How To Shake It Off
Worry is an emotion that we’ve evolved to feel in the face of threat or danger. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s not all our fault, we inherited the genes that predispose us to give special attention to the negative aspects in our lives. Thanks to our ancestors we are all hard wired to experience worry, nervousness, fear, and apprehension. Being highly attuned to worst case scenarios is how, in pre-historic times, humans survived natural threats. In some situations worry isn’t all bad and can actually be beneficial, warning us about something that is valuable and requires our attention. But in many instances, worry is misguided energy, robbing us of greater happiness and success.
Unless we are under immediate threat, the emotion of worry is useless and counterproductive. It gets in our way to effectively problem solve, limiting our perspective and interfering with our abilities to concentrate and focus on what we can do in the here and now. On top of that statistics prove most of what we worry about never comes to fruition and only saps our motivation and mood. However, being a mother of two, admittedly I can go there with the best of over thinkers and proclaimed worry warts. So for myself as well as for my clients I have done my homework on this relevant topic and have come up with some great strategies and best practices to allay obsessive overthinking in order to redirect negative thoughts into more neutral or optimistic ones.
How To Shake It Off
#1 Worse Case-Best Case-Most Likely Scenario-If we are going to make a mountain out of a mole hill we might as do it all the way. Here we take the adversity at hand and squeeze out all our worries and Worst Case Scenarios. But then we also make a list of all the Best Case Scenarios that can occur. In both cases, assign a percentage of likelihood that each scenario listed could occur. Lastly, given the insight we gain we make a final list of Most Likely Case Scenarios along with their percentage of likelihood occurring. This happy medium shifts us to a place of problem solving to then create an action plan based on everything we know to be true right now, restoring rational thinking opposed to catastrophizing.
#2 Distract, distract, distract-The mind cannot hold onto two thoughts at the same time. As simple as it sounds find an activity that is engrossing enough to lessen the pull towards worrisome thoughts. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it absorbs your attention and is satisfying in some shape or form. Whether it’s crossing something off your to do list or enjoying the company of a dear friend. And for those of you who question this strategy only being a short term solution, understand that any positive emotions you experience during those distracting activities can lift your mood and then open you up to new more objective and positive perspectives.
#3 Take in the bigger picture-Sometimes we can have the tendency to magnify our concerns. What seems to be so troublesome at the time can be quickly put into perspective when we ask ourselves if what’s preoccupying our mind will matter a year from now or a more extreme version…on your deathbed? If of course you resolve that the challenge you are enduring will indeed matter in a year from now, then it’s time to focus on flexing your resiliency muscles, focusing on lessons we can learn and a growth mindset…psychologist call this post-traumatic growth, vital tools we learn when facing life’s inevitable hardships.
#4 Act to solve problems-Even if you’re feeling overwhelmed about your concerns and unsure what to do, take a small step. For example, research possible new jobs, see a financial adviser, consult a marriage counselor or divorce attorney. Even just writing a list of possible ways to improve a relationship with someone near and dear to you, maybe brainstorming ways to get more recognition at work or address unresolved health concerns. Each small step you take creates a ripple effect, providing wisdom and empowerment.
#5 Designated worry time-As strange as this sounds, set aside 30 minutes in your day to do nothing but worry. Knowing you can create a “container” for your burdensome thoughts can be a great tool to honor the pull towards them yet loosen the grip of obsessive thinking throughout the whole day. Ideally, that 30 minute period should be at a time of the day you are not anxious or sad.
#6 Journaling-Writing out your worries is a way of unburdening yourself of negative thoughts-spilling them out on the page, so to speak-helping you to organize and make sense of your thoughts and observe any patterns that you haven’t perceived before.
#7 Talk to trusted people you respect/admire about your thoughts and worries-A lot of the time getting our worries off our chest can bring immediate reprieve from it’s intensity. Just make sure those you go to for support are objective, have your best interest at heart, come from a place of love, and are not inclined to jump on the negativity band wagon with you.
#8 Breath to release worry-If this is up your alley, learn how to meditate. The skills involved in this relaxation technique can help distance ourselves from consuming thoughts and impart a positive sense of wellbeing. Many people who meditate claim that they find themselves feeling less burdened, worried, and stressed.
With all this being said, understand worrying is a normal response the brain has developed to keep us safe. While we can’t prevent ourselves from worrying (it’s how we humans are rigged), we can learn how to manage it more effectively so it doesn’t eat away at our greater wellbeing nor take away from our performance on any given day.
Wishing You The Best Of Success