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So, what can you do?
Well, the first thing you can do is challenge your beliefs about your worries and what it means to worry. Perhaps most importantly, worrying about something a lot does not mean that it is important and worrying a lot doesn’t mean you are going to lose control. What it probably means is that you are trying very hard to push something out of your mind and as a result you are thinking about it more and more…The more you try to avoid thinking about something the more you think about it.
One way to think about this is to understand that people have weird thoughts and worries all of the time. 99% of people will admit to strange worries and thoughts. Common thoughts include thoughts about sex and harm to self or others. However, most people dismiss these common thoughts as…junk! In contrast, people who worry a lot often don’t see their worries as being “junk.” They see their worries as meaning something important about the worry or themselves. Think about it like this…
Everybody dreams. Some people dream more than others but everybody has a had a dream and everybody has had a weird dream. You can think lots of things about dreams. Some people think that dreams are important and mean something about themselves and the future. They spend a lot of time thinking about their dreams and trying to understand what their dreams are “telling” them. Other people see dreams as “junk.” Dreams can be interesting and amusing or scary and disturbing but at the end of the day they are mostly junk. You can think of worries in the same way. Maybe they mean something important but they are probably just junk.
Another way to think about worries is to think of them as the “spam of the mind.” If you have an email account, you know what spam is. Spam arrives in your mailbox and is often designed to look “important!” but it’s just spam. But lets get back to avoidance.
If avoiding thinking about something leads to thinking about more and more, the solution is to NOT avoid thinking about it. Remember, the solution to the “white bear” problem is to not avoid thinking about white bears. Once you start thinking about them, they kind of fade away. Similarly, the solution to the worry problem I to not avoid your worries but to spend time thinking about them one by one.Cognitive exposure to worries can look a lot like Worry Time but here area couple of important differences. First, Worry Time is used as a technique to delay worry to a specific time everyday. However, during Worry Time you can worry about anything and everything you want. In contrast, during cognitive exposure you set a time of one half hour or an hour to worry about one thing really well. Basically what you do is write down your worry in as much detail as possible. Write down the story of the worst thing that can happen. Pretend you are writing a short story with a bad ending. Write down the story in as much detail as possible. Add sights and sounds and smells to make it as real as possible. One important rule is that there cannot be a happy ending. Another rule is that the story should take 5 minutes or more to read out loud. Then either tape the story and listen to it over and over again or read it out loud over and over. The idea is that you read or listen to the same story over and over again for one half hour to one hour every day until your anxiety while reading the story goes down. Then you move on to the next worry.