07/08/2015 03:18 pm ET Updated Jul 08, 2016

How to Make Worry Your Friend!

The idea of worry as being anything even remotely "friendly" may seem absurd, yet every emotion has both its positive and negative function. Sadness, for example, as beautifully portrayed in the box office hit "Inside Out," has both negative and decidedly positive consequences for Riley and her family.

Unfortunately, we usually see only the negative side of worry, which is to make us increasingly anxious about everything. Here's some examples. "The traffic is awful, what if I don't get there on time?" "I'll bet my outfit is going to be a wrinkled mess from sitting here. They're going to think I'm totally unprofessional, I'll never get this job." "What if I can't find a relationship? I'll be lonely and miserable forever." "What if I go to that party and I don't know anyone and I'll feel so stupid and I won't know what to say?" and on and on. We worry about everything from the vitally important to the clearly absurd.

The problem is we're not using worry to its best advantage. Worry does have a positive function, a beautiful and wonderful function--it is a warning signal, an internal feedback mechanism that tells us "Hey, pay attention, there may be some danger here." Used properly, worry is very valuable.

So, how do you use worry properly? Heed the warning. Let worry be your friend, alerting you to potential problems, and figure out possible solutions before you go into the situation.

Before you go off to that important meeting, think: is the traffic likely to be bad? Should I consider an alternate, perhaps longer but less hassled route? If you are likely to be in the car a long time, choose clothes that won't wrinkle, or remember to hang your jacket in the back. If despite all your good efforts, you are late, have you thought of the best, most professional way to present your lateness?

If you are worried you'll end up alone and unhappy, learn about how to create a satisfying relationship. Put yourself out there; take the necessary steps. If you are worried about not knowing anyone at a social event, figure out topics of conversation that are of common interest, and decide that this is a great opportunity to make new friends.

Worried about something for which you can't figure out solutions on your own? Ask for help. Ask as many people as you need to, then sort through their different ideas and choose the one that feels best to you.

Once you have figured out practical, workable solutions to your worries, drop them. Just let them go. If the same worries drift through your mind, remind yourself: "I already dealt with that," and if they keep drifting through, then use an imaginary fist of white light to POW! those worries right out of your mind. Hanging on to worries you've thought through is the mental equivalent of letting the alarm clock ring once you're up -- annoying and useless.

Worry is a great friend when you need it, but a big drag when you're just carting it along for the ride.