Are You a Worrier?

Are You a Worrier?

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How much of a worrier are you? Do you generally believe things will work out? Or are you constantly thinking about what could go wrong?

In “Always Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop? Here’s How to Quit Worrying,” Jennifer Taitz writes about how to stop fretting and enjoy your life more:

Ever felt as if the joy of a big win was contaminated with the stress of imagining when the pendulum would swing the other way and something awful would happen to balance it out?

If so, you’re not alone: Often, when driven people care about something and finally experience whatever they’ve been hoping to achieve — whether it’s a new relationship, a health goal, a promotion or something else altogether — they’re unable to entirely savor the good times. They may, in fact, do the exact opposite: endlessly worry about when their peak might plummet.

But taking yourself out of the moment to dread what might happen next won’t prepare you for disaster. Indeed, research has shown that it’s the ability to experience positive emotions that improves our ability to cope with distress. Even better, research from Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside, finds that experiencing positive emotions doesn’t set you up for disappointment, but increases your likelihood of achieving your work, health and relationship aspirations.

Between chasing goals and then worrying about losing your wins, it’s demoralizing to think that you can’t catch a break. But there are research-based techniques that can help you enjoy the nice life turns while quieting the nagging voices that suggest disappointment is waiting just around the corner.

Here are a few things she suggests:

Notice that worrying will only steal your current joy

One underlying reason people worry is that on some level they assume it helps. Yet we need to accept that we can’t perfectly prepare for potential challenges.

“There are an infinite number of bad things that could possibly happen (although most are unlikely), and there is just no way a person can anticipate them all,” according to Dr. Michel Dugas, a psychology professor at the University of Quebec.

Stop writing off hard work as ‘luck’

Humility is a virtue, but it doesn’t need to come at the expense of creating an enduring sense of faith in yourself. When you play down your accomplishments and abilities with self-deprecating attributions, entirely writing off victories to external factors like chance or timing, you not only perpetuate the belief that something negative is on the horizon, you also miss out on the power of self-efficacy — the mind-set that you have the ability to shape your life. Knowing you can rely on yourself motivates us to strive, and predicts your capacity to manage your emotions effectively and achieve what matters.

Focus on your values, not your goals

It’s easy to fall into the trap of measuring your worth by the various achievements you have reached. Instead, ask yourself:

What virtues do I want to embody?

How do I want to show up right now?

What do I want my life to stand for?

Students, read the entire article, then tell us:

  • Would you describe yourself as a worrier? When something good happens, are you always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for something bad to happen? Or are you more optimistic about life? Why do you think this way?

  • Tell us about a time you were especially anxious about something. What were you concerned about and why? How did things turn out? Did worrying help you feel more prepared to face disappointment? Or did it sour the overall experience? If you could do it all again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

  • What strategies do you have to help yourself stop worrying? Which ones from the article do you think would be most useful in your life? Why?

  • If you are a worrier, what do you think your life would be like if you didn’t agonize about the future so much?

Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.