Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Ways to work yourself out of worry

Get yourself through worrying that’s unproductive, advises Holly Hazlett-Stevens, psychology professor and author of “Women Who Worry Too Much,’’ by following these steps:

  • Get specific. Identify what you’re saying to yourself. What are you predicting will happen?

  • Generate alternatives. Brainstorm other outcomes or interpretations of your situation. If you are worrying about what your boss thinks of you, decide that there is nothing you can do other than get back to work on your project. That way, you postpone those worries to a specific worry period. Then, when you let yourself worry, figure out what you’re afraid might happen around your boss, Hazlett-Stevens says. If you’re afraid you’ll be fired, then think of what else could happen. For example, you could instead get mediocre evaluations for 10 years and keep your job. You could be promoted. Or you could decide you want to find another job.

  • Look at the evidence. Examine the likelihood of the possibilities. Force yourself to get objective. “How do I know I could be fired? What has this boss told me in past evaluations? What’s my record?’’

In doing so, you’ll figure out if your worries are well-founded.

  • Suppose the worst did happen. What would you do? Try to put yourself in a situation. Then, instead of trying to not be anxious and worry anymore, you figure out how you would handle the worst. “People often underestimate how well they will cope,’’ Hazlett-Stevens says.

  • Explore new perspectives. Review everything you discovered and try to summarise it in a more balanced perspective. You may then realise that you don’t have good reasons to think you are at risk for, say, getting fired. But even if you do, you can start to understand that ``it really doesn’t mean anything about me as a person, and I’d deal with it the best I could,’’ Hazlett-Stevens says. “It’s a new way of talking to yourself about it.’’ And in doing so, maybe that sheep-counting will disappear at night.

LA Times-Washington Post