Oftentimes we create worry in our life by borrowing someone else’s problem, trouble, or pain. We also tend to hyper-focus on what might happen to us in our own life. The what-ifs can be endless. Worry does not take away tomorrow’s troubles; it takes away today’s peace.
Worrying is twofold: it is about dwelling on difficulties that are sometimes based on reality and other times constructed in our minds, leading to anxiety and discomfort. Most of the things that we worry about never happen. So why do we worry?
When the outcome of something is unclear or leaves uncertainty lingering in our minds, we turn to worry. It is when we lack full control over the outcome of an event or situation, we turn to worry to remedy feelings of uneasiness. However, oftentimes we end up creating a greater sense of unease. This can wreak havoc on our minds. When we dwell, we focus on this uncertainty repeatedly and imagine all the possible scenarios that exist. We live in the what-ifs.
When we worry about situations or outcomes that might arise, our body goes into fight or flight. As such, our body’s sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones such as cortisol, which has a multitude of effects on the body, including boosting blood sugar levels and triglycerides that can be used by the body for fuel. In addition to releasing hormones, our bodies also endure physical reactions in this state, such as difficulty swallowing.
Our mental stress has a significant impact on our physical stress. This creates an undue burden on the body both mentally and physically by playing into the what-ifs.
Worrying gives us a focus, drawing our attention to the fact that there is something we should do to prepare for the future, something perhaps we can prevent or alter. However, we can’t. It is very challenging to stop worrying. It has become an automatic reaction for so many of us. When you stop and think about your worries, what do you worry about most often?
We must retrain our brain in a way that helps put a stop to the automatic response of worrying. Many of my clients share how they would like to worry less but don’t know how to begin the process.
First, let’s think of worry as borrowing trouble. If the worry is not present right now, but rather is about something occurring in the future, we are borrowing the thoughts about a future event that something could go wrong. While we do tend to focus on our future often as human beings, many times it is from a place of fear. Remember, whatever is going to happen, will happen whether we worry or not.
To shift our mind and body to pivot away from worry, try these techniques:
- Pay attention to worry. When you feel on edge and determine that worry is present, try to quiet your mind and bring more peace to your body. This can be done in many ways (i.e., meditation, one-minute breath work, taking a walk, etc.) Bring calm to your entire system.
- Try to maintain focus on the present moment. Be aware of where you are now and what is in front of you. Worry takes us away from the present moment. It is important that we remind ourselves that whatever we are thinking about is not the reality in this moment.
- Face the worry head on. What are you afraid of or dwelling on? When we confront and speak to our fears and worries, they have less of a hold on us and we can face them directly.