“If you want to test your memory, try to recall what you were worrying about one year ago today.”
E. Joseph Cossman
”People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than the burdens are attached to them.”
George Bernard Shaw
You are going about your regular day in your usual fashion. Then a thought or a feeling strikes you. It multiplies and start circling around and around in your head. Becoming louder and louder as it saps your strength and makes you feel weaker.
Worries can really put a wet blanket over your life and suck the excitement and fun right out of it.
So strategies are needed. Strategies to redirect our thoughts and feelings away from the worries and to make them fade away and let us regain inner peace or at least make those worries manageable.
In this article I’ll share how I do that in my own life. Some of these things may work very well for you. Some may work less well. So i recommend going through these steps and trying them out and see what works best for you.
1. Ask yourself: How many of the things you feared would happen in your life did actually happen?
This is a big one. Most things you fear will happen never happen. They are just monsters in your own mind. And if they happen then they will most often not be as painful or bad as you expected. Worrying is most often just a waste of time.
This is of course easy to say. But if you remind yourself of how little of what you feared throughout your life that has actually happened you can start to release more and more of that worry from your thoughts.
So whenever I am struck with worries, I ask myself this question and I remind myself of how little of the things that I have worried about over the years that have actually become real. I find that this most often calms me down.
2. Ask yourself: Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?
It’s very easy to fall into the habit of making mountains out of molehills. You think and think about a small problem until it becomes something that you believe may ruin your life.
So why do we do it? Why don’t strive to make things easy and simple?
Well, one reason I believe is protection from pain. By making the problem huge can you can invent a helpful excuse to convince yourself to not take action.
Another reason is that the ego wants more. It wants to feel better or worse than someone else. By making things more complicated than they need to be you can make them feel very important. And since you are involved in these important things, since you have these BIG problems, well, then you have to be important too, right? Plus, by doing so you can get a lot of attention and comfort from other people.
So how do you get out of the habit of making mountains of molehills? Two tips:
- Zoom out. Ask questions that widen your current perspective. Questions like: “Does someone have it worse on the planet?” The answer may not result in positive thoughts, but it can sure snap you of a somewhat childish “poor, poor me…” attitude pretty quickly. This question changes the perspective from a narrow, self-centred one into a much wider one and helps me to lighten up about my situation and to be grateful about my life.
- Bring awareness to you own thought patterns. Ask yourself further questions like: “Honestly, am I overcomplicating this?” and “What is the simplest and most straightforward solution to my problem that I may be avoiding to protect myself from pain?”
3. Refocus your mind and attention towards the solutions rather than the worry.
To move out of worry I find it enormously helpful to just start moving and taking action to solve what I am concerned about.
Two tips that have helped me to take action more consistently every week are:
- Using a morning routine. This is perhaps the most powerful tip I have found so far in this area. You simply set up a routine in the morning that you do as soon as you wake up. This works so well because what you do early in the day often sets the context for your day. As humans we have a strong tendency to want to be consistent with what we have done before. That’s one big reason why a bad start often leads to a bad day and a good start often leads to a good day. So create a routine that gives you a positive and proactive start to your day. A tip is to include doing the hardest task of your day first thing in your day.
- Starting small. To get from a state where you just feel like sitting on your chair and doing nothing much to one where you take action over and over you can do this: start small. Getting started with your biggest task or most difficult action may seem too much and land you in Procrastinationland. So instead, start with something that doesn’t seem so hard. One of my favorites is simply to take a few minutes to clean my desk. After that the next thing doesn’t seem so difficult to get started with since I’m now in a more of a “take action” kind of mode.
4. Go and do a work out.
This is perhaps a somewhat unusual step. But I have found that on some days I cannot change my thoughts or immediately find an solution by using the three steps above. Then I go and do a workout like lifting free weights for half an hour or I do a body weight circuit. And that will most often change how I feel.
Because I get a hormone boost and an energy boost. With that boost in hormones and energy you feel like you’re in forward motion, with a clearer focus and you feel more inner stability with a lot less inner doubt.
The nice thing about this is that it works kind of automatically. Sometimes you just can’t let go of that worrying feeling or pump up your own enthusiasm or motivation. Or see things from a positive perspective. When working out you don’t have to think or push through such inner resistance. You go and you work out. And most of the time it works like pushing a stress- and tension-release button in yourself.
5. Remember: Tomorrow will come anyway. Live and fully enjoy here and now.
To be able to let go all that excessive thinking about the future (which often leads to worries in the end), to live better today and to be able to take that positive action to move forward it really has been very helpful for me to develop a habit of learning to live in the present moment. Because it’s there that you can do things in the best possible way with your focus fully on what you are doing.
Three of my favourite techniques for developing this habit and drawing myself back to the now when I get lost thinking too much about the future or past are these:
- Focus on what’s right in front of you. Or around you. Or on you. Use your senses. Just look at what’s right in front of you right now. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the fabric of your clothes and focus on how they feel. Be still right there and just take in the world around you.
- Focus on your breathing. Take relatively deep breaths with your belly. Focus your attention on just the in- and out-breaths for about two minutes. This aligns you with what is happening right now and it also calms down a stressed and worried body.
- Pick up the vibe from present people. If you know someone that is more present than most people then you can pick up his/her vibe of presence by hanging out with him or her (just like you can pick up positivity or enthusiasm from people). If you don’t know someone like that then I have often recommended listening to/watching Eckhart Tolle in the past. I still do. I especially like his audio book “Stillness Speaks”. Another guy that I find helpful for picking up presence from is Wayne Dyer.
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