Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Worry Cure

It is so green and beautiful here. The rain really did it's work and since I've been back we've had nothing but cool (50-60F), sunny days. I wish I had more time to get out of the city and go to a park or to the beach or something, but for now I'm just happy that it's light at 7:00pm and it's not freezing cold here.

I've been reading another book by Robert Leahy, who wrote one of the cognitive behavioral therapy books I wrote about in a recent post. It's called The Worry Cure and it is full of much of the same type of advice as his other book, but is specifically geared towards worry and anxiety. One of the first things he talks about is dividing your worry between productive and unproductive worries. Can you take action on what you are worried about in the near future? No? Then, it's an unproductive worry. The idea is to figure out which worries are productive and turn them into tasks. And, for the unproductive worries, there is lots more advice. He advocates distracting yourself when you get really anxious or upset about something with statements about what is happening in the present moment (mindfulness), like "I am sitting at my computer.", "I am breathing in and out.", "There are kids playing on the playground outside.", "Nashira is sitting on the bed.", "A car is passing by.", etc. This is very useful. Also, he recommends redirecting thoughts from worries about what someone else is thinking or feeling to asking, "What do I want to do right now?" and "What is important to me?" (because, he says, you can never know for sure what someone else is thinking or feeling). I have also continued to use the "feared fantasy" exercise repeatedly. When I notice that I'm avoiding thinking about something because I think it's too painful, I force myself to think about it and I exaggerate it. In some (but not all) cases, it's incredibly relieving. In the cases where it's not immediately helpful, it still clarifies further for me what the issue is that I need to resolve. Also, Leahy says that chronic worriers are people who are intolerant of uncertainty. They always want to know everything for sure. They want certainty. But, there is no certainty in an uncertain world. According to Leahy, "the more you can tolerate uncertainty, the less worried you will be." This is definitely true for me. The book has lots of general advice and some specific advice for people who tend to worry about certain things, like relationships, health, and money. As usual, I'm leaving out a lot of what he said, because I'm only concentrating on the things which seemed most useful to me. One other thing I've learned from the book is that I'm not nearly as complex as I thought I was. I tend to worry about the same thing/type of thing repeatedly and it's always triggered by a few specific things, which I have pretty confidently identified through the many exercises assigned. Unfortunately, the worries haven't been totally eradicated, but I definitely feel like I know how to deal with them much better than I did before.

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