Anxiety: Are You Programmed to Worry?
The world is demanding more from us and as the competition for our attention continues to increase there is pressure to be more successful, to be fulfilled, to always be happy and keep our selves together…..Creating the perfect recipe for the 'worrying mind'.
How we respond to this mental pressure is vital to our health, relationships and overall well-being. But before I suggest any strategies to help focus the worrying mind I want to paint a picture of the inner dynamics.
When I describe a gestalt perspective for anxiety and worrying I explain it like this…..You can think of worrying as a creative way that our mind is trying to make any 'unfinished business' or 'uncertainty' into something that we can perceive as acceptable.
But what if acceptable is replaced with imagining the worst-case scenario?
Common examples of this negative forecasting come from situations that we wish we could change or control; like having an aggressive boss that makes a comment that didn't sit well or finishing a project and convincing yourself that you have failed.
So the question then becomes “Why do people project the worst-case scenario"?
This mental forecasting sounds like the person is being negative and they are, but for the worrying mind it's more about controlling unknown. They behave as if they must shoot themselves before anyone else can and this behavior becomes more and more repetitive over time.
The worrying mind does not naturally withdraw into focusing on solutions, but rather like a broken record stays fixed in the feeling of anxiety playing the statements of “what if" and “oh no" over and over again.
The path to undoing these automatic and unconscious responses is about becoming intentionally focused.
Strategies for overcoming the worrying mind:
Thoughts are just thoughts….Until we feed them- When we are prone to worrying the most difficult challenge is to not to get 'hooked' into the story.
There is a great teaching (Cherokee Nation) from a Native American man describing to his grandson of an internal battle of two wolves fighting. One is evil filled with greed, envy; false pride. While the other wolf is good, filled with love, joy and peace. The grandson asks the grandfather as he describes the story in which wolf will win the battle. “The one that I feed" answers the grandfather.
- If you are going to think…..Be productive- Ask yourself what can you actually do and focus your time on problem-solving with proactive tasks instead of worrying
- Shift the “What if" into “What is"….. “Worrying is not you thinking….It's your fears doing the thinking for you." Focus only on what is!!
- Make a List- The worrying mind is always making a list of things that could go wrong. Externalize that internal list and write it down. Once you are done go through each thought on the list and really decide what is within your control here and now.
- What if I don't get the job
- What if I can't afford this house
- My partner might leave me
- I might not get a job that I like ever again
This process will help you with understanding your thought process and help you identify what is actually within your control.
Uncertainty is a reality….Learn to accept this and you will be ahead of the game
Our lives are made up of many different chapters with twist and turns around every corner. Allowing ourselves to be adaptable and available to respond to life's changes gives you greater flexibility to be free from anxiety and worrying.
Anxiety is Ungrounded Excitement- Intentionally refocus how you perceive your own worrying and anxiety…..
A wise teacher once shared with me how his six year old reacted in his first baseball tournament. His son had to get up to the plate when the game counted the most and was shaking with fear He ran to his dad and said “I am really scared dad". His father knowing how close the feelings of anxiety and excitement really are shared, “No son you are just really excited."
Children are much more susceptible to this clever suggestion and for that particular game it worked for his son and in the process learned a very valuable lesson about how to proactively deal with pressure.
Learn to Meditate - This will help with your ability to focus, reduce stress levels and help you with going into natural sleep patterns.