“You worry too much” is a phrase women often hear from men. However, recent studies using new imaging techniques have identified different patterns of worrying. It seems that women DO NOT worry more than men. They just worry differently.
When women worry, they tend to use both the right and left side of their brains. Men tend to stay within the left hemisphere, the analytical side of the brain.
Dr. Vesna Pirec, a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago says, “With both hemispheres activated in women, there are many more types of emotional reactions.. And women, in times of stress, also tend to remember many more details than men would.” It is tough to argue about “what really happened” with a women under stress.
Therefore, women tend to express their worries differently than men.. “Women have a greater tendency to brood, with a lot of [emotions] engaged in it,” says Dr. Joan Lang, chairwoman of the department of psychiatry at St. Louis University School of Medicine. “Men have a tendency to be a little more obsessive, concentrating on ‘What should I do?’ rather than, ‘What am I feeling?”
THE TRUTH: Women do not necessarily worry more than men. They jut express their worry more. Men may still obsess during the day and keep themselves up at night thinking about what they did wrong and what they will do when next faced with the same or similar challenge. On the other hand, women seem to have a tendency to experience negative emotions, such as fear and anxiety, more intensely than men do. They worry about the outcomes of future events, such as their safety, security, and relationship status.
The reason why worrying is often pinned on women is that they tend to verbalize it more. They feel better when they talk about their worries with others who will listen. Men tend to keep quiet about their concerns for fear of appearing weak which leads to body aches, heart problems, and digestive disorders. Men also tend to project their anxieties out onto others, becoming angry or irritated with them instead of admitting to the things they are worried about.
WHAT, ME WORRY? Worrying is actually your brain’s alarm system. Without it, you might do and say things that could harm your relationships and careers. However, you can't believe everything your brain says since it is only acting on memories and not on the facts of the future situation. Therefore, it is good to give voice to your worries. Find the time to sit down and listen to them fully. The quicker you can hear what your brain is worried about, the quicker you can decide whether to listen to it or not.
BRAIN TIP #1: IDENTIFY EXACTLY WHAT YOUR BRAIN IS SAYING TO YOU.
The best way of working with your worry is to have a conversation with your brain when the worrying shows up.
Thank your brain for protecting you, then ask it what it believes is at stake, really. What can harm you? Is it true? What are the consequences of trying, really? If I make the phone call, have the conversation, go for the promotion, stand on the stage, or agree to go on an adventure, what is the worse that can happen? How likely is that to happen, really? How does that weigh with the good possibilities?
By talking with your brain, you can assess the true level of risk and make better choices for yourself. With awareness and practice, you can distinguish what is a real threat from when your brain is being overprotective.
BRAIN TIP #2: SUPPOSE THE WORSE DID HAPPEN
Ask yourself: Is it true that the person or situation will deprive you of what you need or desire, or cause you to feel humiliated or depressed? If so, then what will happen after that? Often we don’t realize that the worse that can happen is not that bad. Worrying tends to be based on fear of the unknown. If we know what can happen, we can usually find ways to survive and even thrive with the results.
BRAIN TIP #3: WEIGH THE POSSIBILITY OF OUTCOMES
If there is a possibility of a loss, is the chance of getting what you really want greater than the possibility of a loss? If so, what first step are you willing to take? OR, if the risk is minimal or barely true, can you let go of the emotions and move on? Focus on how you would like to feel and how you want this story to end.
BRAIN TIP #4: FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR BEING HUMAN
Everyone worries, in their own way. Relax. Find gentler ways to talk to yourself instead of beating yourself up for the things you did in the past. Learn from your actions and move on. Trust that things always work out, because they do.
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at MetroSexual LA