Worry: How much energy do you give to things that never happen?

A very common topic with my clients is worry and anxiety about events or situations that “might” happen. We can often persuade ourselves that these things are real even though they only exist inside our own heads. They can feel very, very real and can trigger physical feelings of stress and anxiousness which can then escalate the fears and worries even further.

These feelings often repeat themselves and can even become an almost comforting habit as we convince ourselves that if we worry about everything then we can stop anything bad happening.

The reality is that by worrying about things we rarely change anything. The only thing we accomplish is robbing ourselves of any joy in the moment.

Mark Twain on worry: "I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which have never happened."

I love this quote as it shows the futility of using our time in this way. 

A research study by Cornell University revealed that about 85% of what people worried about never happened! They also found that when it came to the 15% of worries that did happen, 79% of the time those worries were handled better than people expected, or they learnt something useful from the experience.

A worrying habit may be formed as a result of watching others worry when we are younger or, we may feel like it keeps us safe. The first step is to notice what you are doing and decide if it is serving you or not. If it isn’t then you can decide to change it. It takes effort but it can be done.

After you have decided what you would like to change, the next step is making sure that you develop some habits that help you manage your levels of worry and anxiety. Write yourself a list of activities that help you relax and feel calmer. These activities are different for everyone so, if you are not sure get curious and experiment until you find what works for you. Some ideas could be going running, walking, yoga, exercise classes, gardening, creative hobbies or seeing friends. It can be anything – just as long as it makes you feel better.

Once you find the activities that work for you make sure that you schedule them regularly and in advance. It is important that you create new habits and know that you have these activities to look forward to regularly.

Then it is time to face into your worries and start learning a new way to tackle them. When the worries are all floating around in our head they can feel overwhelming – when we write them down we can start taming them.

Worry we can act on:

  • Get yourself some paper or a notebook and write all of them down. All of them – don’t filter them. Make sure you write down exactly what you are worried may happen – be honest even if you feel it is stupid!
  • Once you have written them all down go through them one by one and really honestly review them.
  • For each one, decide whether there is anything you can practically do about the worry. Be very precise about exactly what you COULD do to change the potential outcome.
  • Once you have decided what you COULD do; go through each one and decide if you WANT to do it. Then, decide if you actually want to do it. If you do – great! Commit to doing it and plan exactly when you are going to do it.

Worry we cannot act on:

  • If you don’t want to do it then accept that and decide to stop worrying about it. You may find this challenging, so it is important that you stay kind to yourself. This may take some time but it is really important. If you choose not to take action but you choose to keep worrying – ask yourself how that is serving you.
  • If there is no action that you can practically take about the worry then it needs a different approach. This technique may sound crazy but it can really work. Try doing one worry at a time until you get more confident at it.
  • For each worry where there is no action that you can take then agree a period of time with yourself during which you are going to CHOOSE not to give it any headspace. Start with a short period of time and then work on extending it. If you find yourself worrying then try one of your calming activities and remind yourself that there is nothing you can do to reduce the worry.

Choose to enjoy the present rather than giving away the present to the future. This technique can really help you break the worrying habit but sometimes it can help to talk it through with someone else. If you would like help with managing your worry and anxiety please get in touch here, I offer a free, no-obligation initial call where we can discuss how coaching could work for you.

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