Are You A Worrier?
According to the office of national statistics, 17% of adults were experiencing anxiety towards the end of 2020. It’s a rising crisis that seems to be going hand in hand with the pandemic.
The issue with anxiety or worry in general, is that even if we know what is causing it. It does not take us any closer to stopping that feeling.
In this article I’m going to share my top 3 ways to stop worrying.
Firstly, it is near impossible to even feel a sense of worry without some element of the inner dialogue asking those dreaded to words “what if”. In most cases, general worry and anxiety often involves imagining some sort of future where everything goes wrong and your body begins to act as if it’s currently happening.
Asking the what if question is an ideal gateway into the typical doomsday scenario where everything goes wrong. Suddenly, our body is experiencing what it is like to be disrespected or looked down upon by our colleagues, to argue with our partner. Our mind has already shown us the vivid scene of coming home and feeling tired and losing our temper with the kids and yet in reality, we’re sitting in a safe space and everything is fine.
So, What Can You Do About It?
Stop saying ‘what if’?…
Absolutely not. Telling someone to stop imagining the worst case scenario in those instances is like telling someone to no think about a black cat. Instead we tap into the power of that question.
Once we’ve imagined the worst case scenario, we simply ask it again but allow ourselves to ask the best case scenario.
What if I’m late to work, there’s an accident on the road and it’s causing huge unforeseen delays. I am stuck in the car and desperate for the toilet. I can’t call ahead because I’ve forgotten my phone. When I finally do get into work, my boss takes me aside and pulls apart my deepest character flaws and I spend the rest of the day upset and embarrassed all while needing a wee.
What if I wake up feeling refreshed, I get in the car, it’s green lights all the way! I get into work and my boss praises me for once again having excellent time keeping skills and being here before everyone. I’m full of zest and have an amazing productive day – with an empty bladder!
The truth is, that both of those scenarios are just as likely to happen as each other. It’s more likely that the actual event will exist somewhere in the middle between those two imaginary scenarios you’ve told yourself.
So what’s the bottom line?
‘What if‘ could currently be your biggest hinderance. However, if you really desire – what if could be your new superpower. Use this already existing habit to bring balance to those thoughts and allow that worry to reduce.
Bring Yourself To The Present Moment
We now know that worry often exists in a darkly painted future on the horizon, one of the most powerful ways to stop worrying is to bring that future into the present moment.
By asking another powerful question…
What can I do about this right now?
It’s terrifying to admit that we only have control over two things – our thoughts, and our actions. Asking ourselves what we can do about this now allows us to take control over our worry. After all, the worry is only there to begin with because a particular part of our brain is trying it’s best to let us know that something is wrong. It’s the equivalent of a health and safety officer within a corporation trying to let the CEO know that something could be dangerous. So as opposed to ignoring this, the CEO can rightfully ask that same question. As the boss, what can I do about this?
The Monk And The Problem
Matthieu Ricard, the French writer and Buddhist monk once gave an inspirational lecture on worry.
He asked a member of the audience “Can someone give me a problem?” and a gentleman gave him one. The Monk wrote the problem in a bubble on the board behind him. He then asked the gentleman “Can you do something about this?” to which the gentleman replied “Yes, I can”. He drew a line to another bubble and wrote inside it ‘Why worry?’. He then asked for another problem from the audience, to which a lady gave him one and he asked the same question, “Can you do anything about this?”. She answered quite confidently “No, I can’t. I can’t do anything!”. The Monk simply drew a line going from her problem to the same bubble and said “So, why worry?”.
Acknowledge, Embrace, Let Go
The most crucial tool in my top 3 way to stop worrying would be the following. It is once again based within the CEO and health & safety officer analogy. The feeling of worry is so horrendous that our natural inclination is to find a way to run away or ignore it. After all, the very nature in an unpleasant feeling is that it is unpleasant – the last thing we would want to run towards. But just like a health and safety officer in a company, they never present bad news because they dislike the boss. They present bad news because they are under the impression that the business is in danger or under some form of threat. Therefore, it’s vital that the boss gets the message. If the boss ignores the email, the H&S officer will phone them. If the boss still does not answer, the H&S officer will have to visit.
So when the sensation of worry begins to arise….
Acknowledge it. Realise that when we ignore the first sign, we are simply inviting a more unpleasant feeling to come later down the line.
Once we acknowledge that the feeling is there. Embrace it. Ask yourself if this is something you can take action on now. Is there a small step you have the power to take that would move you towards dealing with this? E.g sending an email, writing that message, making that phone call, having that conversation.
Once we’ve decided whether or not there is action we can take, we let it go. Either the action is done, or it’s completely out of our control anyway.
This process may sound complex at first, however it can take less than 60 seconds to go through. The more you practice, the better you get at it.
In conclusion, worry is not something you can “battle against”.
So Why Do We Worry?
The parts of your brain associated with worry and anxiety operate 5x faster than your conscious mind. We all know first-hand that we cannot win a battle against something that’s 5x faster than we are. Therefore, as opposed to trying to shut the feeling down or ignore it, you now have the power to course correct it.
Practicing this when discomfort arises is an incredible way to stop worrying but more importantly it is also one of the primary methods to tune more into what your body and the rest of your mind is saying.
Remember… you do have choice and control over your thoughts… choose the ones that serve you well x