Worry filtering strategies

Worrying too much? How to develop from an amateur worrier into a professional worrier.

Do you find yourself worrying excessively about a variety of issues?

The bad news is that there isn’t such thing as a cure for worry if you are looking for one. The good news is that you do not need one. Without predicting the worst you may run the risks of putting yourself in real danger.

Therefore the function of the worry is to protect you, to make you vigilant, to alert you on a current or hypothetical problem. And this is where your power lies, in differentiating between current and hypothetical worries (about situations that have not happened yet: What if I get dementia when I get old?, What if the pain that I have is a serious illness? What if I get sacked? What if my son will have no prospects in life as he is resisting any learning now?).

Try out:
1. Is my worry about a current problem? This requires problem solving.
2. Is my worry about a problem that might happen or might not happen in the future? This requires worry filtering strategies (discussed below).

Categorising the worry is an important step in dealing with the worries as they arise. People who do not tolerate uncertainty very well are more likely to worry as a way of transforming uncertainty into certainty.

Let's get to know our worries…

The trademark for worries are ‘what if’ scenarios. Worries also come to our mind as questions (they come in disguise as questions can not be questioned). Try to transform the questions into affirmations: I will get dementia when I get old. I will have a serious illness. I will be sacked. My son will have no prospects and will end up jobless and homeless.

The worry is fuelled by beliefs that worrying is good for you (you might not even be aware of this):

  • If I worry I will get things done.
  • Worry prepares me.
  • Worry shows that I care.

Such beliefs make us more likely to worry. They are not necessarily erroneous, however it is proven that the usefulness of the worry decreases as the worry becomes excessive. A parent worrying for the safety of the child might not be available to play with the child when ‘the thinking’ takes over ‘the doing’.

Try asking yourself:

  • How is worrying good for me?
  • Do I actually solve my problems by worrying, or am I just thinking about them?
  • Am I confusing a worry with an action?
  • Has anything bad happened without having thought about it?

Rather than worrying about a problem it is better to solve it. Unfortunately attempting to solve a problem that has not happened yet is counterproductive. We might not be able to do anything now about getting dementia when of old age.

How do we view problems is another important step in claiming the ‘less worry’ status. When we see a problem as a barrier/obstacle we become more frustrated, irritable and anxious. Seeing a problem as an opportunity will help us accept and tolerate situations that we can not do anything about. Try imagining the problem is an opportunity for me to...

Famous quotes about worry have slowly become necessities of life:
My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened’. - La Fontaine.
‘Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.’ - Dale Carnegie
“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” - Corrie ten Boom
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” - Marcus Aurelius

The worry does not change an event but it does change how anxious you are about it.

Try the worry filtering strategies (you decide which one applies to which worry/situation/problem).

1. ‘Worry tree’: Can I do something about it? No: postpose the worry. Yes: Can I do something about it now or later? Now: decide on action and do it. Later: decide when, plan when and how and postpone worry for when the time is right for you to worry and do something about it.

2. Possibility vs probability. It is possible for the queen to come through the door, however the probability of that is very small. Everything is possible; probability increases or decreases with what we do or don’t do. If we drink drive, we increase the risk of having an accident.

3. Ideal/worst/more likely to happen scenario. What is the worst that could happen? What is the ideal? What is more likely to happen and what sensible steps do I need to take?

4. Generating an alternative plausible explanation to our own interpretations. Has your smoke alarm ever gone off whilst cooking? Although the alarm signals fire you have an alternative plausible explanation: if it is not the fire… it is the cooking. Bodily symptoms of being lightheaded: if it is not that I am going to faint then what is it?

5. How is the worry reflecting my journey in life, my knowledge of the world, places I have been, seen, situations that I have witnessed? We tend to worry about things that we have either experienced or witnessed others experiencing it. What are the things that could happen but we do not think of?

6. 'I will cross that bridge when I get to it’ strategy. Help yourself postpone the worry.

7. ‘How will I cross that bridge when I get to it?’ strategy works with worries that come back to us.

8. ‘I am looking forward to the worry happening' is the most tricky strategy of all. How dare us to think of looking forward to a problem happening?

The moral of these notes is that the problem with the worry lies within its frequency - the more we worry the more anxious we get. Some people worry more than others. Worrying less is the way forward and many sufferers will agree that worrying less has its difficulties. The cognitive strategies (problems solving and worry filtering strategies) will help you alongside routinely or ad-hoc physical exercise and grounding strategies (engaging with the here and now with all our senses: cooking, gardening, painting, listening to music).

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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