Letting Go of Worries

This post summarises resources produced by the Centre for Clinical Interventions

 

Worry is future-focused self talk that often takes the form of “what if…” questions. It is often misconstrued as problem solving. It is of little value. Unhelpful strategies to prevent worrying include avoidance and thought control.

 

Avoidance strategies include avoiding opportunities for fear of failure, worry triggers (e.g., the news) and reassurance seeking (e.g., constant checking to allay fears). Unfortunately avoidance limits the opportunity to learn that the outcome isn’t that bad, that worrying is not uncontrollable/ dangerous and that there are other ways to cope besides worrying.

 

Thought control strategies include suppressing worries (e.g., “stop worrying!”), distraction and positive thinking. Thought control strategies often fuel the belief that worrying is uncontrollable. To illustrate the ineffectiveness of thought control, try not to think about.. a pink beetle.

 

The need for certainty is a key factor that drives worry. If you can’t stand uncertainty, you probably think that worrying is a useful way to prepare yourself for the worst. If this is you, worrying probably reduces your experience of uncertainty and unpredictably and in turn, keeps you worrying. Worrying however, only gives the perception of more control. It doesn’t make anything more certain or more predictabe, nor does it change what happens.

 

To challenge intolerance of uncertainty, consider your responses to the following questions: (1) Can you be absolutely certain about everything in life? (2) How has needing certainty in life been helpful to you? (3) How has needing uncertainty in life been unhelpful to you? (4) When you’re uncertain, do you tend to predict something bad will happen (is something good/ neutral just as likely)? (5) What is the likelihood that your prediction will happen (if low, could you live with this small chance)? (6) Are there some uncertainties in yur life that you can live with (how do you do this)?

 

Letting go is the opposite of engaging with, chasing, reacting, controlling and reasoning with worry. To let go:

  1. Acknowlege the presence of worries (e.g., “here comes a worry”).
  2. Don’t respond. Observe with interest. Don’t judge. Don’t try to change it/ them. Allow them to be.
  3. Let go. Think of letting the worries pass like slow moving clouds. Release the worries and let them wash over you. Remember, worries are not facts, they are thoughts. They are not helpful. Let them go.
  4. Be present-focused. If you focus on the simple things going on around you, you cannot worry.

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