Saturday, September 16, 2006

Anxiety, anxiety

Because I've never met a molehole I haven't wanted to turn into a mountain, I was very happy to see a book called The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry From Stopping You by Robert Leahy, PhD during my weekly trip to the library. Dale Carnegie tried to help me sometime ago, but we parted company at chapter 3, not because Mr. Carnegie wasn't truly trying, but because I'm impatient and want to stop worrying NOW (as my mother said once, I'm not happy unless I'm worrying about *something*). So when I saw that I could be cured in just seven steps, I thought, "Why the heck not?"

I've made it through the first six steps so far, but I only did the excercises in the second chapter. The rest, I'm just reading along and nodding. After 16 years of higher education, I'm pretty much done with the homework aspect of stuff. It's one of the reasons why I decided to leave the foreign language at Local Prestigious University because two nights of classes and homework... I just want to have fun, people!

Anyway, but what I liked about this book (homework aside) is the Seven Rules of Highly Worried People. Does this sound like you or someone you know? It certainly sounds like me.
  1. If something bad could happen -- if you can simply imagine it -- it is your responsibility to worry about it.
  2. Don't accept any uncertainty -- you need to know for sure.
  3. Treat all of your negative thoughts as if they are really tue.
  4. Anything bad that could happen is a reflection of who you are as a person.
  5. Failure is unacceptable.
  6. Get rid of any negative feelings immediately.
  7. Treat everything like an emergency.

Leahy later writes, "If you are a chronic worrier, then the following will seem familiar to you":
  1. You believe that gaining certainty will reduce your risk of harm
  2. You seek reassurance to gain more confidence
  3. You demand more information
  4. You wait indefinitely to take action
  5. You feel you need to know for sure
  6. If you don't know it for sure, then you conclude it's going to turn out badly
  7. Even when you seem to have a solution in hand, you ask if it will absolutely, definitely solve everything. If it doesn't, you reject it.
  8. You keep worrying in order to find the absolutely perfect answer that will eliminate uncertainty
  9. Uncertainty is equated with treat, lack of control, mistakes, and regret.

I'm guilty, very much so, of the first five, and to a lesser degree the rest of them. The funny thing is, I wait indefinitely to take action because I'm so busy looking for information and then I get overwhelmed by the amount of information and then suddenly I make this sudden move because I can't stand the uncertainity of not knowing what I'm going to do. And then I regret the sudden move because did I check everything a million times? Did I consider all possibilities? Did I consult everyone and everything I should have?

My trip to Europe is a perfect example. I spent weeks looking at airfares, how much a Eurorail ticket was going to cost, looking at various hostels and hotels, and examining the areas around the cities I was going to. I jotted down various timetables that would work for me (I didn't want to end up in a foreign city late in the afternoon, didn't want to leave said foreign city too early in the morning). I called three travel agents, had them all map out different itineraries for me, tweaking each one a little bit. Suddenly I had so much information that I had NO idea what I was going to do. I was making myself crazy and everyone around me crazy too. You have NO idea how much angst just booking a plane ticket was. And even when I had decided to book the trip, once I was on the phone with the travel agent who was offering the best deal, I was suddenly wondering if I was doing the right thing, if there wasn't at least one more agency I should have called...

It's amazing the travel agent didn't hang up on me.

In the end I put the deposit down and I had 10 days to make final payment after that and those 10 days, I went back and forth. I looked at new information (I KNOW!), and started second guessing my decision. Could I get a cheaper hotel? Cheaper flight? Was I staying too long? Different days? At one point, I was ready to cancel the whole thing and surrender my $100 deposit to the travel agency and book a whole 'nother trip. In the end, I just ended up sticking with what I'd booked. I was tired, everyone around me was tired. My brother said to me, "You've worked hard enough that you don't have to budget and travel on the cheap anymore."

Another friend said, "You're going to Europe! Who cares how much it costs?" In the end, I had to concede they were right -- I had a budget, the trip was falling within that budget, and other than the road trip I took with my parents last December, I haven't been on vacation in four years; I've barely been out of the state, let alone out of the country. And after some of the stuff that's happened in the last three years, the fact is, I *deserve* a good trip done right.

I've stopped looking at travel sites now, except for trip advice type things and suggested activities while in Berlin and Prague. No more visits to Travelocity or I'm no longer checking out airfares. I had to go cold turkey otherwise I'd drive myself absolutely crazy. No amount of information will ever be enough because it will never tell me what I need to know: that everything will be okay and this is the best you can do.

* Just to clarify: I'm not endorsing this book; it's just something I picked up and parts of it, I could really identify with. I have no idea if the techniques listed in the book actually work.

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