Explanation: Maybe this rule isn’t very fair because it’s like I’m saying, “Oh, you’re anxious? Well, just don’t be anxious.” However, the reason for setting this foundation is that often we get into unhealthy habits of thought and lose sight of what we are actually doing in the first place. This rule simply operationalizes and defines what anxiety or worry is, which is important because once we break it down like this, then there’s a chance that your prefrontal cortex (i.e., the home of critical – logical/rational – thought) will trump your limbic system (i.e., specifically the amygdala, the home of emotions – think the “headquarters” in the movie Inside Out). We logically understand that worrying about the future is not productive. And worrying is not the same thing as preparing. In fact, one could argue that the very point of preparation (not overpreparation folks, so I mean one backup plan, not ten!) is that it allows us to NOT worry. After all, we have done all that we can, we have done our part (i.e., our actions and those live in our bucket).
Often people believe that the worrying is productive. I’ve heard comments like, “But doc, worrying helps me stay motivated to...” And my response is typically something like, “Oh, so your worry is keeping you motivated to feed your kids? I thought it was your love for them. Your worry is getting you to work on time? I thought it was the fact that you like your pay check.” Patients worry about packing for a trip, finding a job, making plans. I urge them to be honest with themselves about the reality of the situation. Worrying does not pack your suitcase. Packing your suitcase gets it packed! Worrying does not get you a job, and in fact, it may even reduce your chances of being hired! Applying and interviewing gets you a job. Worrying about a plan of action does not create the plan. Actually making a plan creates the plan. Etc., etc.. You get the idea. So, make the plan, apply for the job, pack the suitcase, drop the worry. The worry is just making you sick. And this expression sums it up well: “Worrying is paying a debt you don’t owe.” Let’s break through this common myth about worrying and just simply focus on the task at hand to get “it” done.