Are you a worrywart? Do you suffer from a bad case of the ‘what if’s’? Do you catastrophize all the various ways things might go wrong? If so, you’re not alone. Worry is a chronic pursuit and its more serious sister, anxiety, is on the rise. Heck, we even have competition for worry dolls sales on eBay. Maybe it’s time we stopped accepting worry as a normal part of our go-to emotional arsenal and decided instead to substitute it with more empowering states. Are you ready to examine your patterns and consider a shift?
Do you try to convince yourself that worry allows you to prepare for or anticipate possible adverse scenarios so as to be able to better address them? Again, you’re not alone. We often try to rationalize our worry as beneficial, as a problem-solving motivator. It gives us an illusion of certainty or control. The reality is that no good usually comes from worry. It’s arguably one of the more useless human emotions, with more destructive potential than benefit. Worry is typically the problem, not the solution. The sooner you recognize that, the more empowered life you’ll be able to live. Let’s explore negotiating a new mindset for you to adopt, a shift in your perception of worry that will allow you to break away from this pointless pastime.
Start by asking yourself: What is the point of worrying? You no doubt expend incredible amounts of energy worrying about the past – which you can’t change – or the future, where the vast majority of things you worry about never come to pass and all that negative expended energy ends up being for naught. Not to mention that the Law of Attraction would suggest that you’re actually calling to you the very things you worry about.
The reality is that worry interferes with your daily life, taking an emotional and physical toll that renders you less equipped to deal with the challenges that may come your way. Worry saps strength (usually physically and mentally), increases insomnia (thereby further reducing your capacity), and decreases concentration, productivity and performance. It can negatively affect your appetite, mood, relationships, and lifestyle. Worry increases cortisol (the stress hormone) and can adversely affect your health. Efforts at coping mechanisms include such destructive habits as overeating, smoking, drugs and/or alcohol.
And to what end? Catastrophizing and running worst-case ‘what if’ scenarios rarely, if ever, ends well. I invite you to recognize that you control where your focus goes, and you control the meaning you attach to your thoughts. The more you focus on the possible disastrous ‘what if’s’, the more energy you give them and the more likely they become.
Here are a few simple tools to help stop big shadows being cast in your life from worrying over small things.
I Worry Dump
If you find your peace of mind being crowded out by worrisome thoughts, take a moment to do a quick ‘worry dump’. Grab a pad and pen to write down all the negative, worried thoughts about potential disastrous ‘what if’s’. Better yet, keep a Worry Dump journal, so you can periodically review your worries and start to see patterns and recognize the utter lack of value the ongoing worries offered. The immediate benefit of a ‘worry dump’ is that it gets the thoughts (and their destructive power) out of your head. It strips them of power.
II Challenge the Worry
Much of our worries come from the following: an all or nothing mindset around the issue; assuming responsibility for things outside of our control; expecting worst-case scenarios; over-generalizations; focus on the negative; discounting the positive; believing our feelings are reality; conclusions with no evidence to support them. So, make sure you challenge your worries. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this really true?
- Is there a more positive spin or potential outcome possible?
- What is the probability of this thing I’m worrying about actually coming to pass?
- Is this worry helpful?
These questions should lead you to a more positive outlook as you chip away the foundation of your worry.
III Interrupt the Worry Pattern
Engage in a pattern interrupt to disrupt the cycle of worry. Stop yourself from hitting the spin cycle by tuning in your awareness and taking action with intention: it can be as simple as getting up and moving, engaging in meditation, doing breathing exercises, focusing on relaxing your muscles, seeking out a humorous distraction … you get the idea. Do something to break the pattern of worried thoughts.
IV Make a ‘Can Control / Can’t Control’ list
Much of what we worry about are things beyond our control. Tied to your worry dump practice, I invite you to categorize your worries into two lists: things you can control versus things you can’t control. Choose to dismiss those things you can’t control. Your worry will not add value or assist in dealing with them. It may exacerbate the situation. Instead, focus on those things over which you do have some element of control. Come up with concrete steps you can take to reduce risk and otherwise improve the situation. Taking constructive action gives you a sense of control over your circumstances and can stave off worry.
V Manage Proximity
Choose who you surround yourself with. When we surround our self with negative people, that negative energy will inevitably rub off onto us. The opposite is also true. If you choose, with intention, to surround yourself with positive, optimistic, personalities it will decrease your own worry-meter and allow you to more consistently expect the best life has to offer.
VI Stay Grounded in the Now
Most worry is either about the past (things you have already done) or the future (things you think may happen). So, a simple solution to minimize worry is to stay grounded in the NOW. Choosing to be fully present in each moment – in other words, practicing mindfulness – can avoid the pain of endless ‘what if’ questions and allow you to enjoy your life as you actually live it.
Let’s raise a toast to ridding yourself of worrisome worrying. Here’s to your newly negotiated mindset shift from worry to empowerment and groundedness!
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