The best way to prevent yourself from becoming paralyzed with worry, writes psychiatrist Edward M. Hallowell, is to simply make sure you never worry all by yourself.
Hallowell argues in his new book, Driven to Distraction at Work: How to Focus and Be More Productive, that when you feel real or imagined concerns piling on, share them with a friend, and there's a better chance that aimless anxiety will morph into problem-solving.
He believes that worrying alone is one of the major reasons that people can't focus, both at work and elsewhere in their lives.
What exactly is so bad about worrying alone? Why it's so detrimental
Worrying alone does not have to be toxic
, but it tends to become toxic because in isolation we lose perspective. We tend to globalize, catastrophize, when no one is there to act as a reality check. Our imaginations run wild.
Indeed, Samuel Johnson, a prodigious worrier himself, called worry a "disease of the imagination”. When we worry alone we risk losing touch with reality, becoming paralyzed in worry, making bad decisions, and even getting sick, as toxic worry depresses immune function.
What does worrying with someone else look like in action? For instance, does this mean you simply describe the things you are worried about to a friend? Or is it best if the pair of you talks about something you're both worried about?
Doesn't matter if the other person is worried about the same matter or not. You just have to find someone you like and trust. My basic three-step method of worry control is as follows:
1. Never worry alone.
2. Get the facts. (Toxic worry is rooted in wrong information, lack of information, or both.)
3. Make a plan. Having a plan reduces feelings of vulnerability and increases feelings of control.