How to Ditch the Worry Rut – Part Three
Welcome back to the third, and final segment of my How to Ditch the Worry Rut series!
In my last segment, I shared 5 things you can do to end unhealthy worry. In this final segment, I want to focus on one more tool to add to your arsenal that can help you defeat and defuse the unhealthy aspects behind worrying.
It’s called mindfulness.
I know this word can often seem vague and ambiguous. After all, mindfulness means different things to different people. But, for the context of this segment, mindfulness is simply being aware, focused and present in the moment. That’s not too difficult, right?
So, why does mindfulness help with the worry habit?
Worry can often grow and intensify if it’s based on a person’s unsubstantiated fear of what can happen to them in the future. This is usually accompanied with the expectation that the result won’t be positive.
Chronic worriers never automatically assume that things will work out well. Makes sense, right? Why need to worry if it’s all going to end up ok?
So, fear of the unknown, and a person’s inability to relinquish their need to control the future, are two of the most powerful factors that create and sustain a chronic worry habit.
None of us will, of course, ever know what lies ahead of us in the future. You could look at it from the
perspective that it makes things, well…a bit more interesting.
The future has just as much chance of providing great things as it does bad things.
But, if you’re prone to worrying, that’s far from comforting. So, what can you do to control concerns over the future? Stay right here in the present!
Things get a lot more manageable when you know what you’re dealing with in the here and now! It’s important to direct your focus to the positive aspects surrounding you, instead of waiting with dread for a mythical disaster that may not happen.
2020 has certainly had its moments of fear and chaos, I know, but thankfully, it’s not the long-term norm and we WILL return to a new normal once COVID has been controlled. Even so, with mindfulness as a tool, you can calm the fear and quiet the mind NOW when you need it most.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
1. Acknowledge your worries. Sometimes we try to avoid facing an issue in an attempt to postpone dealing with it. By acknowledging the problem, you put yourself in a proactive mindset. It doesn’t solve the problem outright, but it’s the starting line where you can say “I know I have to deal with “X” and here’s one thing I can do today to work toward solving it”.
2. Make a ‘Worry-Time’ appointment with yourself. Yes, I know that might sound weird, but here’s my point. You are setting the stage for how and when you deal with worrisome issues instead of allowing worry to keep you from resting at night or any other inconvenient time.
So, set a time when you’re ready to give your worries the time and space they deserve, address and release it! How long that is depends on the person. Is that 15 minutes? 30 minutes? An hour? You decide. It’s not the quantity of the time. It’s the quality and amount of focus you put into it.
But, be mindful of what comes up and pay attention to it. Is it fear-based? Is there anything to substantiate that expectation that you’ll end up with a negative result? Focus on facts and less on emotions when evaluating the issue.
3. Practice mind and body relaxation. When we worry, we stress our body systems. So, calming a reactive stress response should be front and center when you’re trying to free yourself of unnecessary worry.
In my last segment, I suggested taking a long walk in a peaceful setting or sitting out in nature to achieve this, but whatever works best for you personally is great! Maybe it’s going fishing, going on a bike ride, cooking a favorite meal or practicing yoga. Whatever that best “thinking space” is for you, make it enjoyable, relaxing and something you WANT to continue to do on an ongoing basis.
The point is that relaxation techniques positively changes our brain chemistry, increasing serotonin levels and adding feelings of well-being.
As we enjoy a more relaxed state, we’re able to think more clearly and, often, find solutions previously out of reach.
4. Know your triggers. Worry is usually triggered by things that create anxiety or fear in us. It could be an action by another person, financial concerns, a stressful work environment or relationship stressors that kick our worry fixation into high gear.
We may be fearful of getting hurt again from something, or someone, from our past or not being able to support ourselves during times of financial hardship.
Through mindfulness, you can better understand what triggers you, recognize them more quickly when they pop up, then take preventative action to keep from reverting to an unhealthy worry pattern.
5. Put it in writing. Sometimes worries can seem hard to wrap your brain around. Sort of the “can’t see the forest for the trees” philosophy. Writing them down can help put things into perspective in a way you might not expect.
Start by writing a brief description of what worries you most about an issue. Then describe the emotions you’re feeling when you try to solve it. Get as specific as you can. The reason is that often we don’t fully recognize ALL of the emotions we’re feeling.
For instance, we might initially think we’re just angry or fearful, but upon further digging, we find we’re also feeling guilty or shameful about some aspect of the problem.
Understanding the root emotions behind a problem can help us face and overcome our resistance in dealing with it.
It’s also helpful to write down any solutions you have, then come back to it in a day or a week to revisit, amend or add to the list until you find one that feels right. The focus is really on having a truthful dialog with yourself about why you’re feeling stuck. Writing it down allows you to distance yourself a bit and look at the facts from a different lens.
I hope that shining the light on the issue of worry in this series has helped give you some new perspectives on the topic. If you’re a chronic worrier, I also hope these tools will help you get to a place where you can finally release your worries, or at the very least, manage them better!
If you implement these strategies and still feel you need a little extra help managing your worry list, it might help to work with a coach to get a clearer perspective that's more specific to your circumstances.
I encourage you to take advantage of one of my free 20-minute introductory phone coaching consults or schedule a full regular session online.
Sessions are done by phone or via Zoom for the health protection and safety of my clients. To schedule, go to: https://www.turningpointscoaching.com/book-online