Worrying is a part of human nature. Our minds consider the “worst case scenario” from an evolutionary perspective to protect us from danger, but in reality, these worries can be all-consuming, and take away from our ability to live in the moment and enjoy it.
Consider a typical female living in New Jersey. Let’s call her Kathy. She’s 37 years old, and has two kids who are four and nine years old. She has a job, gets home every day around 5, spends time with her family, and prepares for her next day.
On the surface she is happy, and has everything she needs, but she worries constantly. She thinks about her health, and what would happen to her family if she suddenly got sick and passed away. She thinks about her kids going to school in an age where school shootings are the norm. She thinks about how attractive she feels, and often wonders if her husband, who she met at age 22, still finds her beautiful. She worries about money. Will they have enough to send the kids to the colleges they want? Will they be able to retire when they want?
These thoughts feel endless and unstoppable, often keeping her up at night. But there are actionable steps one can take to help manage such worries.
Don’t get caught up in common cognitive distortions.
Cognitive distortions are essentially tricks our brain plays on us that make our thinking unhelpful. For example, Kathy is engaging in mind-reading by assuming her husband may not find her beautiful anymore, and catastrophizing by imagining that she’ll suddenly fall ill and leave her family to fend for themselves. Identifying such cognitive distortions may help her manage them more effectively. Knowing that these are patterns that our brains typically go to automatically may help to control them.