Do you ruminate, obsess or worry about bad things happening?
If you’re a worrier, you’re a member of a very large club. The worst things about worrying are: it feels awful in so many ways, it keeps you from enjoying the moment and it begets more worrying!
In order to worry well, it helps to understand a little bit about how worrying works in your system…but you can always skip this and go directly to the mind-body practices for worrying well (below)…
When your brain smells smoke, it thinks there’s fire.
Your worrying brain sends signals to your body that there’s danger. Your whole system responds to this imaginary fire by releasing stress hormones, while your brain endlessly searches for an explanation or solution to a problem that likely has no resolution…since nothing has happened yet and there is no fire! Because your body is in emergency mode, your brain takes a secret exit into your emotional brain, which also slows down your ability to think logically, but sets off even more emotional alarms that trigger your body to go into fight, flight, freeze or possum (play dead) mode. Now, you’re in full anxiety.
You see, worrying isn’t simply a thought.
It involves all of you – body, mind and heart.
Worrying is a symptom of something deeper. It’s your body’s way of trying to release fear of the unknown, also known as: anxiety.
Because you feel the way you think and you think the way you feel, it’s important to have healthy ways to manage your worrying, so you can think well and feel good.
Here are a few mind-body practices to help you worry well:
- Love yourself through it. Remind yourself that worrying is normal (no, you’re not crazy if you worry a lot!). However, worrying a lot isn’t great for you, so it’s worth it to work on it and it will help to make the ruminating decrease. Talk to yourself the way a caring, loving friend would. Stay away from “beat up” mode and be compassionate.
- Create short, soothing phrases. Tell yourself things like “It’s going to be ok” “I’m safe” “I’m strong” even if they don’t feel true in the moment – they soften the impact of your worrying.*
*Just be sure to use positive language. So, instead of saying: “I am not in danger” tell yourself “I am safe” because the brain-to-body connection can’t distinguish the negative. For example, if I tell you NOT to think about pink elephants, what happens? Uh huh. Cute little elephants just popped up in your mind. Were they fuzzy, pink elephants? Now they are! 🙂
3. Use what you know. It’s important to remember, the worry isn’t real – it’s imagined. Worry is simply a function of your mind and body asking you pay to attention to it while it attempts to release the fear of uncertainty. Also, remind yourself that you can learn to manage it, with some informed effort.
4. Thank your body. Worry feels bad, but your body is actually doing its job of giving you a warning of perceived danger. Take a moment to pause, bring a hand to your heart and mentally thank your body for doing such a great job in trying to protect you.
5. Do a math problem. Sounds like a wacky solution to worrying, right? Math, among other complex thinking, activates you’re the prefrontal cortex of your brain (this is the part directly behind your forehead) which shifts your brain from the activating the emotional part to activating the analytical part, thereby reducing the symptoms of worry. I like to use: 1+2+3+4…and so on.
6. Create a worry time. Choose a day and a time that you will allow yourself to worry for 10 minutes. As soon as worry pokes its head out, you say to yourself “I’m allowed to think about this on _________(day) at _____(time). Then redirect to something else. You may have to remind yourself many times in a given hour, if you’re deep into worry mode, but rest assured that each time you do it, it weakens the connection in your brain – eventually dissipating the worry. If at the designated day and time you remember and still feel the need to worry, give yourself 10 minutes and 10 minutes only to worry to your heart’s content! Then create a new worry time and start over.
7. Get mindful about the worry. Ask yourself, what’s underneath this worry? If I weren’t thinking about this and expending so much energy on this worry, what would I be thinking, feeling, doing? This does two things for easing the worry. It gives your mind an activity to do, other than worrying, and it may just help you gain some awareness on the core issue – so you can focus on working through that instead. It’s much more productive to work on what is than the fear of the imagined. If you are able to identify the fear, you can use this post to help you move through and ultimately release it.
Here are 5 more healthy ways to manage your worries. These need little explanation and only take 60-seconds each! Don’t be fooled by their brevity — they work because they bring you to the present moment and activate other parts of your brain and your body. Try one or try them all. It’s a bonus that they’re actually fun!
- Shake it out. Get your whole body involved and shake, shake, shake.
- Breathe it out. Close your eyes and inhale through your nose, with even slower exhales or loud sighs out of your mouth.
- Shout it out. Find somewhere safe to scream and yell with all your power, from the depth of your gut.
- Sing it out. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good singer, just belt out a song (air guitar and mic drop optional).
- Dance it out. Crank your favorite dance tune and let loose, like no one is watching.
The more you can get comfortable with the discomfort of uncertainty, the less you’ll worry and the more you will live joyfully.
P.S. Don’t miss this chance to experience MindBodyWise therapy at Pure Yoga (East) in New York City. Details here.
P.P.S. Get ready for an exciting comprehensive 14-day virtual program to de-stress and become more mindful…coming your way soon. I can’t wait to share it with you!
Last thing for now: Connection is where it’s at when it comes to thriving in this wacky existence called life. Connect with people who “get it” in the free, private MindBodyWise Living Room and enjoy deep conversation and authentic support.