I would have to say that the number one “problem” I come across while working with my clients centers around worry and anxiety. A habit of looking to “what could” go wrong or what you “should” be doing that you’re not, are the exact ways of thinking that lead to a lower quality of life. I see people in mind torture because their fixated on fearful stories of what could happen if .......... (fill in your nightmare). When that blank is filled with a situation that heightens your emotions and paints a grim future, be prepared to enter into a dark place.
I really don’t want you to visit that awful place, so here are some tips that I suggest to my clients who are struggling with worry.
Focus on Facts not on a Story
The fear that I hear from my clients is, often, never an actual truth. It (the fear) usually can be an oscar nominated movie because it's so far fetched. Fear is fueled by going into the future and imagining the worst case scenario situation that can possibly happen. In psychology, this is referred to as “what if thinking.” This way of thinking is unhealthy, negative and will lead you to feel miserable. Period. In order to become a more peaceful person it’s essential to get a grip on your ability to tell yourself negative stories. I commend you for the awesome creativity, although I rather you get creative in another, more productive, way.
Start noticing when you begin telling yourself a story.
How will you know? Great question.
Answer: You will start to feel anxious, worried and negative.
A good exercise to do when you are in a positive mind space, is to split a piece of paper down the middle and label one side “Fears” and the other “Facts.” For example, A fear could be “I will loose my job and have no money.” Fact could be, “I have a job and I’m able to pay the rent.” When you get into a negative, swirling down the rabbit hole kinda place, pull this paper out and allow it to help you. Literally, see the truth. Keep this paper in your wallet or somewhere easy to get too.
Develop a Personal Mantra
Developing a short and strong statement that you can quickly remind yourself of when you begin to feel worried and anxious could help you from escalating into a full blown dark hole. It needs to be a phrase that you really identify with. I don’t want this phrase to be anyone’s words but yours. It could be “breathe,” “relax” “focus on facts” “everything is okay” “good things will happen for me.” It could be anything that you relate to and feel connected with to help you ground yourself. A personal mantra can help you redirect your energy when you begin to feel funky.
Trust Something Bigger
Having positive beliefs about yourself and your life are essential to being a less worried and anxious person. Developing a universal trust can take the pressure off of you from feeling the need to figure things out. The reality is that you don’t have to figure out all the details toward the wants and desires that you hold within. Your job is to have ideas of what you want for yourself, believe that they can happen and then trust. Trust what? Something bigger. Trust that good things can happen for you. Trust that you aren’t given any want or desire without the ability for it to happen and come into existence. This might sound “out there” and it might not. If it sounds bizarre to you, I challenge you to play around with giving up control of the details of how you think something “should” be. When you begin to operate on this level, when things don’t go as planned, you see it as being redirected versus denied. That more positive perspective will keep your mood more steady, grounded and less anxious.
Everyone experiences fear and worry. The key is to figure out how to keep your fear and worry at a level where it remains healthy and doesn’t overcome you with doom. With practice you can get your worried self in check. I see it happen all the time with my clients.
You got this.
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* The above image was taken in Joshua Tree, California by Ashley Williams, San Diego Photographer.