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  • Susan Fletcher, Ph.D.

Worry is the Misuse of Imagination

I think the Swedish proverb is true that worry gives a small thing a big shadow. If you caught the Fox 4 Good Day program last week you saw me say, "Worry is the misuse of imagination." Most anxiety is obsessive and repetitive. Telling someone not to worry further encourages that person to keep the worry to him or herself. It's important to learn how to extinguish the anxiety so daily satisfaction can be increased. Use these Smart Moves to minimize chronic worry:

  • Know the difference between good and bad worry. If you live in a high crime area it's good to worry about being out alone at night. Living in fear that someone with a rare disease will breathe or cough in your face is unrealistic worry.

  • Set up a "scheduled worry" period. Instead of giving your worries full attention whenever they hit your mind, set up a 15-20 minute period where you can give your worries full attention. Then, defer worrying until the scheduled times.

  • Avoid what-iffing about situations. Stay in the here-and-now.

  • Is there evidence? Ask yourself: "Am I trying to control things out of my control?" "On my deathbed will I be glad I worried about this?" "Will this matter to me next year, next month or next week?"

  • Use worry to your advantage. If you've been goofing off and not preparing well for an upcoming project then worry can help you spring into action. But don't let worry be a substitute for taking action.

  • Seek treatment from a professional. Treatment doesn't always mean medication is necessary. If there are significant physiological symptoms and impairment in daily functioning, medication prescribed by a physician with specialized knowledge in the treatment of anxiety can give greater relief quicker than when medication is not used. More importantly, medication can provide the kind of relief and stabilize the anxiety so other forms of treatment are effective long-term. Click here to read my blog posting on how to find a good psychologist or psychiatrist.

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