Overcome Worry for a Healthier You

by Kathy Gates

A young person coping with worry or anxiety.

Norman Vincent Peale said, "You are not what you think you are; but what you think, you are." If we follow this philosophy, then most of us are certifiable worry machines. Worry is our greatest energy drain. It distorts our thinking and stops all forward action. Can you control worrying?

First let's make a distinction between worrying and concern. Concern is acknowledging a problem and taking steps to correct it. Worrying is going around in circles, fretting, not thinking, or taking action.

Changing your behavior is a good thing. But sometimes changing your behavior is merely changing what you are doing, and what really matters is changing what you are thinking. Our thinking directs our emotional reaction, which in turn directs our behavior. The way we react to a situation is not just a representation of the events; our reaction also depends on what we think the events mean.

In an article on cognition and behavior, Dr. John W. Bush illustrates how thinking affects our behavior as follows. A friend is an hour late to meet you. Depending on what you think happened (i.e., she was in an accident, she's rude, I wanted to do something else anyway), you might be worried, annoyed, relieved, etc. These feelings (ignited by the thoughts) will then dictate how you react, i.e. calling the police, having angry words for her, or being glad she bailed on you. Notice how directly your thoughts affected how you felt and then directed the actions you took.

So how do you control your thoughts? Through conscious choice and practice. When you realize that you are worrying and fretting and are not practicing concern, try this: Plant your feet firmly in reality, and deal with the facts. Surrender to what you cannot change. Try to improve on it with a plan of action. That way you are thinking, formulating a plan, taking action. End of worrying.

In 'Life Strategies', Dr. Phillip McGraw deals with this idea in another way. He says, "you create your own experience." This means that you understand and accept that the solution to not worry lies within you. It's a matter of choice. Ask yourself, 'what choices, thoughts, and behaviors can I change that will help me worry less?' I'm not suggesting that bad things that may have happened to you were your choice. But as an adult, you do have the choice about how you think about it and deal with it. You create your experience day by day, through the choices you make.

Dr. McGraw also said, "Choosing thoughts contributes to your experience because when you choose your thoughts, you choose the consequences associated with those thoughts." In order to truly change your actions (external), you must change your perceptions (internal). When we are able to alter our perspective, we have control of our thoughts.

There are several ways to shift your perspective in your life. Thomas Leonard, founder of Coach University, identifies these three things: "Finding and addressing the fears that stop you from moving forward. Clarifying your vision, the picture of what you want for your life, so you have a specific destination to move toward. Letting go of the 'shoulds' in your life, doing things others want you to do but that make you miserable."

When you are able to make these shifts, you become internally directed as opposed to externally motivated. It has been said that men and women can banish worry, fear, and even illness by changing their thoughts. What have you got to lose? Change your mind, and you change your life.

Kathy Gates is a Professional Life Coach who believes that "Life Rewards Action". It's what you do TODAY that will make a difference in your tomorrow. She is a Contributing Columnist on several websites, has had more than 100 articles published both online and in print, and her work appears often in various well-known online Newsletters.

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