Worry as a way to problem solve feels useful. Big hint: It isn’t. How to stop worrying becomes more doable when you think of it as spam. The worry thoughts pop instantly into your inbox, aka brain, with catchy titles and tantalizing “solutions.” Of course you supply those solutions, which allows a new email to pop up! Yay! Another problem to “solve” and you’re off to the races. It actually could be conceived as looking like a zig zag pattern in your mind. You go up with a problem, down with a “solution” so it feels like you are accomplishing something with the “action” of worry. And that zig zag can be infinite.
Worry thoughts, or OCD thoughts, are fearful, stubborn, repetitive, time consuming little squatters in your brain. Would you like a little help to quell them? First you have to understand them.
This is how OCD of the thought variety works when you get intrusive thoughts. You get the thought, and because it feels soooo true, you decide it is, when the content of the thought was really fake, a scam your anxious mind pulled. And even worse, you are stuck with it–just like an evil, annoying spam email virus.
Worry Thoughts Mean You Must Retrain Your Brain
It takes a bit of retraining the brain. This is not easy to do, but it is achievable with a mindful approach and some support along the way. The reason this is tough is because of your amygdala, which is a a little almond shaped organ in your brain that stores all of the possible things, events, and people that have, or might, hurt you. It has triggered your alarm response; the bells are clanging in your head. They feel real, but feelings are not facts, and your anxiety habit is tricking you once again. When your emotions get entangled with those thoughts, it is hard to stop the pattern. But you can figure out the unhelpful self-labeling you apply, or the ways in which you catastrophize your initial thoughts. You jump to so-called forgone conclusions so instantly that you don’t even recognize you did it—again.
The Facts About Feelings
- Feelings, unlike thoughts, involve a physical reaction which often “takes over” the body.
- Feelings exist as a way to get you to take action–it’s what action you choose that is key.
- Feelings do not just appear “out of the blue.” Feelings are a direct result of your thoughts and perceptions.
- Feelings are categorized as simple or complex. Simple emotions are things like anger, sadness, grief, fear, love, or excitement. Complex feelings are a combination of more than one simple emotion.
- Feelings give you energy. If you withhold or suppress feelings, you go through life experiencing a certain numbness or emptiness.
- Feelings can be contagious. You’re likely to feel sad, weepy, and depressed when in the company of someone who’s crying. Conversely, if you surround yourself with happy, enthusiastic company, their positive vibes rub off on you.
- Feelings are not “right” or “wrong.” Feelings exist as reactions.
- Unexpressed feelings can be as damaging as secrets. When you feel something, find your words and speak on it. This is particularly true about the skill of stating what you need in the moment, vs telling someone else what they need to do or change. This is a skill that can be learned and practiced.
Why Struggle Alone?
I simply see no point in struggling with OCD (worry) thoughts alone. A little self reflection easily morphs into way too much rumination. Understand that talk therapy can considerably shorten the time you spend struggling. You don’t have to take my word for it; many research meta studies verify that therapy works.
Shoot me an email if this is the case. Or go to my contact page; there are several ways to reach me. Let’s figure out how to change those spammy worry thoughts together! Press the blue button at the bottom of the page to schedule an appointment.
Page Rutledge, LCSW, MSW, MPH is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker practicing in Wilmington, NC. She specializes in anxiety management and couples communication. Visit her website and blog at www.pagerutledge.com