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 Generalist
You worry as a way of life, about everything and nothing in particular. Your brain is always in worry mode; you're not even sure what else your brain is for. You're as likely to worry about whether the waiter will mess up your order as you are about getting to the bank before it closes. Sometimes you may even worry as a way of filling time.
To change your worry habits (and reduce the wear and tear on your mind and body), you'll need to learn to distinguish between productive and unproductive worry, says Leahy. "Ask yourself what you're getting out of worrying," he suggests. Does it help you get more prepared or more anxious? Does it hone your attention or scatter it? Worrying about the outline of a speech you're about to give, for example, may motivate you to plan carefully -- which Leahy calls productive worry. But if you're consumed by "What if no one shows up?" that's unproductive worry, and it provokes anxiety (especially since you can't do anything about it).
Separate the Wheat from the Chaff
Jot down every worry that's buzzing through your mind right now. Don't think; just write for two minutes straight. Then review your list. Which worries have a corresponding action? For those, write down the action (confirm the tickets, call the doctor, pay that bill). Your unproductive worries are those without a corresponding action. They represent nothing but a waste of time and energy -- so cross them off.
Try this a few times throughout the week and analyze your findings. What percentage of your worries are unproductive? Fifty percent? Ten percent? When you become more aware of how much time you spend on unproductive worries, you'll get better at refocusing that time elsewhere.
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
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