What's cycling through your mind without an end in sight?

What’s cycling through your mind without an end in sight?

Worrying is based on the illusion that by expending negative mental energy you will somehow (magic?) make the situation turn out all right or prevent a catastrophe. We anticipate that something will go wrong or not turn out the way we want it to and doubt that we are capable of managing or controlling the situation.

I worry that a family member’s life choices will limit their career options.

Step One:

Who’s problem is this? You may find that you are cycling around this issue because it’s out of your control and/or not your business. In my case it is out of my control but is partially or was my business.


Step Two:

What to do it if it is out of my control? How do I stop the worrying thoughts and the hamster wheel?

One method is to use Thought Stopping Techniques such as those described in Pathways to Personal Growth by J.M. Witmer.

  • Identify the stressful thought, e.g., “I am worried that if s/he doesn’t buckle down and do well in school they will be working low-paying jobs for the rest of their lives.”
  • Use a shocking interruption in the midst of the stressful thought, e.g., “STOP”. Say it out loud if you can. Or place an elastic around your wrist and snap it the next time you are aware of this pattern.
  • Substitute a positive, assertive thought for the stressful one, e.g., “They are smart and doing the best they can,” or “Worry won’t make a difference, deep breath, back to the present”.

Step Three:

If your situation is your business and is even partially in your control then DO NOT use Thought Stopping Techniques as a means to continuously avoid dealing with it. Instead find a confidant or coach to help you choose a problem-solving technique and draft up an action plan. Once there is a resolution or action plan then stressful thoughts tend to fade away.