I love when guests bring an emotion for discussion a second, third or fourth time. As Ted Lasso would say, “I feel like we fell out of the lucky tree and hit every branch on the way down, ended up in a pool of cash and Sour Patch Kids.” I am so excited to talk with you Jennifer about worry, as I imagine your vast experience in leadership and crisis management will be truly illuminating. I was fortunate to host outerwear designer J’Amy Tarr in season one for a discussion about worry and our discussion led to a really great conversation, including a realization that how we behave is often incongruent from what we feel. Sometimes worry is expressed like anger, sadness is expressed as aggression, anxiety as aloofness. I think we all know this incongruence exists, but it really deserves to be talked about a lot more. And I can't wait to get your take on this Jennifer, but before we dive in, I want to review some hard science about worry to catch everyone up to speed. Sound good?
Okay away we go!
When discussing worry, it is important to distinguish worry from other common stress states like anxiety. Simply put, worry is cognitive, fact based, and temporary. Worry rests in cognition and is usually constrained to our thoughts alone. It is rooted in something that is reality based. Like worrying we will be late for work, or forget our presentation during an important work meeting. Worry is also fleeting and will go away once the event is over, and/or we take steps to ensure fewer possible missteps or unexpected occurrences. Leaving extra time to get to the airport before travel, double checking your laptop and saving your presentation for the next day before heading to bed. Making decisions to keep your morning more predictable on a big day. Often making plans and taking actionable steps will soothe our worries. Sometimes worry can often turn to rumination, where we might run through similar thoughts over and over again, but most significantly worry is free from physical symptoms. On the other hand Anxiety, along with experiencing racing thoughts and strong emotions, will also include psychical symptoms like a racing heart, upset stomach, and a tight chest. Sometimes these symptoms will increase in severity until they interrupt our daily function. When this is the case, we need to seek out help to manage both the cognitive and physical symptoms. That’s of course where therapy and medication can help. But when it comes to worry, worry actually serves us more than it hurts us. Worry is likely to cause us to take action, be proactive, and prepared. All good qualities. But when it comes to complex problem solving, worry doesn;t do us any justice.
Towson University psychologist and worry specialist Dr. Sandra Llera comments,
“Regarding the problem-solving myth, in a new study we tested whether people were better at solving a real-life problem if they worried about it, or thought about it in a more objective, less catastrophic manner. We found that people who had worried about their problem generated slightly less effective solutions than did those who had engaged in objective-thinking. Also, those who worried beforehand still felt worried and anxious after solving the problem. (So rather than feel a sense of relief, they were still worked up over the issue.) On top of that, the more people had worried about their problem beforehand, the less they intended to actually carry out their solution.”
In order to harness the goodness of worry, it is important to first and foremost, give yourself permission to be worried, but do not let it take over. Allow yourself a set amount of time to be in a worried state. Acknowledge your worries, shake hands with them, think about them for maybe 15 or 20 minutes and then move on. Start to take action. Have a plan and be prepared. Make a list of action steps and get started on them. Tackle them one by one. And finally write that shit down. Really. Writing down worries helps to stop them spread and works on freeing up all that valuable headspace for stuff that is way more fun and rewarding. The most important thing about worry is to not convince yourself you are not going to have it. Worry is part of the human condition. And we are after all human.
Thank you for being here.
Listen to this episode here