When worrying goes too far
Like most things, worrying is all about balance. Worry too little and you put yourself in danger; worry too much and you may never leave your house again. Worrying alone won’t solve anything. Even though it sometimes feels like worrying is better than doing nothing, it’s damaging if it doesn’t lead you to act or change, Dr. Smith-Acuña says. How do you know when you’ve crossed the line from adaptive worry to ruminating—or worse? If your worry amplifies danger, escalates anxiety, interferes with good judgment, doesn’t promote problem solving, is obsessive, doesn’t go away when a strategy or plan is developed, or is socially isolating, it’s time to get outside help.
Worry is powerful
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Worrying has gotten a bad rap in our society. We strive to be chill and level-headed and consider people who worry to be alarmist or too tightly wound. While no one is saying that pervasive, generalized anxiety is a good thing (it’s a mental illness actually), everyday worrying has some real advantages. According to a recent study, published in Social & Personality Psychology Compass, a little anxiety is healthy—helping people recover from trauma, be better planners, prepare more thoroughly, live a healthier lifestyle, and even overcome depression. The challenge is to reap the rewards of worrying without going over the edge. The trick, according to Shelly Smith-Acuña, PhD, professor and dean of the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver, lies in how you use your worries. “Adaptive worry alerts you to dangers and threats, clarifies the problem, can lead you to seek help or more information from others, and then helps you solve the problem,” she explains. Here’s how you can worry “the right way.”