In our worry feature, we identified six types of worriers and asked experts, including a Buddhist psychotherapist and a social-science researcher, to show us how each type can get a handle on their hand-wringing. Is this one you?
Worry Profile: The Existentialist
You're haunted by larger, looming questions, such as "What is the point of life?" and "What does it all mean?" It feels trivial to go about your day without pondering the big-picture implications to everything.
As an Existentialist, it may seem that you're doing the big thinking for the rest of us, but you may just be adding larger portions to your worry plate. Not that a little intellectual discourse doesn't make for compelling conversation, but when you prioritize metaphysical worry over more urgent matters (your job, your relationships, your finances), you may be adding to your despair. "Interestingly, many contemplative traditions like Buddhism and yoga recommend against getting caught up in vast and fruitless philosophical deliberations," says Cope. "Instead, they teach you to focus on the present and what's in front of you right now." He adds that the need to get caught up in big, airy topics can signify a kind of denial. "It's much more beneficial to bring your awareness, energy, and attention closer to home," says Cope.
Just as smaller worries tend to mask larger issues centering on self-image and social acceptance, bigger fears also often belie the issue at hand. First, identify what bigger-issue worries consume you and how often (every morning when you awake? after the news?). What are those worries distracting you from? Second, give yourself space to engage in your own intellectual curiosity -- minus the accompanying fearful emotions -- by channeling it more beneficially. Take an adult education class on Nietzsche at a local college, for instance, or start a book club where you can read and discuss the bigger issues together. That way you feed your zest for inquiry without letting it overwhelm you.
Psychotherapist and yoga expert Stephen Cope, author of "The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living"; Dr. Robert Leahy, cognitive psychologist and author of "The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You."
Text by Terri Trespicio; illustrations by Laura Levine