Do you consider yourself a worrier? Although everyone worries from time to time, some people are plagued by worry on a daily basis. They tend to fall into a pattern of catastrophic thinking — always preparing for the very worst case scenario. Not only is this mentally and emotionally draining, but physically damaging as well, potentially leading to frequent illness, ulcers and heart problems.
Imagine the following scenario: Your loved one, who is almost always on time, is half an hour late. You try to call, but it goes to voicemail. What is your initial thought? If you automatically imagine a disaster and drop into panic mode, you may not be living the type of life you deserve — one of optimism, peace and contentment.
Worry is essentially negative daydreaming. It is pure imagination. So while daydreams make us feel good by imagining positive scenarios, worry is the imagining of terrible scenarios and allowing ourselves to get a taste of how that experience would feel if it came true. We take one clue (in this case, a loved one is late) and fast-forward to our worst imagined fear, rather than simply assume that he or she is late for myriad other benign reasons.
Why do we do this? Perhaps we believe that it will somehow prepare us for the worst and protect us from the shock. If there were a tiger in the room, for example, we’d keep our eyes on it, watching its every move — we certainly wouldn’t sit down and read a book in its presence. When we worry, the catastrophe that we fear is like that tiger. We are afraid to take our eyes off of it, just in case it decides to attack.
In reality, though, worry does not prepare us nor protect us from disaster. It simply drains our energy levels and steals our joy. If every time our loved one is late, we go through the torture of a car accident scenario, we are in no way preparing or protecting ourselves from it actually happening. And even if our loved one was in a car accident one day, how would worry have helped the situation at all? Just because we had imagined the scenario a hundred times would not make it any easier.
Corrie ten Boom, an amazing Dutch woman who faced the horrible atrocities of the Holocaust and World War II to help save nearly 800 Jews, said that “Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow, it empties today of strength.” Indeed, if she had spent her days in catastrophic worry, it would have most likely left her emotionally paralyzed and unable to help so many people.
So the next time you are tempted to worry, try imagining the best case scenario instead of the worst. If your loved one is late, imagine that you are going to see his or her name pop up on your phone within the next few minutes. Imagine the relief you will feel when that happens. Breathe deeply and feel your body relax. Assume the best.
Yes, bad things do happen sometimes, but they are the exception, not the norm. Don’t make yourself suffer needlessly over imagined scenarios. Let today be a worry-free day.
Worrying photo available from Shutterstock