Our brains are incredible problem solvers. But what happens when our brain doesn’t have enough information? Or just gets a little over-zealous?

In these cases, our brain starts asking “What if” questions. What if they don’t like my presentation? What if I can’t make the rent this month? What if my 16-year old gets in an accident?

“What if” questions are a hallmark of worrying.

To be clear, there’s a fine line between problem solving and worrying. One pushes us toward our goals while the other winds us up into knots.

What is the difference?

Worrying is thinking about what we can’t control. Problem solving is thinking about what we can.

And worrying isn’t just something we do. Over time, our brains can become worried about not being worried.

Yes, worry can become a habit.

In the twisted logic of our neural networks, our brain can actually miss it — like it hasn’t filled its worry quota for the day. Sick, right?

But all of this depends on how much we’ve worried in the past. In other words, if worrying isn’t something you do much of, your brain won’t want to do much of it in the future either. But if worrying for you is like a favorite pastime, your brain will serve it up as the thing you should obviously do if there’s something, anything(!), in your life that could go wrong.

We can choose a positive mental shift; to unpack how worry seeps into our minds, why anxiety can feel like a tightening grip, and how to unwind our worry habits. We can choose to override fear, take action instead of freezing, and build our courage mental muscle.