“Worrying is praying for something that you don’t want. So stop worrying.” Bhajavan Das
I always remember a conversation a few years back with a couple of friends – let’s call them Sarah and Brian. Sarah and I were comparing notes on when we woke in the middle of the night. Our brains would go straight into worrying about the day ahead or even the meaning of life. Brian’s main concern was whether he would make it to 8am without the faff of having to get out of bed to go to the loo!!! Some of us, it seems, are prone to worrying more than others or at least we have trained our brains to default to worry at any opportunity available, even in the wee (or not, in the case of Brian – ha ha!) small hours!
There is no doubt about it, there is a lot of stuff to worry about if we choose to: jobs, finances, health, relationships, family. STRESS, STRESS, STRESS! Worry has a habit of snowballing. We extrapolate to the nth degree and in our wild imaginings, the worst case scenario WILL happen. All this does is to put your whole body into stress mode, and perhaps you into a panic attack. In reality nothing has actually happened, and certainly nothing has improved.
Worry uses up precious mental, emotional and physical energy, which undermines our health at all levels. We can feel overly tired and depressed, our concentration goes walkabout, and our immune system is compromised, to name just a few consequences.
I believe a lot of us worry too much nowadays, not just because we have more to think about but also because we don’t have the network of available friends with whom we can talk things through. I have been going through a fairly mithering time (Northern term for worrying!!) this year whilst sorting my mother’s old house and over the summer I was there on my own, feeling a tad overwhelmed. The conversation I had with myself one night went along the lines of “I cannot speak to X as she is busy, Y is away, Z hasn’t got time …… and so on ……… “. Thankfully I tapped into a spot of mindfulness (see below) and dissolved my worries, but I know how isolating a scenario this can be, and when you only have yourself to talk to, it’s inevitable that you end up going round in circles and feeling half crazy!!
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow. It empties today of strength.” Corrie Ten Boom
What can you do?
(1) “Not my monkey, not my circus”
I know from experience of working in an office that it’s far too easy to take on board a whole host of “stuff” that isn’t yours. Ask yourself – is this really YOUR problem? Do you need to get involved? If not, walk away. Reinhold Niebuhr summed it up beautifully when he wrote
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.”
(2) Book yourself a “worry appointment”
One of my friends, Jacqueline Conroy, posted a suggestion on Facebook some time back about how to approach worry. It’s quite simple. Set aside 10 – 15 minutes a day to indulge your worries. If thoughts arise at other times, simply write them down and leave them until your “worry appointment”.
(3) Write it down
Simply writing stuff down can be emotionally freeing. Sometimes as I write, a solution can pop into my head. Sometimes I think how silly something seems when I see it in black and white!! Writing it down can help to put things in perspective.
(4) Talk to a friend
A friend can offer perspective, solutions, inject a little humour into a situation or simply be a shoulder / welcome ear. A trouble shared is a trouble halved, so they say.
(5) Deathbed approach
Imagine you are on your deathbed, looking back over your life. Would your older self consider your current concern to be worth worrying over? Also, ask yourself today – is it so IMPORTANT that it’s worth undermining your health for? The answer is 99.999999% likely to be NO in both scenarios! Again put things in perspective!
(6) Flower Essences
Flower Essences are a gentle approach to releasing emotions and thoughts which affect us negatively. Bach Flower Essence WHITE CHESTNUT is the remedy for “gramophone thoughts”. These are unwanted thoughts which go round and round, and for those not old enough to remember such ancient technology, think hamsters on wheels!! White Chestnut helps to calm the mental chatter so that our minds, now peaceful, can allow a free flow of new thoughts into that once stuck brain of ours! A few drops in water throughout the day, and especially at night, can work wonders.
(7) Talk to a pet or bear !!!
Dogs and cats live in the now. They don’t care what happened last Wednesday or whether someone thinks they look silly. Pets can have a calming effect on our own energy.
I’ll fess up here – I have a big family of furries (bears and elephants) to whom I often speak. I know I’m talking to myself (honestly) but I have used bear-therapy for so long that I believe that I have built up a nurturing energy, now attached to them, which I find calming and reassuring. There is no reason why they can’t be used by us adults as well as children.
Pets and bears don’t come up with solutions but they can help to slow down the frenetic energy which fuels worry.
“Why worry if you can do something about your problem? And why worry if you cannot?” The Dalai Lama
(8) Ground yourself
I find that spending too much time in my head without balancing it with more grounding activities can lead to yet more worry and obsession. For me, dancing and going for a nice long walk in the countryside are two good ways to draw energy away from my head and thus give it a much needed break!! Singing or gardening, enjoying nature, or going for a run or other exercise can all help too.
(9) Practise mindfulness
Believe me, I have done my fair share of worrying over the years, and looking back now to my 20-year-old self, would like to tell her to just let things go. Thankfully, I have learnt over the years not to push upsets / worries aside but instead to sit with them and just allow them to be, detaching myself a little from them. That way I get more perspective.
Focusing on your immediate surroundings and senses can bring you into the “now”. Sit quietly and become aware of what you can see, hear and feel (perhaps the sensation of your feet on the floor, the distant hum of traffic, the bright yellow notebook on the desk etc). Gently focusing on the “here and now” can help to draw unnecessary energy away from your worries, and helps to calm the mind.
Yesterday’s mistake was an experience and perhaps a lesson. Tomorrow’s concern is but a figment of your imagination. There is only a Now, and why not enjoy it to its fullest without the wasted energy of worry-ghosts of past and future?
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