100 degrees outside, and I wore a winter coat and hat because it might get cold, what would you think?”
“Exactly. But what if I said in four months it will get cold and I’m trying to prepare myself? Worry is wearing winter clothes in summer.”
I think about how heavy worrying makes me. It’s the invisible burden I always seem to carry.
“Many people have been worriers all of their lives. You can change your patterns and assess why you worry and how helpful and accurate that is,” she explains.
Dr. Lombardo tells me about a list of cognitive distortions. In my case when I worry about future events, that’s called fortune telling, which she says means negatively predicting the future. That isn’t helpful to anyone, least of all myself.
Which brings me to scenario number one. Many of us have people in our lives who routinely make personal comments that are upsetting. My issue is that before I see those particular people I try to gear up in advance for what they might say. While many people think of things they should have said, I actually think of comebacks to comments that have yet to be uttered. Of course that means anticipating an interaction with those people is stressful – before I even see them.
Dr. Lombardo gives me ideas for coping techniques. For instance, if I go to visit that person over a weekend she suggests planning a getaway, like taking a walk. It’s also a good idea to plan a relaxing event after the visit is over.
“Have something when you get back to look forward to rather than focus on the negative, try to minimize the stress and focus on the positive.”
I can envision scheduling a massage or a manicure after getting back from a trip and realize how much that would help me to relax – even in advance. If I can worry ahead of time, why can’t I relax ahead of time?
She also advises me to think about why the hurtful comments resonate with me. “Take a look at your own self concept. A comment only hurts if in some way we agree with it. If someone says something that hurts, look at your self beliefs and reassess.”
I have certain trigger points that instantly put me on the defensive. One is my career choice and the need I feel to defend remaining in an industry that continues to plummet.
“Again, another thing is to look at why this person is making those comments,” she adds, suggesting I realize they are coming from someone struggling with their own self confidence problems. If I can think about that, the comments might not hurt as much.
Over the coming week, I’ll put her great advice into practice and report back. And stay tuned for next week’s scenario in which I worry about the horrible diagnoses that await each time I go to the doctor.
Photo Credit © Vilma Puodziuvelyte | Dreamstime.com
- Jennifer Taylor lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and Burmese cat. Her website iswww.jrtaylorweb.com