We all know them. The people who have that easy breezy attitude that everything will be ok. You can just hear their annoying little voice singing in your ear Bob Marley’s, Don’t worry… about a thing…cause every little thing is gonna be alright, and you kind of want to throat punch them.
Well, particularly if you’re the person who feels like it’s not going to be ok. That everything isn’t alright. You just know it’s all wrong. You feel it in every fiber of your being that the situation is bad. Worry, it seems, is all that you CAN do. But maybe those easy breezy, non-worrying peeps are on to something?
Worrying is a funny thing. We’re all guilty of it at some point. Some more than others. Some WAY more than others. And make no mistake about it, if you do enough of it, worrying can make you sick.
What is worry anyway and why do we do it?
Worry is a form of anxiety and is invoked by having a fear of the unknown. And when there is an unknown, the mind likes to fill in the blanks. The problem is, many people fill in the blanks with a wild and agitated imagination. They come up with an entire list of horrible outcomes that spin wildly in their thoughts, causing their bodies to experience physiological reactions based on the outcome they’re imagining in their mind. Your mind-body system cannot decipher when something is real or imagined, so you will experience physical symptoms to reflect the imagined outcome. Your heart races, your blood pressure goes up, your ability to reason is decreased, and for some, this can induce a full blown panic attack. That’s not a fun situation to be in, particularly for an outcome that hasn’t happened yet, and more importantly, one that likely won’t happen at all.
Here’s the interesting thing about worry. For those that do enough of it, there is this conditioning that takes place over time within the mind-body system, a programming that reinforces the act of worrying, because over the many years that you’ve worried about this and that and the other thing, you’ve been conditioning yourself to believe that by worrying, you actually alter the outcome of the situation that’s occupying your brain and your body. Truth! You’ve become programmed to believe that when things do eventually work out (and they usually do, don’t they?) that somehow your level of worry had something to do with the positive outcome.
Well, I’m here to do you a much needed service and crush your belief about that. It didn’t. In fact, worrying can prolong the perceived problem. Worrying can amplify it. Worrying can actually change your biology. Change your DNA. Worrying weakens your immune system. But it won’t change the outcome of a situation.
In fact, if anything, to always be imagining the worst is to always be seeing the worst, feeling the worst, and operating at your worst. That is one way to set yourself up for a dismal future and poor health, and I’m going to assume that’s not the way you want to live.
Of course, there’s a healthy level of worry. It’s called being concerned. To be concerned about a situation might motivate us to consider rational outcomes, consider solutions, and consider what our next step will be, if any step at all needs to be taken.
That’s using it as a tool. You can also reference your past experience, to recall all of the times you worried and everything turned out fine, to put things into perspective for your current situation.
Here’s a healthy approach when something has got you worried.
To start, the first thing I like to do is to get in touch with my breathing. Breathing is controlled by the diaphragm, and the diaphragm is a muscle that you can actually control with your mind. You can’t voluntarily control your heart, but if you can control your breathing patterns, this will alter the beating pattern of your heart. Having some level of control when you’re in a worried state is actually what you’re looking for. You can’t control an outcome to a situation, but you can control how you respond to it.
Controlling our breath will help us control our thoughts, which will alter how we feel. Taking a mindful breath in followed by a long exhale will calm the body, slow down the heart rate, and alter your state of being so you’re in a more positive frame of mind. This alone empowers you to control the moment rather than having the moment control you.
Next, think of the positive outcome that you desire. Allow yourself to feel what having that outcome would feel like. See the desired outcome in your mind as if it is happening at the present moment, and relax into it with your breathing and a steady focus.
To give an example, let’s just say your teen daughter took the car to school and is 15 minutes late arriving home. You certainly have a range of options here where you can let your mind wander to, from she got lost, broke down, all the way to the forbidden car accident.
You can flip your world upside down, alter your state of mind and physical body in just a few minutes by going wild with thought. Or you can relax into your breath and think about the outcome that you desire; your daughter pulling into the driveway, safe and sound, coming through that front door saying, Hi! I’m home! Sorry I’m late.
You want to play this scene out in your mind like you’re watching a movie. See the details of the event, hear her voice, see her putting the keys down, taking off her coat, opening up the fridge to get an after school snack. Whatever the typical routine is when she comes through the door. Feel what it feels like to know that she is perfectly fine and home safe.
Which frame of mind is going to serve you best? Which one is going to put you in the best position and state of being for when she does actually walk through the door? Now you can respond as opposed to react.
And let’s just say you can’t get your mind off an undesirable outcome, your worrying brain can’t help but think the worst. This is when you want to reflect on your past learnings and see how the worst possible scenario almost never happens, because you have EVIDENCE of this in your past. You worried, things turned out ok. You worried, things turned out ok. You worried, things turned out ok. See the pattern? And the programming? So now you can make the logical decision to shift your focus to the likely scenario, the one that will eventually turn out ok.
And we might as well just address the elephant on the page, since we’re here. Let’s say, God forbid, the worst possible scenario did happen. You would handle it. Because you’ve handled difficult experiences before. Horrible situations and outcomes have the ability to derail us. Make us feel like we’re going to die and our bodies go into survival mode. And although you may have felt like you wanted to, you didn’t. Life happens to all of us, and undesirable events are beyond our control. Yes, they do happen and it is difficult, but you’ve handled heavy loads in your past and got through it and you will handle heavy loads again at some point in your life, and you will get through it. So, why not have an updated tool box to help you navigate your way.
For me personally, when it gets heavy, I put it in the hands of God, because I prefer not to carry that weight alone. So consider a Source, a higher power, that you can hand your heavy loads over to, as well as a support system and/or mental health or wellness professional.
But this is the occasional extreme and more often than not, the likely outcome for a situation that has got you worried is right there in your line of site. Let the voice of reason speak up and give it your attention. Worrying does not prove your love, it doesn’t measure your worth, or make you a better person, nor are you a bad person or irresponsible if you allow yourself not to worry.
To take control of your thoughts and your body means that you’re exercising your emotional intelligence and that is a much more positive practice that will strengthen and reprogram your mind and body in ways that serve you best.
A positive outlook is not only going to make you feel better, but it will keep you in the best state of mind and body to make intelligent decisions, to see opportunity, and to actually aid in the manifestation of your desired outcomes.
And why not set a positive example for your daughter when she comes walking through the front door and tells you that she’s late because she had to run back to her locker to grab a book that she needed for a homework assignment? Oh, and she didn’t text you because you told her not to text and drive.
Much love my friends,
(The Mind Body Coach)