I have had seen so many clients this month that have been so overwhelmed with worry (and stress manifesting from that worry) that I felt it was a much-needed topic to talk about this month. I will share some thoughts to help change your perspective on worry and also offer some practices you can try to let go of the habit of worrying.
First a confession. I used to be a consummate worrier. I’d fret about things in my mind constantly. What happened during the day, what was coming around the corner, and the “job” I was doing on all aspects of my life. When I was done worrying about myself, then I worried about/for everyone else in my life. As someone who has gone from being a worrier to more of a “going with the flow” person, I can tell you that the effort is well worth it. I can remember when I really couldn’t understand what “go with the flow” meant, because I was such a control freak, but as you let go of controlling your life and world it will become more natural. Your life becomes more joyous, freer, exciting and alive when you let go of worry. You can see what you can influence in your life and what you have no control of, and let go of the things you don’t have control of and have faith. You see no matter what your past, that your life can be different in the future, but more importantly also in the present moment.
Generally, most people believe worry and stress are a result of the world around us, spinning chaotically; in reality, worry and stress are a construct in our mind created by us for us. The beauty in that is because it’s something we’ve created in our mind, it’s something we have the power to transform and let go of ourselves.
What is Your Worry Story?
Most people tend to worry about things in the present and future. The worry may or may not be about something that is actually present or manifested in the present-day. Firstly, I think it’s important to recognize that worrying is a habit. I came from a household of worriers so this was a habit I was taught as a child. Almost that worrying about someone is a way you show you love them. Worrying is a mental pattern we replay in our mind. The subject of the worry may change but the pattern is the same. We manipulate the subject of our worries in our mind. We create stories of what may happen with this subject of our worry in the future. Elaborate stories. We start with a story, we go back to it, add to it, make it worse, relive it over and over again in our day. Never recognizing it’s a story, it’s a movie we are playing over and over again in our mind, that it doesn’t exist and that it’s creating stress for us, in our mind, body and spirit, and is making us feel powerless. If we can take a few steps back and observe that we are creating and playing this movie, if we can be in the audience, watching ourselves and seeing this pattern, we can start to separate from our worry, our story, and start to see this is a construct of our mind…and with that start to let go of it.
Think of yourself when you go to a movie in the theatre. You get absorbed and immersed in the experience of what you’re watching – the sights, the sounds, the characters, and the story. It completely occupies your mind when you’re watching the movie. Then the movie ends and you come back to yourself and walk away to your life. When we play these future scenarios filled with worry over and over again, we get immersed in the feelings those scenarios create and get filled with stress. If you can start to see your worries as a movie or story you’ve created, you can see that is a false reality you’ve created and start to let go of and walk away from these worries and this habit.
Secondly, and most of us recognize this, worrying doesn’t accomplish anything for us. It doesn’t create anything constructive. It just manifests stress in our body, mind and spirit and wears us down. It leaves us in a state of mind where we are waiting for the bad things we imagine in our minds to happen. It also gravitates us towards the negative, so when we’re watching the news, or other media form we hear the stories that mesh with our worry scenarios. We think wow if that bad thing could happen to that person, it could happen to me too. We attract fellow worriers into our life, where we go for coffee and end up in group worry sessions. The felllow worriers confirm our worries are possible and even give us new scenarios to add in. We leave those sessions feeling drained and even more stressed. It brings negative elements into our life.
How to Break the Worrying Habit
Now your next question may be okay I see the habit but how do I break it? With breaking any habit, the first important step is to observe and see the pattern. Once you bring that awareness to your habit, you can start to see it when you repeat it over and over again. “There I go again”. Then, when you observe yourself enacting your habit of worry, you can start to replace that stressful habit with something that calms you. For example, you can see the worry, stop it, then practice some meditative breathing – taking a deep breath through your nose, down to your belly, holding it for a couple of seconds, and then breathing out. You can repeat some positive affirmations to calm and reassure yourself telling yourself in the present “I am safe, I am okay, I am healing, I am calm, I am loved” (pick whatever works for you). You can picture whatever you are worrying about and let it go into the air like a balloon or throw it in the garbage like some refuse you don’t want to carry around anymore. If it’s a physical issue that causes worry, you can visualize sending a soft healing pink light to that area of your body with your in-breath and breathing out grey coloured smoke, representing your worry about your health, with your out breath. With health problems, you may also find it helpful to regardless of what diagnoses you may have received, to visualize your body renewing, as all cells and parts of our body do, and coming back in a healthy state; reminding yourself that all diagnoses have uncertainty and limitations associated with them and that your body has natural healing abilities. You use these techniques to calm and clear your mind. For more ideas on ways to calm yourself, see my blog on finding peace and serenity in your life https://justbreathereiki.com/2012/07/23/finding-peace-and-serenity-in-your-life/ . By replacing your stress-inducing worry habit with something that calms you, you start to teach yourself that you can move from that stressed place to a calm place in an instant. This teaches you that state of mind is easily transformed and unnecessary. You will naturally be attracted to this calmer state of mind and start to incorporate practices, like those detailed in my blog noted above, to help calm yourself. You will become a lighter, calmer, less-stressed and more in the moment person.
Many worriers tend to be control freaks. We think if we worry enough about something there might be some way for us to figure out how to control it. That maybe through these stories or scenarios we create we may find a solution. We tend to forget we are not in control of the world. We may either try to control the world or think we should be able to but we can’t. Know the one thing you have control over is you and your thoughts and perspective. So let go of the thought that if you worry enough about something you might be able to control what happens. Trust that whatever happens is for the best and whatever is around the corner will be wonderful. Start to let go of the wheel and trust that your life is divinely guided. Shift your focus from the things you worry about to the things you can be grateful about and to being loving and compassionate, with yourself and others. When we focus on worry and other negative things or scenarios we can attract that energy into our future. So shift your focus on something positive. When you are thinking of the future, think of positive things or that you can’t even imagine the amazing possibilities out there and leave your future as a blank slate of wonderful.
On that note if you tend to focus your worry on the future, you need to see that it’s your ego that likes to keep you out of the present moment. You can stop your habit of future forecasting of this is going to happen, then this terrible thing will happen by thinking of a more positive future. The uncontrollable snowball of the horrible things around the corner becomes a pleasant meandering boat ride into the future where you are a passenger. What if you let go of the future forecasting and instead imagine there may be some exciting and wonderful things waiting for you around the corner. That life around the corner might be amazing and realizing that your life in the present might be amazing but you’re so lost in the future that you wouldn’t even realize it. Replace the habit of imagining stressful happenings in the future with imagining lovely things, even lovelier than you can imagine.
Worry truly is a ride we take ourselves on. We can get off that ride at any moment and bring ourselves into the present moment into a state of calm and trust. Breaking the worry habit is something you have to try out and experience first hand to “get it”. That this worry is just a passing state of mind that I can eliminate and let go of in an instant. It doesn’t mean we don’t ever worry about anything ever again, but it means that we don’t become engrossed in worries. We become aware of this habit and when it starts to arise again, we nip it in the bud, so it doesn’t overwhelm and overtake our sense of well-being. Give it a try to become a calmer and happier being.