Is Worrying Helpful?

Positive Beliefs About Worrying: Is it helpful to worry?

Everyone has some sort of positive belief about worrying; otherwise we wouldn’t do it. Worriers tend to think that if they if they think about these worries over and over, it can be helpful. Some common beliefs include…

  • Worrying helps me cope with things
  • Worrying helps me solve problems
  • If I worry, I’ll be motivated to do things
  • Worrying prepares me for anything
  • Worrying helps me understand things
  • Worrying shows I care

Changing  your Beliefs

As in previous posts, to challenge your beliefs it’s important to look at the evidence for and against the idea that worrying is helpful. Try writing the list of the evidence both for and against on a piece of paper.

Evidence For…

  • What makes you think worrying is helpful?
  • What’s the evidence for your positive beliefs?
  • Can you specifically describe how it helps?
  • Is the evidence for your beliefs good/solid/reliable?
  • Is there another way the evidence for your beliefs could be viewed?

Evidence Against…

  • Is there any evidence that goes against your positive beliefs about worrying?
  • What is the aim of your worrying? Does worrying really achieve this aim?
  • Is there something else that can help you reach your aims without worrying? (i.e. problem solving or taking action)
  • What’s the difference between worrying and problem solving?
  • Have there been situations where you haven’t worried, and things have still turned out okay?
  • Have there been situations where you have worried and that has actually made things worse?
  • What are the disadvantages to worrying?

Experimenting with your Beliefs

If you believe that worrying is helpful and beneficial, then you need to compare what happens when  you increase your worrying with what happens when you decrease it. If things don’t change when you worry and when you don’t worry, or if things are worse when you worry and better when you don’t worry, then your beliefs about the positive benefits of worry don’t hold up.

Experiment: Up and Down Worrying

Day 1 (Down Worry): On this first day, attempt not to worry at all or very minimally for the entire day. You can try using postponement strategies and leave it for the following day.

Day 2 (Up Worry): On this second day, try to increase your worrying and re-visit that old habit. use the worries you collected over the previous day, as well as worries that present themselves throughout this day, and have a field day chasing the worrisome thoughts.

Day 3: Turn the worry DOWN.

Day 4: Turn the worry UP (etc, etc…)

Try out…

Try this experiment out, and let us know how you get on! What did you notice when you turned the volume the worry up vs. down?

Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

This article was adapted from:

Saulsman, L., Nathan. P., Lim, L., Correia, H., Anderson, R. & Campbell, B. (2015). What? Me Worry!?! Mastering your worries. Perth, Western Australia: Centre for Clinical Interventions.

Positive Beliefs About Worrying: Is it helpful to worry?
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