Are you What if-ing yourself into a pickle? Worrying is unpleasant at the best of times, and sometimes we manage to work ourselves up and feel truly horrible! We get busy imagining all sorts of scenarios that MIGHT happen – and because our brain has a hard time telling the difference between something real and something we imagine, the same fight, freeze or flight responses are triggered.
So, then we’re worrying AND stressed out. And that makes it even harder to break the worry cycle.But worry can serve a purpose – providing you don’t let it run away with you!
How worry can be helpful:
When we think about the future, something that MIGHT happen – rather than thinking about all the terrible and scary things that might go wrong – we have the opportunity instead to prepare (if it’s unavoidable), find ways to minimise or even completely avoid the situation. I call this MAP – Minimise, Avoid, Prepare – and it’s a HEALTHY way for you to claim back control of your mind – and stop worrying! Yeah!
5 Helpful Steps to Turn your Worry into a Healthy Activity:
STEP 1 – CONFRONT Your Fears:
Take about 5 minutes and make a list or mind map and write down EVERYTHING you’re afraid of and are worrying about. From the small to the big, from the silly to the serious. Write everything that pops into your mind no matter how unimportant it seems or how stupid you feel.
STEP 2 – IDENTIFY what you can control:
Look at your list. 1) Circle the items that you have FULL CONTROL over (these will be things you can resolve on your own without needing anyone else’s help or input). 2) Write a big ? over the items you merely have INFLUENCE over (ie. you can resolve part of the item or influence someone or an outcome through your actions or behaviour). 3) Finally, put a BIG X over anything where you have no control AND have no influence (ie. there is nothing you could do or say that could directly impact this item).
STEP 3 – MAP out your options!
Look at the items you have FULL CONTROL over (those you’ve circled) and brainstorm 5-10 actions you could take to Minimise, Avoid or Prepare for the situation. Then look at the items you have PARTIAL CONTROL or INFLUENCE over, what actions could you take there – and add those to your list.
STEP 4 – Do what you can:
Review your potential ACTION list. Decide what actions you WILL take around this situation – and get started by picking ONE you can do today (or even RIGHT NOW!) to instantly feel better.
STEP 5 – Consciously LET GO of what you have no control over:
Finally (and most importantly!) take a look at the items you put a big X through – these are the items where you have no control and no influence – and are often what drives our fear and worst worrying. Remember you can ALWAYS choose how you respond – even if you can’t control or influence the situation. If it helps, take a few moments to think about and prepare how you will respond. This is calming – because you are taking control of your own behaviour and actions. And make a decision to TRUST yourself. Often what we fear the most is that we will fall apart, break, make a complete idiot of ourselves. But you CAN handle whatever happens so say to yourself, “Whatever happens, I CAN handle it!”
Now (in the nicest possible way) STOP Worrying!
Next time you notice you’re worrying, stop and set aside about 30 minutes to MAP! Once you’ve been through this process, and done the “healthy” work of preparing, minimising or avoiding the situation altogether it’s time to STOP! Because the variations and possibilities – every nuance and possible reaction from everyone who might remotely be involved – are ENDLESS.
The trick is exactly what you’ve done. Take your WORRY, look at it, do what you can, and then LET GO and STOP thinking about it. If the worry starts again, remind yourself that you have done what you can, and imagine a red STOP sign. Shout STOP! in your head if you have to. You could also add an item to your action list if you think of something useful you could do to MAP – minimise, avoid or prepare.
The alternative? Get stuck in an endless cycle of worrying, helplessness, fear and powerlessness. I know what I’d choose.
If you liked this article about how to stop worrying, you may also like:
- Meditation for Relaxation – 3 Practical Ways to Find Calm
- Be Happy for LIFE: Why Your Feelings Are More Important Than Goals!
- 5 Minute Fix: 3 Simple Steps to Cope With Stress When You’re Under Pressure
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