I mean, everyone is affected by worry sometimes – it’s part of being human and shows you care. But did you know there are two different types of worry?
This type of worry is useful. It’s a way of planning for and avoiding genuine obstacles which could crop up.
And once you have created a plan?
You stop worrying and go merrily on your way.
A bit like this…
Imagine you have an early work meeting (back when we could still go to meetings IRL!) and you need to catch a super-early train in the morning.
You’re not great at getting up in the morning (this may or may not be autobiographical!).
You’re worried you’ll sleep through your alarm, miss your train and get fired.
So, you make a plan.
You set three consecutive alarms on your phone and set it to full volume.
You layout your clothes for the morning, and you prep your breakfast.
You feel great!
You’ve made a plan, formulated a solution, and best of all – now you’ve STOPPED worrying.
You sleep like a baby and wake feeling refreshed and joyful, rehearse your presentation on the train, have the best meeting ever and your boss buys you a pastry on the way home – result!
Very productive ?
This is the type of worrying ‘most’ people do when they are in a conscious, calm, confident mental state. They are relaxed, they trust in their abilities to solve problems, and they are calm.
Yep, it’s as horrible as it sounds.
Take the same situation, but with a different response. Instead of formulating a useful plan of action – you start ‘what if-ing’.
“What if I sleep through all three alarms?”
“What if I miss the train?”
“What if I spill my breakfast down my front and don’t have time to change?”
“What if I miss the train?”
“What if I mess up in the meeting?”
“WHAT IF I MISS THE TRAIN?”
This sets off a constant loop of “what ifs” followed by a weak solution, followed by more “what ifs” and unsatisfactory solutions. Urgh – what a cycle!
This is the type of worrying people do when they are unconscious, stressed, lacking faith in themselves and generally anxious.
Now, we know the brain is a wonderful solution-focused computer – if you set it a problem, it will excitedly scamper off to find the answer.
The issue here is, every time it finds an answer (because you’re not feeling positive or calm or trusting), you instantly reject it and set it another problem… “yep, that would be great for everyone else, but what if… what if… WHAT IF…?”
You barely sleep – jumping awake up every 30 minutes through the night to check the clock – having stress dreams about over-sleeping.
When you do get up (which happens a millisecond after the first alarm goes off, cos, let’s face it you weren’t really asleep anyway!), you’re knackered.
You’re too stressed to eat the breakfast you prepped, and you feel uncomfortable in the clothes you laid out.
You make the train in plenty of time – too much time actually, hanging about on the cold platform. You stress about your presentation during the journey and push through the meeting in an exhausted,
You do not get a pastry.
One thing I find really useful is to get everything out of my head.
Having everything swirling around in there – all formless and nameless is overwhelming, so grab your journal and dump it all. Sometimes just writing it out in all its slightly weird, bizarre (?), and unlikely glory can be enough to make you realise you are future-tripping in the worst way and close the book on it – literally.
Join the Facebook Group to access journal prompts to help you do this.
An extension of this exercise is to predict the absolute worst-case scenario.
This may seem like a slightly crazy thing to do when you’re already worried (and it can be extreme), but sometimes taking the worry to its nth degree robs its power.
Knowing you can deal with anything even if the worst happens, usually ends the cycle and allows you to get on with things. Only do this if you feel you are strong enough to deal with the answers that might come up.
Open your journal and turn to the brain dump of fears and go through them one by one asking ‘so what’ until you get to the very bottom of the fear.
In our example above, this could look like:
“I’ll miss the train” So, what?
“My boss will have to go to the meeting on her own” So, what?
“She’ll be really pissed off with me!” So, what?
“I’ll look unprofessional” So, what?
“She will fire me” So, what?
“I’ll be jobless”.
All that, just from missing the train?!
Once you get to the bottom of it, think objectively about how likely that is to happen… If you miss the train, if you miss the meeting, you look unprofessional and your boss is pissed off – how likely is she to fire you, really? On a scale of 1-10? 10 being definitely sacked?
Anything less than a six/seven isn’t worthy of this level of distress.
If it’s more than that, there’s probably something else going on… and it could be worth journaling about why you’re so worried that this one thing could result in what you perceive to be such extreme consequences.
Then make a positive plan to deal with the final extreme thing in your list, in this case – “I’ll be jobless”.
· It is likely you’ve been jobless/looked for a job before and found one…
· You have savings which can tide you over…
· You could speak to all the people in your network about new opportunities…
· It could be an opportunity to start that dog walking business…
You get the picture.
Sometimes, the worst thing we can imagine isn’t that terrible when you break it down.
Once you have done all the practical stuff, made a productive plan, got everything out of your head, and created your worst-case scenario – if you’re still “what-if-ing”?
Lean into it.
Accept and allow.
Now, I know I say that a lot, but by accepting this is ‘just worrying’ and allowing it to be there – and not becoming invested or engaged in the internal argument – puts you back in the driving seat.
If it is clear you are in Toxic Worry and not Productive Worry (i.e. you have created a solution-orientated plan to deal with the problem, but you’re still worrying and feeling rubbish about the whole thing!) and can feel your thoughts spiralling, you need to become the detached, compassionate, caring voice of reason inside your head – as if you were speaking to a worried child.
No shouting, fighting or scolding!
Tell yourself you understand you are experiencing worrying thoughts, you know this because it feels crappy!
Remind yourself they are just thoughts – they are not truth or certainty just because they pass through your mind. Nothing is certain – you are not guaranteed to miss the train if you sleep through the alarm; you are not guaranteed to get fired if you do etc.
Try not to engage with the thoughts – as soon as you start to look for more and more solutions, you are giving the thought power, accepting it as real and worthy of notice, and fuelling the ‘what if’ cycle.
If you have made all the preparations for the genuine solutions you need to, just carry on as normal. You may still have the worrying thoughts in your head but once you have named them, accepted them, allowed them, observed them and given them time to pass, do whatever it is you had planned to do.
You are not in danger now, nothing can hurt you now, you can go on with your life as normal.
There are loads more tools and exercises we can use to get beyond anxiety, and intrusive thoughts and worries – I’d love the opportunity to discuss them with you.
Remember to click here to join the Facebook Group and download the journal prompts I use to get the thoughts out of my head.
Moving through with anxiety, worry and overthinking using methods and exercises just like this form part of the Beyond Anxiety Blueprint, if you’d like to hear more please drop me a line.
Or if you’d like to discuss any anxiety-related issue you are struggling with at the moment click on the image below and book a free call.
Hi there, my name’s Kathryn and I’m your Anxiety Recovery Coach.
My mission is to connect with, help and support as many open-minded, women as possible who want to transform their relationship with anxiety, fall back in love with their work and life, and willing to believe recovery is at least possible.
Over the last few years, I have honed and tweaked the tools and techniques which worked for me, into my ‘Beyond Anxiety Blueprint’ which focuses on identifying your personal path to recovery, and delivering three key outcomes:
Why not join us in our Facebook Group – our community for open-minded women from all walks of life learning to live anxiety-free, reconnect with their inner-selves, and shine in their lives, careers and businesses with conscious, calm, confidence?
Or you can download my guide: ‘Journal your way to CONSCIOUS, CALM, CONFIDENT‘ to give you a little ‘Consciousness Jumpstart’!