It Ain’t What You Do, It’s the Way That You Do It
Worrying may have a bad reputation. But if it’s done right, worrying can actually be helpful. Effective worrying can anticipate problems, devise artful solutions and expand creative possibilities. On the other hand, ineffective worrying is what keeps us awake at night, distracts us during the day and gives our physical systems a workout they don’t need. According to Dr. Edward Hallowell, of the Harvard Medical School, worrying is nature’s way of helping us anticipate—and avoid— danger. Good worry leads to constructive action.
When you find yourself in bed at night, tossing and turning, plowing the same field, again and again, you’re in the midst of the worst kind of worry: self-perpetuating. The more you worry, the more stress chemicals feedback to the brain, telling it to worry more. Let’s look at breaking the worry cycle.
1. Turn Worry Into Action
When you find yourself mired in this worry bog, the best thing to do is to get physical. Get up, move around. Action will temporarily relieve the worrying. Who knows, when you come back to the problem, you may have a better perspective on it.
Taking a walk, working out, going for a bike ride or a run can help relieve worry. Exercise increases blood flow, meaning more oxygen to the brain. Exercising regularly means you will probably worry less. Exercise also stimulates the release of “feel-good” chemicals in the brain.
2. Write Them Down
Try writing down your worries in a journal. According to a 2011 study in Science. “It might be counter-intuitive, but it’s almost as if you empty the fears out of your mind,” says study researcher Sian Beilock.
Simply writing your fears and concerns down takes some of the power out of them, and it gives you a sense of control. Writing your worries also gives you an opportunity to write possible solutions.
Try this: write down the worry and, without thought to how workable or realistic the solutions are, write them down as fast as they come to mind. Don’t stop to think, just write idea after idea. Given this creative outlet, the same brain that was nagging you with worries can offer ingenious and often elegant solutions.
3. Tell A Friend
Another way to put your worries to work for you: tell a friend. Ask for feedback, another perspective. Or someone to simply listen. Giving voice to your worries can take some of the wind out of their bedraggled sails.
Sometimes the counsel and advice of a professional are called for — don’t hesitate to ask and don’t worry about appearing foolish by your questions.
4. Gratitude List or Journal
Oprah Winfrey isn’t the only one to recommend gratitude lists. A gratitude list doesn’t have to be long or well thought out.
In your journal or on a sheet of paper, jot down several things you’re grateful for. They don’t have to be big deals — the way the sun falls on the roses in the morning is just fine if that’s what you thought of. Review your gratitude journal or list whenever you need a pick me up.
5. Learn to Meditate
Incorporate a regular practice of meditation into your daily routine. Start with a minute or two and build up over time to ten or twenty minutes a day. This is the time for you. Relax into it. You may discover new solutions and possibilities. Research shows that meditation boosts your health, happiness, social life, brain power, and productivity.
6. Get Outside Yourself
Turn your worry into action by getting outside yourself. Whether you find community through family, work, friends, church, neighborhood projects, groups or organizations, being a part of something bigger than yourself can give you a sense of safety and connectedness. Turning the focus from inside to out means there’s no place for worry to abide.
7. Release Your Emotional Baggage
You can release your emotional baggage with a wonderful technique called The Emotion Code!
The better you feel, the less likely you are to get mired in worry. Are you having trouble getting started and getting out of the worry rut? Book a Discovery Session with me to see how emotional baggage release can help you.
It certainly not as simple as the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” makes it sound, but somewhere underneath its whining, nagging voice, worry might have something important to tell you.