6 Steps to End the Worry Trap
The tagline of this blog is “Stop Worrying, Start Living,” paying homage to the book of a similar title by the late Dale Carnegie. His book outlined a plan on how to stop the worry habit and I highly reccomend it even though it’s a classic at this point.
So I thought, what better than to actually write about what I mean when I say “Stop Worrying, Start Living.” I don’t want you to think that I’m simplifying mental illness or making light of problems with anxiety.
Instead, one of my goals in writing posts for this site is to show you that if you’re stuck in an anxious cycle of anticipation anxiety, it’s quite possible that you can’t see your way out of it. It’s a bit like asking a person with depression to envision a bright future; the very nature of the illness makes it impossible to do the one thing that would help.
In essense, anxiety lies to us, particularly social anxiety. It distorts our view of the world, and in this distortion it limits what we think we can do. It limits how we live our life. And, it keeps us stuck.
So when I say “Stop Worrying, Start Living,” I’m giving you permission to ignore those lies. To know that a good life is possible for you but that you just can’t see it because of where you are stuck right now.
The number one worry trap when it comes to social anxiety is the comparison trap. True confidence doesn’t mean that you come away from comparisons feeling like you are better; it means you realize there’s no reason to compare in the first place.
The very first time I realized this was during a role play in graduate school. I was playing the client, and the therapist (a fellow student) asked me to rephrase what I had just said, because I’d compared myself negatively to someone else.
My response was to turn it around and say something about me that was better in comparison to the other person. This quick-thinking student pointed out to me, “But, you’re still comparing.”
Unfortunately, we all grow up in a world that values comparison. We’re compared for our grades, our athletic performance, who’s taller and who’s shorter.. the list never ends. If you want to stop comparing, you need to consciously be aware that you’re doing it and make a point of stopping.
What do you wish were different? As long as you are pining after something different than what you already have, you’ve set yourself up to feel unhappy and of course worry about what you can do to change it.
It may sound counterintuitive, but the very first step to getting your dream life is to accept everything the way it is right now.
Dale Carnegie refers to this as accepting the worse outcome, and then calmly working toward a better one. The reason this works is because you can’t make changes from a place of worry and fear.
Recognize Your Strengths
What strengths do you already have that you choose to ignore? When we worry that we’re not good enough, we develop tunnel vision and fail to see all the things about us that are already so good.
We ignore what we do well, or say that it doesn’t matter. When we find sucess, we downplay it as luck.
Turn that around, and stop downplaying your strengths. They are what you need to build on.
Realize Change Is Possible
I see the same posts over and over again in Facebook groups of people with social anxiety: the basic message is that I hate my life, nothing’s ever going to change, and everything is awful.
I honestly wish I could reach through the computer screen sometimes and talk to these people.
I know social anxiety often leads to depression, but I also think a lot of the time there is a mindset around social anxiety and worry that there’s no hope or no answer.
But it’s actually the exact opposite: there’s a lot of things you can do and it doesn’t have to be this way. But you’ve got to believe change is possible.
That being said, change is not easy. I think a lot of the time, people think that you can get from A to B without doing the work.
You read a self-help book but don’t do any of the exercises, and then wonder why your life didn’t change (trust me, I’ve done this too).
So on the flip side, it’s only easy when you do the work. Worry is a habit that takes time and effort to break. It might take medication. It might take therapy. What have you tried? Don’t try nothing and be all out of ideas.
If you’re truly struggling, I suggest talking to your doctor or a therapist (I’ve used and recommend Betterhelp to access therapy online for an affordable price).
Do you hold on to your worry because it feels like it’s helping you or keeping you safe? As though, if you aren’t worrying you aren’t doing a good job of protecting yourself?
I’m no stranger to this destructive habit. When faced with a project that seems insurmountable or learning a new skill, it feels like the harder I worry the more prepared I will be. But that’s just a lie.
Sure, a bit of worry might spur you into action, but non-stop worry just prevents you from taking action.
Instead, identify some concrete things you can do to prepare for the thing you are worrying about. Taking action will almost certainly make you feel better than just worrying.
In summary, in order to stop worrying, it’s best to stop comparing, practice acceptance, recognize strengths, realize change is possible, get help, and take action. Still not sure where to start? A Betterhelp therapist could give you the clarity you need.
Related Articles About Worrying
- 5 Tips to Manage the Fear of Being Judged
- 11 Signs of Social Anxiety
- 8 Facts About CBD Oil for Social Anxiety