Years ago I would refer to myself as “the born worrier”. Seriously. I loved to worry. If I didn’t have anything to worry about, I would worry about not being worried. My Nan had been a “born worrier”. So I thought it would be pretty cool to be the same. And like anything I put my mind to, I did the whole worry thing with gusto! No half worry measures for me. If I was going to worry, I was gonna go for the whole kit n’ caboodle kind of worry. The whole “not sleeping at night” type of worrying. In fact, I felt if I worried, I could be in control of every aspect of my life. I would be able to pat myself on the back when something went wrong and say “see, it was really good that you didn’t sleep for twelvty-billion days as you are now so prepared for this to go wrong”. However, I wasn’t. Worrying was in control of me, and eventually I became so ill (eventually diagnosed with M.E.), it no longer was cool to be a worrier…….
“Worrying is fiction”
I do think worrying comes from not trusting the process of life. I think it stems from either a major situation, or a number of minor situations, where there is an event in life that you do not feel prepared for. Your mind will have gone to a fearful place and this fear speaks to you and says, “see, if you had thought about this situation before hand, you would have been prepared for it”. Yet, you don’t know what is the right situation to be thinking about so you therefore think about them all. And you falsely believe that you can protect yourself by just worrying about everything. So worrying is stories we make up. Worrying is fiction.
When you are worrying, you are not living. You are removed from the outside world and living instead inside of your head, either worrying about things that have already happened or running over every scenario for things that haven’t happened yet. And when you are not living you are missing out on the beauty that surrounds you everyday.
When I look back now, I find it really hard to see anything positive about worrying. Does anyone every say to you “hey, thanks for not sleeping or eating these past few weeks so that you could worry about me”? No, no one thanks you for worrying. In fact, if someone worries about me, I feel awkward and embarrassed they would be wasting so much of their energy, or that I am such a concern. If worrying really did solve a problem, I would say “knock yourself out. Fill your boots with your worries”. But it doesn’t. It’s so destructive.
Stopping the worries
Years ago a read a story about a girl who would tell her granddad that she was worried, and he would say “oh, we don’t worry about things on a Tuesday! We worry about things on a Saturday. Park up the worry for now and we can talk about it on the worry day instead”. Inevitably, by the Saturday she would have forgotten all about the worry. It was years later when she would realise that the “worry day” would be on a different day each time! This had such a profound affect on me. It was the first time I realised that we could make a choice not to worry.
I realised worries would not change over night. I knew that I had not really been born a worrier and that this had developed over time, so I felt that perhaps it would be possible to reframe the way I thought about worries. In effect, retrain my brain. So this is what I did. And it wasn’t just one technique, it was a few techniques and I would just do whatever felt right at the time. Here are some of the techniques I used:
- “Cancel”. If I had a worrying thought, I would quite simply say “cancel” straight after the thought. So I was immediately not giving the worry any more attention.
- “Worry, worry. Breathe it out”. This is where I would name the emotion and then quite simply breathe out the feeling from my body. This would be when I realised that I had gone into “story mode” about the worry. It would mean that I could stop identifying with the worry.
- “About turn” This is where I would turn the worry into something positive and give it a happy ending: “I’m worried the rain is going to ruin the walk I had planned but I expect this is going to turn out to be ok in the end”
- Tell myself there is always a solution to every situation and that I will be able to find the solution when I need it most.
- “Pop the worry on a cloud ” (or any other moving object) and imagine it drifting away from me.
“I have measured the risk, and I am much happier taking a chance with the unknown”.
Eventually, all of these techniques worked. Not over night, but over time. One day I heard myself say to someone, “I used to refer to myself as the born worrier, but I don’t really worry anymore”. And it is true. I don’t really worry about much. I no longer let these negativity define me. Life is always going to have ups and downs, and twists and turns. But I am willing to follow it along and see where it takes me: I have measured the risk, and I am much happier taking a chance with the unknown.
Categorised in: Meanderings
This post was written by Sarah Presley