Rational Alternatives to Worrying (Not Just Ice Cream)

Recently, I posted a Peanuts cartoon that said: “Worrying won’t stop the bad stuff from happening…it just stops you from enjoying the good.”

I found the comments, in reply to the post, quite interesting.

One comment: “Agreed, but easier said than done.”

Actually, replacing worry with rationality isn’t as hard as you think. Most people go wrong in trying NOT to worry. You can’t NOT do something without a positive alternative to replace it.

Saying to yourself or another, “Don’t worry” is like saying, “Spend the next five minutes NOT thinking about a pink elephant.” In the act of NOT thinking about a pink elephant, you are thinking about one. The same applies to worry.

The challenge lies in finding a rational, tangible alternative to worry. Once you have that, you can replace worry with something much better.

You have to choose this rational, tangible alternative for yourself. My own personal favorite is “rational planning.” If you start to worry about something, ask yourself, “Do I have a rational plan for dealing with this?” If so, remind yourself that you do. It’s kind of like having an emergency exit in your office building. You know where it is, and in the event of a fire, you know where to go. Beyond that, you forget about it. If you sat around all day worrying about whether there might be a fire, it would be absurd and pointless. The same applies to other things you worry about.

Another reply to the Peanuts cartoon: “On the other hand, fighting back just might stop the bad stuff.”

Agreed. That is, if fighting back means rational planning, or some other alternative to worrying.

Worrying serves no productive purpose. It brings you down, and after the five-minute or five-day session of worrying plays itself out, you’re still right back where you started.

Only action, grounded in rational thought or planning, can change anything. If there’s no action to take, then worrying serves no useful purpose at all.

Another reply: “I worry. I fight back. I have ice cream.”

It’s honest. Better to eat ice cream than to worry. But if eating ice cream – or any other perfectly legitimate activity, in the right dose, serves merely as a way to unthinkingly “quash” the worry, it won’t work. You will have to keep eating ice cream in order to keep the worry from rising to the surface. Eventually, you’ll stop, only because you feel so full or even sick. You might even get obese or unhealthy. The point is, you’re going in circles. Until or unless you find a rational alternative to replace the worry, you’re doomed to compulsively eat ice cream, until you default back to worrying again. Chances are, you’re still worrying about the issue even while you eat the ice cream.

A final reply: “I don’t worry about it, I prepare for it.”

Amen. That sums up the alternative to worrying better than anything else I can think of. And that includes ice cream!

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