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Here's a different way with worry
May 01, 2012

Simple Ways to Tame Anxiety

May 1, 2012
Volume 12, Issue 2

Are you bothered by persistent worries about potential problems or uncertainties, even though there's nothing you can do about them at the time? Many people can't find a useful way to respond to such thoughts without getting into an internal argument. This issue of Anxiety Coach® suggests a playful and effective way of responding to such worries.

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Bothered by unhelpful worries?

What can you do when you're bothered by troublesome worries that aren't useful in any way?

When I say they're not useful, I don't necessarily mean that they have no basis in fact. For instance, you might find yourself constantly worrying that you'll lose your job because your company is doing badly. You do your best at work, and keep watching for other opportunities, but in the meantime you're plagued by worry that doesn't suggest any useful action. Or you might be worrying "what if that tinnitus (or cold sore, or vertigo, or other condition) doesn't go away?", even though you've consulted your physician and he said that it will take a little time to pass.

They've got nothing to offer

These aren't worries that remind you to take action. You've already taken whatever action you can. They're afterthoughts, hecklers, boogie men who serve no purpose other than to disturb.

It doesn't help to get mad at yourself, or tell yourself to "stop thinking about that". If that helped, you'd be over it. What to do?

You Can Haiku

Here's something my clients sometimes find useful. You can make a haiku out of your worry.

A haiku is a stylized Japanese form of poetry. It's 3 lines long. The first line is 5 syllables. The second line is 7 syllables. The third line is 5.

There's a lot more to haiku than that, but that's enough for our purposes.

Telling yourself to "stop thinking" about your worry doesn't usually help. It often just makes you think about it more. But when you transform it into a haiku, you may get a different result. It's quirky, sure, but it's also a playful way of responding to unhelpful worries that can change your internal dialog.

Here's some good ones

Here's a pair of recent haikus from my patients.

I feel dizzy now.
I'll probably go insane.
Please water my plants.

I'll soon be bankrupt.
We'll be living on the street.
Where's the umbrella?

Give it a try

I'd love to see what you come up with! Just hit "reply" to this email, and enter the text of your haiku into the message. See you next month!


Dave Carbonell, Ph.D.

At Home CEU Workshops for Therapists

My most recent workshop for professional therapists, "Anxiety Treatment Techniques that Really Work", is now available on DVD for home study. It's available here.

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