Stress Management For Dummies
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If your worrying is excessive and causing extra stress, chances are your self-talk and thinking are somewhat out of whack, which means that you’re probably making one or more thinking errors. Here are a few specific thinking errors that can cause excessive worrying.

You can learn how to avoid those errors. Each of these thinking errors can add to your anxiety level, make you worry more than you should, and make your worrying more stress-producing.

Irrational worries and stress

Even on the calmest day, some people can find a host of things to worry about. Chronic worriers can take just about any situation and find something to worry about. They dissect every potentially dangerous or threatening situation and ask themselves, “What if . . .” Here are some examples of things chronic worriers worry about:

  • What if that twinge in my shoulder means I’m having a heart attack?

  • What if the plane crashes on my upcoming flight?

  • What if my taxi driver is on drugs?

  • What if this pimple turns out to be cancer?

  • What if there’s a snowstorm the day my daughter gets married?

You get the idea. One way of minimizing your what-ifs is knowing just how likely it is that they will actually happen.

How realistic are your worries?

Just about every nasty, scary, threatening event you could imagine has some chance of happening. However, for many, if not most, of these feared occurrences, the chances are really very slim. Few of us are good at estimating the odds that something will happen.

Do you know the chances of your airplane crashing or being hijacked, or the odds that you’re developing a brain tumor or contracting some strange disease? The odds are incredibly low. If you replace “Is it likely?” with “Is it possible?” you’ll notice that most things are possible even though many of the things you worry about aren’t likely.

Often, you worry about the wrong things. You worry about getting rare diseases or dying in horrible ways. The irony is, you worry less about not putting on your seat belt, going to your doctor for a regular checkup, or having an accident in the kitchen, all of which have a greater chance of causing you grief than the things you do worry about.

Perhaps a better way of looking at the odds is looking at the chance that something won’t happen, rather than the odds that it will. Here are some odds of bad things not happening:

Not dying in a flood – 99.9966667%
Not dying in an earthquake – 99.9992418%
Not dying in a lightning strike – 99.9988085%
Not dying in a tornado – 99.9983333%
Not dying in a tsunami – 99.9998%
Not dying in an air-travel accident – 99.995%
Not dying due to drowning – 99.9888168%
Not dying in a fire (includes smoke) – 99.9103943%
Not dying by firearm assault – 99.6884735%
Not dying in a motor-vehicle accident – 98.9795918%
Not dying by stroke – 96.5517241%
Not dying of cancer – 85.7142857%
Not dying of heart disease – 83.3333333%

Murphy’s Law is wrong

Remember Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.” Well, even though this may seem like an accurate description of what happens in your life, it isn’t. The reality is, most things that can go wrong in fact don’t go wrong. We remember well when things go awry, but we tend to forget when things go off without a hitch.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Allen Elkin, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and the director of The Stress Management & Counseling Center in New York City. Nationally known for his expertise in the field of stress and emotional disorders, he has appeared frequently on Today, Good Morning America, and Good Day New York.

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