Can We Decide Not to Worry?

English: Biting one's lip can be a physical ma...

Anxious Child. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was an anxious child and an anxious teenager. After I graduated high school, I distinctly remember saying to myself, “Enough worrying. You’re going to college. Relax and have a good time.” And I did. I didn’t worry about my grades (a big worry in high school even though my grades were great) or my social life, or anything for that matter. I didn’t slack off; I just didn’t worry. It’s amazing, now that I think of it. How is it that I could stop worrying so easily?

My worrying and anxiety came back with a vengeance after going through a difficult time, and learning a tough lesson. Bad things, horrible things, really do happen randomly, for no obvious reasons. The world is a dangerous place where things can go wrong, and so much is out of our control. And of course at that point I didn’t just worry about myself, but also my children, my husband, my entire family and my friends. So much stuff and so many people to worry about! When there was a lull in the action, when there was nothing pressing for me to worry about, I worried that there was nothing to worry about. Seriously. I’d get an unsettled feeling and would actually search for things to agonize over. It’s what my brain had become used to; what it craved.

Blogging about OCD and learning more about anxiety and neuroplasticity have helped me through my own journey with anxiety. Over the past couple of years I have again chosen not to worry. It hasn’t been as easy to follow through with this decision as it was when I was in college, but I’m trying, and it works, most of the time.

Now I’m not for a minute suggesting that those with OCD can just decide not to worry. I don’t have OCD, and I know the severity of the worst anxiety I’ve felt is nowhere near what OCD sufferers experience routinely. What I am saying is it is possible to change the way we think. If I can do it, others can too. Some people can do it on their own, and others might need help. For those with OCD,  working with an OCD specialist and engaging in Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy will help retrain their brains. It’s not easy; in fact it can be extremely difficult. But the hard work is so worth it and the payoff is huge: less worry, and freedom from OCD.

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15 Responses to Can We Decide Not to Worry?

  1. Briana says:

    In recent months I have been able to make an intense, strenuous effort to not worry about whatever particular issue/episode I am experiencing. I turn to my Christian faith. Sometimes I find success and sometimes not. OCD is mentally painful! The things that trigger my OCD, they seems so far fetched and just sheer nuts sometimes. Another thing I have to force myself to do is think rationally and realistically. My OCD if fear based. Simple as that. Thankfully, I can go many, many days with no “episode”, but I know I’ll always be susceptible. Trying to change my frame of mind about OCD issues/episodes is a relatively new angle I am taking to fight back. Yes, it’s so hard, but I can’t just not try.

  2. 71º & Sunny says:

    Thanks for sharing your own struggles with anxiety, Janet. Oh, it’s so easy to think I’ve got the corner market on worry!

    You are right of course – we MUST change our thinking if we are to fight anxiety. I definitely couldn’t do it on my own, so the help of CBT was a literal life saver for me. I’ve been out of therapy for about a year and a half now, and unfortunately, I’m seeing some of the old thinking creeping back in. It’s really, really hard to change the way you think and to keep it changed. I have to be vigilant about it.

    • Thanks for sharing, Sunny. I guess it’s an ongoing process for all of us, in different degrees. I know from your blog how hard you work at fighting your OCD, and I think you inspire others to do the same, so thanks for that!

  3. Thanks for a great post, Janet. I think it’s helpful to make a decision not to worry, as you did, even though it doesn’t happen overnight or without hard work. Keeping that idea out there–“I’m not going to worry”–helps keep us focused and pushing back those anxious thoughts. For whatever reason(s), my OCD seems to be better and the anxious thoughts easier to “let go.” But I’ve still got a ways to go.

  4. steve0reno says:

    It’s very interesting how much we can re program the brain, but how quickly it can seem to wire back to it’s anxious state, sometimes worse.

    • Good point, Steveoreno. Which is why it’s even more important to keep up with therapy or whatever helps us move toward that “less anxious” state. Thanks for sharing!

      • Briana says:

        I began another battle with one of my fears last weekend. It seemed to subside but it’s back again. Just like that! I’m trying the cbt and my husband is telling me it’s my OCD. When OCD makes it seem so real, it is so hard to tell yourself not to worry. You know? I can go so long with no OCD issues and when I’m on an OCD free stretch, I see no need to return to therapy. Anyone know of some helpful self help books?

      • I’m sorry you’ve been having a tough time lately, Briana. I’d also be interested in what self-help books readers would recommend. And there’s always therapy if you need it, too. I’m thinking of you!

      • hayley says:

        I recommend The OCD Workbook and Brain Lock, There’s a bunch of great OCD book actually, lol 😀

  5. rudyoldeschulte says:

    It is always amazing to me how many ways people find to manage, to control, to take charge of their anxiety…It can be a struggle, but then one must keep up the battle, for it seldom ends entirely….

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