Depression brings with it plenty of worries.
“Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.” Swedish proverb.
I like to think of worry as a weed. Unless it is dealt with, it can infiltrate every aspect of thinking and be all consuming. Chronic worry can paralyze the ability to make decisions, produce fear about the future, about health, relationships and other peoples’ perceptions of you, and cause prolonged periods of stress. It is a common feature of depression, and also the basis of anxiety disorders that are separate from, and also coexist with, depression. Worry, anxiety and depression are close friends.
“Love looks forward, hate looks back, anxiety has eyes all over its head.”
Worry predicts the bleakest results, the least desirable outcomes. And sometimes worry is a mind-set without a target; we’re not really sure what there is to be so uneasy about.
“Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.”
The positive news is that you can challenge worry. A good technique is mindfulness.
During the day our minds constantly make decisions and weigh up options – everything from the mundane to the most important. A good healthy thought in response to an option empowers us; worrying about the option is unsettling. Worries aren’t normally realistic but powered by imagination and fear. We imagine ourselves in all sorts of unpleasant situations, like being rejected by someone we respect, not measuring up, fearing that someone we love will be in an accident, or that our work is not up to scratch. This is worry, and needs to be identified as such.
Being mindful of worry simply means that we realize it is there, it is affecting our thoughts, and influencing our actions.
Challenging worry is what we do once we are mindful of it. This is when we take our thoughts back – you can’t cut out worry from your thoughts without first challenging it. As with anything in life, from riding a bike, to cooking, to any kind of hobby – challenging worry takes practice. When you feel your thoughts being led by worry, begin to imagine all the millions of times that things worked out okay, when you succeeded at what you tried.
“Do you remember the things you were worrying about a year ago? How did they work out? Didn’t you waste a lot of fruitless energy on account of most of them? Didn’t most of them turn out all right after all?”
If “what-ifs” are all you can think of, challenge those thoughts too. You can begin to actively “what-if” into the positive realm, where things are okay. What would it look like if things went the most ideal way? How would you look and behave?
Identifying your worries and challenging them will help you reclaim your mind, cutting out the weeds one worrying thought at a time.
“It ain’t no use putting up your umbrella till it rains.”
Alice Caldwell Rice