Worrying Sucks: So Here’s Advice from Psychologist Dan B. Peters on Taming Your Worry Monster
Do you have a little worry wart in your family? Is it you? This new book, Make Your Worrier a Warrior, might be just the thing you need. My kids worry about everything from the first day of school to spelling tests to who is invited to which birthday parties. All the while, I’m worried about my volunteer jobs for the PTA and whether I’m going to have enough time to cook a decent Thanksgiving turkey! All this anxiety is for the birds. So I really appreciate psychologist and Ph.D. Dan B. Peters‘ advice. He explains why we all worry and how to feel better below:
KK: What is The Worry Monster?
DP: The Worry Monster is a mythical creature that picks on us and bullies us into feeling worried and scared. He activates our “survival response” or “fight or flight” response by telling us that we are in danger and that bad things will happen (i.e., “Your mom is going to forget to pick you up; people will laugh at you; you are going to fail”). He is very sneaky and quietly lurks, waiting to use his tricks against us. The Worry Monster wants us to avoid people and situations, not fully engage in life, and not become all we can be.
KK: What prompted you to write this book? Tell us your personal journey as a father and doctor.
DP: This book came out of years as psychologist, speaker, father and someone who knows the Worry Monster, and his friend, the Perfectionist Monster. I have been working with wonderful, bright, creative and conscientious kids and their families for years, and over time, found myself combining several schools of thoughts and strategies in a way that made sense to people and were successful in driving the Worry Monster away.
At the same time, my 3 children were getting older (now 13, 11, and 9) and having their own battles with worry and fear. I wrote this book to give people of all ages simple, useful information that they could utilize in their life to live with less worry and fear.
KK: What are the Top 3 ways to Tame the Worry Monster?
1. Know that you are built to survive, and that we all have a fear center of our brain known as the amygdala (a-myg-da-la) whose job it is to sense danger and activate us for battle or escape in the face or threat of danger. The amygdala sends messages to our adrenal glands to pump massive amounts of adrenaline through our bodies to be super human fighting machines. The adrenalin and re-routing of our blood supply from our head and stomach makes us feel bad – headaches, dizzy, upset stomach, butterflies, etc.
2. Our thoughts trigger our amygdala and survival response. When the Worry Monster tells us a worrisome thought (“You are going to forget everything you studied”), we go into survival mode, even though we are actually safe. If we change our thinking to a more rational thought (“The test will be hard, but I studied and usually do fine”), our amygdala turns down and we go back to a relaxed, non-fearful state.
3. Since our thoughts trigger our anxious feelings, and then cause us to behave in a certain way (i.e. avoid, cry, act out), if we change our behavior, it also changes our thoughts and feelings too. This means that everything you DO to take a stand against the Worry Monster (i.e. speak in front of the class, look someone in the eye, go to a party, try out for a team) reduces the Worry Monster’s power. Since the Worry Monster is a bully, like all other bullies, when you stand up to him, he gets weaker and usually decides to pick on someone else. Also, doing the things you are afraid of makes you feel more confident and stronger in all aspects of your life.
KK: Is there a way to turn your Worrier into a Warrior?
DP: Absolutely! I have seen it time and time again my office and in my home. These techniques and strategies really work. Teaching your child about his or her brain and how the survival response works; how your thoughts are responsible for your uncomfortable feelings; changing your thinking can make you feel less worried and scared; and that doing the scary thing (or taking baby steps towards it) makes us less fearful and feel stronger – makes Worriers into Warriors.
KK: Can your tips also help Moms and Dads?
DP: Yes they can! These skills and strategies work for people of all ages – parents, teens, tweens, children.
In fact, in the parent book, I write about how the Worry Monster had the nerve to visit me when I began writing this book. (I should have known he would not want me to tell the world about him and how he works!) I used the same strategies I use with my clients and children to drive him away. I highly recommend that parents look at their own experiences with the Worry Monster and use their experiences to relate to their children, as well as motivation to join their children in driving the Worry Monster away.
The Worry Monster is strong, but when we team up against him, he gets small and powerless.
About the Author:
Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, is co-founder and Clinical Director of the Summit Center, specializing in the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and families, with special emphasis on gifted, talented, and creative individuals and families. Dr. Peters speaks regularly at state and national conferences on a variety of gifted, learning, and parenting topics. He consults with GATE and special education departments and trains teachers and parents in understanding, teaching, and raising complex children to be engaged in the classroom, at home, and in life.Add a Comment