Ahhhh…. You sigh with pleasure, the hint of a satisfied smile on your lips. You snuggle deeper into the soft comfort of your plush mattress in blissful anticipation.
The delicate scent of lavender oil promises sleep.
Without warning, your body betrays you with a sharp twist in your belly.
There it is.
What‘ll it be this time? That your son just failed his test? What if he fails the next one? And the one after that?”
Maybe your guts are in an uproar because the new boss arrives Monday. What if she takes an instant dislike to you? What if she’s secretly planning to downsize? What’ll happen if you lose your job?
You swear you hear your heart pounding in your ears. You squeeze your eyes tight but it’s no barrier to your mind which is just getting warmed up.
Money is tight enough as it is. If you lose your job then what? God, the very idea of even having to start looking!
You burrow deeper into your bed, no longer for comfort but for refuge.
Crap, crap, crap.
Seriously. You get up and run to the loo. (Being worried and the runs can go hand in hand)
Exhausting, isn’t it? Physically and emotionally.
If only you could escape this roller coaster of insidious worry.
Contain Your Mental Ogre
Evolution has firmly rooted our minds to constantly scan for threats in order to protect us. In our busy modern times, this protection-mode has no filter for real or imagined threats and treats them with equal intensity.
You might think of this protection-mode in your brain as your neighbourhood ogre — capable of gentle kindness but also scary as hell and dynamite at wreaking untold havoc when you least expect it.
For some, excessive worry leads to poor performance, ruined relationships, anxiety, panic, poor health and even depression.
While we learned our ABCs in school, most of us were let down by what they didn’t teach us.
There are some simple and effective tactics. Use them to confine your protection-mode into your friendly ogre, safeguarding you from real harm. In this way you keep the scary ogre from creating chaos and catastrophe in your life.
Here are a sample of these tactics to get your started.
1. Schedule Time to Worry
Many experts agree this is a powerful tactic.
- Schedule a 30-minute time slot to worry and put it in your schedule every day, not too close to bedtime.
- If you catch yourself worrying outside your scheduled time, remind yourself that you’ll worry later. Jot down the worry if you’re afraid you’ll forget it.
- At the allotted time, set your timer for 30 minutes and then allow yourself to worry. Write them out or think on them, whichever you prefer.
- At the end of 30 minutes, tell yourself that your worry session is over for the day and it is time to get on with the rest of your worry-free day.
Studies show that after about two weeks your sleep will improve, and you’ll have more energy because you are no longer being drained by incessant worrying throughout the day.
Bonus win! You’re more likely to find solutions to because you know you’ve a set time to think on it. Suddenly your worry time is productive.
2. Become an Expert in Getting Perspective
It’s a perfectly normal tendency to underestimate your ability to handle what comes your way and overestimate the degree, or even reality of a threat. Taking time to get proper perspective is huge when it comes to settling worries.
The second normal tendency for worriers is to have a distorted sense of urgency regarding the need for solutions to worries.
A third tendency is to mind-read. You assume what other people are thinking and include that as fact in your worry. (You’re not alone, just ask any spouse!)
Whether you contemplate your worry or write it down, you want to stop and ask yourself:
- What is factual? (Are you mind-reading that your boss might downsize? Has she announced it?) If written out, underline what elements are undisputed facts. The left-over bits are assumptions you’ve made.
- Is the worry likely to happen?
- If it happens, how bad might it be?
You can also separate your worry into two sections.
- What parts of your worry can you do something about?
- What parts of your worry are beyond your control?
- Practice accepting that you have no control over some things and focus your energies and intellect on resolving those things you do control.
3. Dive Deep into Your Intrusive Thoughts
We swim along the surface all day, oblivious to what is submerged.
It was only once I followed advice to spend the start of my day filling 3 handwritten pages with whatever came to mind that I discovered, to my great surprise, that I was a serial worrier. Those pages also revealed that ‘command and control’ was my coping mechanism.
The body/mind connection is inseparable. I’d start to write something, and my stomach would clench. Huh? A few sentences later — another clench.
I began writing ‘clench’ every time it happened. I realized I worried (clench) about my children, my job, my social life, what was going on in the world — most of which I had no control over.
So, take the opportunity to spend time with your thoughts. Learn what’s really keeping you up at night. Pay attention to the interesting and the banal.
Note your ‘clenches”!
4. Have A Plan for Your Ogre
Worry is the poisonous cousin of Concern. Concern is helpful; you focus on an issue and identify and apply the possible solutions, if any. In sharp contrast, extreme worry is debilitating.
Worry = Fear
Become familiar with this sequence of thoughts and tactics so that you can leap into action when your ogre surfaces with a fresh worry to wreak havoc with your well being.
- Acknowledge the worry as it arises and allow it to be. Don’t try to resist or ignore it.
- Gently question what is behind the worry. Self-compassion is key; don’t beat yourself up.
- Are you making assumptions? What are the facts? Is your worry becoming reality? If it does, what is the worst thing that could happen? In the grand scheme of life, does it really make a difference?
- Follow the emotions and sensations as the arise, shift and move on. Don’t try to rush them away.
- Ride them out, like surfing a wave safely to shore
5. Meditate for These Benefits
Worriers tend to simmer in their negative juices. Negative thoughts play in an endless loop and trigger stress. Specific types of mediation develop mental balance and resilience. Meditation resets your wellness meter, so you have a more solid base hit by emotional upheaval.
Some research indicates the this is the most effective style for reducing worry. The beauty of this meditation is that you are always right. The whole objective is to connect you with what is actually going on inside you. You aren’t trying to ‘get’ anywhere or achieve a particular state.
Acceptance-based meditation focuses on making room for your thoughts and feelings. Over time, allowing them to just be, without judgement reduces frequency and intensity of reaction.
To reap the benefits, you must mediate regularly to create lasting change.
I like this 15 minute one.
6.Build Your Confidence
Some of our worries trace back to our level of discomfort at the prospect of something new or different. When you gently push yourself out of your comfort zone you prove to yourself that you can handle uncertainty which increases your confidence.
Embrace imperfection. Life rarely unfolds in a perfect manner. Don’t worry about imperfection. It is a fact of life.
Embrace uncertainty — just because the outcome isn’t known doesn’t mean it will be negative. Look back at some of your worries. Did your disaster-scenario come to pass?
Take charge by examining where you are procrastinating over something due to worry. Select the least difficult thing and get it done. Your sense of accomplishment and relief from the worry will spur you on to tackling the next.
7 Make Use of Available Tools
Yes, there’s an app for that. (Isn’t there always?) Several of them, in fact. Mindshift and Sanvello are Editor’s Choice on Google Playstore to manage worry.
Video meditations abound on You Tube and you can search for relaxing playlists on places like Spotify. Some Yoga exercise programs are specifically targeted to relax you.
Talk with a friend. I’m not calling your friend a “tool” but he or she is a good resource if managed well. Talk with someone who can help you get perspective. Don’t keep rehashing with no end in sight.
Your finger is very powerful. Use it to turn off social media and the news. Less is more.
Discover the Difference
Worry serves no purpose, quite the reverse.
Excessive worry pollutes your well being and damages your health.
Your new understanding about worry and how to manage it is a free pass to remove that millstone hanging from your neck . (Were you aware that its been dragging you down?)
Better sleep, being more productive, improved relationships, better health, less use of toilet paper (bye-bye runs!). The list of benefits goes on.
Why not have a look at the list of tactics and pick one appeals? It won’t be long before you recognize a worry as it arises and work your magic so that it dissipates into the air.
Concerns you’ll handle and solve. Worries you’ll kick to the curb.
How about it?
“Go get ‘em!”