Psychological Self-Help

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107
thinking, making it more realistic and stopping the "awfulizing" or
"catastrophizing." Also, the worrier should be reminded that half of the
formula for anxiety is self-doubt about being able to handle the
expected crisis. Building self-confidence in coping with problems will
reduce the unproductive fretting. Finally, one should always wonder if
the worries serve some secret purpose, such as proving "I'm a good
worried father" or distracting you from some deeper, more basic fear
(better to focus on protecting my daughter from boys than to think
about my own sexual problems with my wife). 
Laboratory studies as well as clinical observations have shown that
worriers under stress tend to over-estimate the degree of risk they
face. If you think of more risks and threats, then your anxiety and
worry levels go up. Worry is not a simple reaction, it is complex,
including conditioned emotional reflexes possibly learned even in
childhood, ingrained habits of responding, and cognitive processes that
exaggerate the dangers ahead, set impossible or unrealistic standards,
and reflect low self-confidence. So, a summary of how a worrier could
possibly stop worrying excessively might include: directly countering
the worrying behavior by relaxing in any one of several ways, by
rewarding more confident and happy self-talk, by exercising, using
massage, and thought-stopping, or by diverting attention with
music, TV, reading, and socializing, and by practicing successfully
facing stressful situations over and over again. One could also reduce
worrying by changing one's thoughts, such as correcting unwarranted
negative expectations, reducing tendencies to falsely view current
situations negatively ("awfulizing"), giving up overly demanding
perfectionistic standards ("I must always be right") and by correcting
the refusal to accept the lawfulness of all behavior ("It's got to be
different"). There are a lot more ways of reducing worries: one can
learn new skills and problem-solving or decision-making methods,
which can change things and strengthen the belief that one can cope
with difficulties that might arise. Moreover, one might gain insight
into his/her negativity, train oneself to be more optimistic, higher in
self-esteem and self-efficacy, or perhaps even happier, and develop
an inspiring life plan. Worry can be controlled but often not easily. 
Shyness is very common and it can be very handicapping, but it does
not gain you much sympathy. People often think you should "just get
over it." Getting over it isn't easy. If you try to avoid being
embarrassed and nervous by not interacting, you run the risk of being
seen as snobbish, bored, unfriendly, or weak. How many of us are
shy? Zimbardo, Pilkonis and Norwood (1975) found that 40% of
college students considered themselves shy (by 2000 it is up to 48%).
Another 40% had been shy in the past, bringing the total to 80%.
Among young teenagers, 50-60% were shy. Most researchers agree
that half or more of American adults are a little shy. Only 5% of us are
not-at-all-shy. So, it is one of the most common human problems.
Good discussions of shyness are by Carducci and Zimbardo (1995) or
Carducci (2000). 
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