I remember when my oldest was born, and I watched as he was laying in his crib. I felt so much love and worry all at the same time. I worried about his future and what it might in store for him — my instinct to protect him was so strong. I worried about cruel people who might hurt him, people, the mistakes he would make and the trials he would go through; and I worried about his abilities to deal with all of the hard and challenging experiences of life. I was the mom who is defined by worry.
The thing is, all of these worries were in the future and were about situations in which I had no control. In the very moment, as I watched him sleeping in his crib, we were fine. The only imminent danger was in my worries.
What do you worry about?
Not worrying doesn’t mean there isn’t pain. We can deal with pain. The present moment is never as painful as the worry we create in the future. It’s the suffering about what might happen in the future that doesn’t serve us well.
What is Worry and What Causes It
Worry lives in the family of fear and anxiety and thinks it is protecting us from danger. It’s important to understand anything from the fear family is future based. We can’t feel worried about something in the present; it’s about things that could happen in the future.
When we worry, we have negative thoughts or emotions which is our brain way of avoiding pain or potential risks. Its job is to protect us from both physical and emotional danger. Emotional threats are where we spend most of our time worrying. 85% of the things we worry about never actually happen, and 80% of people who experience hard things say they handled it better than they thought they would ( Source). For the most part, the worry is not necessary.
It is one of the only negative emotions we tell each other we should experience. We think we are looking out for each other by offering helpful information. But there is a big difference between giving useful critical information versus fueling worry.
Think about this. As women, we love to share our birth stories. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a baby shower where every mother hasn’t shared her birthing horror story. We don’t share with the intent to hurt or worry the expectant mom, but the result is she goes home wondering how she will survive childbirth. We think we are looking out for a friend when we are only fueling her worry.
“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.” — Eckart Tolle
Worry is a self-imposed emotion tricking us into thinking its useful. It is not authentic as it leads us to believe there is some sort of danger. Our worry can be triggered by fear about our kids, our relationships, or our safety. What are your triggers? Is it not having enough money, being humiliated, not being accepted or loved enough? It’s a natural instinct to protect those we love, but sometimes our instincts are misinformed.
4 Ways to Work Through Your Worry
Have I told you about the yellow school bus syndrome? There is the most bright and shiny school bus with a stark contrasting black pinstripe. The doors open from the middle, and the wiper blades swish together one on top of each other. The bus is full of elementary school kids, and the driver is the kindest older gentleman who looks out for their safety. Now stop thinking about the yellow school bus, and all the kids and the kind driver. Don’t think about how bright the color contrast is or how the wipers swish. Think about anything but the yellow school bus.
It doesn’t work, does it?
As you work through your worries, don’t think about stopping. Sometimes you can distract yourself for a moment, but the harder you try to stop the stronger and more persistent the worry becomes. “Thought stopping” doesn’t work because it forces you to spend extra attention on the very thought you are trying to avoid.
Instead, try these five ideas for working through your worry rather than trying to stop.
1 | Explore and Discover
Brooke Castillo describes it as “leaning into the emotion.” Exploring and discovering is about acknowledging and processing our feelings, not trying to stop or figure them out. Name the emotion, recognize how it feels and where the worry is living in your body. Processing a difficult emotion is usually painful but it is the best way to work through them and back into the present.
2 | Concentrate on the Present
What do you feel, hear and see around you? Concentrate on deep breathing and getting your breath into every part of your body. Focus on being in the present moment.
3 | Focus on the Positives
Rather than thinking about all that could potentially go wrong, imagine every detail of the situation and how it would look if it goes exactly as planned. Visualize the circumstance around your worry. Watch it play out in your mind with a positive result rather than the one in which you’re worried. Instead of fixating on an adverse outcome try focusing on how it will look when it all turns out positive.
4 | Talk to Someone
Empathy is an excellent remedy for fear. Face to face communication with someone you know is listening can be one of the most effective ways to work through worry. Talk to someone who will validate your concern, but then help you see it from a different perspective. Try reframing the situation to one of control. Talking about your worries makes them seem less threatening.
5 | Become Aware and Believe
You don’t need to be consumed or controlled by your emotions for them to be real. Watch your thoughts and choose which ones you want to believe. Disconnecting from what your thinking is a powerful process. Realize — you are not your thoughts. You can be curious without becoming consumed. It doesn’t mean it will be easy, but when you let go of the resistance, it opens up and become so useful.
Want a little more help. Download the free workbook below. It will help you develop some tools to work through your worry.
Defined by Worry Takeaways
If you are a mom who is defined by worry, know this — you are capable of handling any emotion and worry is an emotion. It’s one of those emotions that will never help you. In fact, if you get stuck worrying you’ll be much less effective in finding a solution.
“Worry doesn’t prevent problems. It prevents you from finding solutions.”
Our worries are often about a situation or circumstance outside of our control. Sometimes it is about the future; other times we might be rehashing a past decision. Try working through the worry and reframing it to be about something you do have control over. When your mind wants to fixate on a circumstance it can’t control, it’s easy for it to spin out into anxiety making it harder to listen to reason or your intuition.
Fun is the opposite of worry. Look for a way to change how you feel. Try surrendering to the circumstance. So, what if it does happen? How would you respond? Would it be so terrible? Letting go and staying focused on the present is keeps your brain in a place of health and happiness.
Goewey, Don Joseph. “ 85 Percent of What We Worry About Never Happens.” HuffPost: 6 Dec. 2017.
Originally published at https://www.choosingwisdom.org.