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Real vs. Hypothetical Problems

What are the different types of worry?

There is more than one type of worry. Sometimes worry can be helpful and beneficial, but other times it can be unhelpful. In times of uncertainty it can be difficult to differentiate between actionable concerns and worries that waste our mental energy. Refer to this decision-making model when considering how to categorize your worries.

1. Real problem worries are problems that are related to a real situation. These worries usually need to be solved right now. You can take action to solve problem worries, such as using problem-solving skills to find a solution.

2. Hypothetical worries are about problems that do not exist and have not actually happened, but might happen in the future. These are all those “What if…” questions and hypothetical worst-case scenarios that run through our minds when we feel stress about situations that we cannot control.

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How to know if your worries are “real” or “hypothetical”?

In times of uncertainty it can be difficult to differentiate between actionable concerns and worries that waste our mental energy. Refer to the decision tree graphic below as a decision-making model when considering how to categorize your worries.

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Decision Tree

Take some time to reflect on your current worries. Are they mostly real problem worries or hypothetical worries?

If you notice yourself experiencing mostly hypothetical worry, it is beneficial to:

  • Remember that you are not focusing on anything that you can solve right now
  • Explore methods to focus on something else and to let your worry go

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