Please note: the original version of this post was written in a very drowsy state after taking Benadryl. The pharmaceutical company needs to put “Do not blog while taking this medication” on the label; there were unfinished sentences and thoughts that went nowhere and loads of typos. I feel better now, so hopefully I can turn the post into something that makes a bit more sense.
Don’t worry, I haven’t gone all “Top 40” on you, though I do like to fit an 80’s tune in wherever I can.
Not worrying is very difficult for me. Life is uncertain; uncertainty brings fear, and fear, anxiety. I have lived the greater part of my life being anxious about the future.
Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~Leo Buscaglia
I need to break that cycle. It will take determination and conscious work, but it can be done. It’s all a matter of reframing the thoughts I have about my life and my experiences, choosing healthy, appropriate thoughts over negative, anxiety-producing ones.
When Quinland was little, we learned how to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help her overcome OCD behaviors brought on by PANDAS. Through this training, we taught her to take each obsessive thought and confront it: “What if that happens? Then what? What’s the worse thing that could result from that?” Though it was difficult, confronting the thoughts directly lessened their power over her mind. She was able to see the reality much more clearly.
Somehow our devils are never quite what we expect when we meet them face to face. ~Nelson DeMille
CBT for worry and anxiety works in a similar fashion. It involves looking at your automatic (negative) thoughts and replacing them with thoughts that are realistic. Researchers have identified quite a few types of these automatic thoughts. The ones I fall victim to most often are:
- personalizing (thinking things must be my fault, though I have no proof),
- catastrophizing (thinking everything will turn out badly),
- black-and-white thinking (using words like always/never/everyone/no one),
- mind reading (assuming I know people’s opinions or motivations),
- labeling (good old name-calling),
- shoulds (having a hidden agenda for what I/others ought to be doing, and getting upset if it isn’t done), and
- a mentality of fairness (thinking that people should do everything exactly fairly – which, of course, rarely happens).
Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. ~Arthur Somers Roche
To still the “thin stream of fear” from cutting a deeper channel, these types of thinking are replaced, instead, with reality-based thoughts. Instead of “I am such a failure (Labeling); I’ll never get organized. (Black-and-White Thinking),” I could tell myself, “There are things in this room that are not where they belong. Still, I am a lot more organized than I used to be. I have made great progress.” Instead of “If I don’t get this paperwork turned in, I’m going to let everyone down (Black-and-White Thinking) and people are never going to want to work with me again! (Catastrophizing), ” I could say, “It would have saved trouble to get the paperwork done on time. So-and-so might be upset with me, because her job would have been easier if she had the paperwork sooner.” In both examples, I was realistic about the problem; I didn’t try to sweep it under the rug. I was also realistic about the potential results: Yes, people might be upset; no, it won’t be everyone and it won’t be the end of the world.
If you treat every situation as a life and death matter, you’ll die a lot of times. ~Dean Smith
It’s a pretty freeing concept: when I succumb to unhealthy negative thoughts – even when I just think them automatically – I actually cause myself to be anxious. The cause of my anxiety is not the situation itself, but all the power and fear that I give it by the way I think about it. If I am the cause of my own worries, then I have the power to take the worry away.
Sometimes it is also necessary to take a physical step back as well. Let me illustrate what I mean:
I cannot watch Quinland jump on a trampoline. The child has broken four bones in her arms through accidents (bunk bed, scooter, bike, bike). I can’t bear to think of what a trampoline might do to her. In addition, my insurance license training has taught me that trampolines are dangerous, statistically. People get hurt on them. They cause many claims. To me, Quinland + trampoline = probable death and possible brain damage.
Yet I let her jump on trampolines when I am not around. Why? Because I have taken my catastrophic thought – Quinland will die – and replaced it with a more realistic one – Quinland could get hurt on a trampoline, but she probably won’t. It’s hard, sometimes, for me to buy into what I know is reasonable and appropriate. In those cases, I have to do the next best thing: back away so I don’t have to see it. If I don’t watch, I don’t have to worry. It’s not a perfect system, but it helps.
We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday’s burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it. ~John Newton
I’ve been trying this week to be aware of the negative thoughts as they surface and to try to let them just float by. Hopefully, I will get so good at it that the only automatic thoughts I have will be positive ones.
- I’m grateful! for the sunshine we have had this week. It’s great to see the London area in all its summertime glory.