Many people come to me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which is characterized by worrying about a whole host of things, almost all the time. It interferes with sleep, digestion, happiness and over-all well being. The curious thing is that once they think one problem that causes anxiety is solved, they can’t leave it well enough alone. Their thinking is dominated by “what if” thinking, as in “what if the choice I made is not the right one? What if the solution I chose doesn’t work?” This can be very exasperating not only to the person who has anxiety, but also for those around him or her. The person with anxiety often seeks reassurance compulsively from the people closest to them, and often to dissatisfied by the reassurances. This can cause problems in relationships, which further adds to the list of stressors that lead to anxiety.
The interesting thing about the anxiety is that even if you have conclusive evidence that the problem you’re worried about is solved, then like a flock of birds seeking a different resting place, the anxiety flies off to a different destination and then bingo! There’s your new problem to solve and fret over. Again, it’s frustrating for the person with anxiety because he or she thought that by being diligent and fretting over that one item, their anxiety would go away, but alas, it doesn’t. I often ask people in this predicament how worrying solves their problem at hand. They often say that it makes them alert to the loose ends that could fall by the wayside. I see the logic to that, but often anxiety and stress at this level does the opposite of what people want it to do. Instead of being a progenitor of proactive problem solving, it paralyzes them (boy, are there enough p words in that sentence?). There is such a thing as eustress, which is enough stress or tension to be alert and proactive, but not so much that you feel overwhelmed, helpless and scared.
Think about times that you’ve had an issue and solved it without feeling anxiety. Now ask yourself, did the problem get solved as well as it does when you felt anxious solving a problem? Does anxiety actually do what you want it to, or is it just flooding your body and mind with stress chemicals and putting more mileage on your heart? Is it a worthwhile use of your energy, or could you perhaps be just as productive without it? Ask yourself this every time you start feeling anxious about an issue or problem. How is this energy serving me? Is it accomplishing what I want it to do? Can I solve the problem without it? Let this be your mantra and see whether it can help you declare independence from worry. Worry, like angry expressions and sadness, are not just emotional expressions — they are habits. Like any habit, you need to be mindful and dedicated to break yourself of it. Are you willing to try this today?