What is worry?

We all know how worry feels. It is an uncomfortable feeling triggered by a thought of the worst-imagined outcome. This results in feeling uneasy, a belief of not being safe, and a fear of not being capable of handling the future.

That feeling of worry is prompted by a series of negative thoughts that then develop into gloomy mental images. Because, those worrying thoughts are focused on undesirable outcomes, there is a natural and frantic step into rapid problem solving that follows. The relentless scanning for answers in our neurology leaves us feeling overwhelmed, and if it lasts, we can experience fear and even panic.

Mental Rehearsal

Human beings have the outstanding ability to mentally rehearse future events. This ability to think ahead means that we can anticipate obstacles or problems that allow us to take appropriate pre-planned action. When this ability to think ahead is used in this manner, it is adaptive, productive, and highly-ecological for self and others.

However, when this ability is used to the extreme and it becomes focused on a relentless negative hypothetical scenario making that leaves one feeling anxious or apprehensive. Then it it can turn to be maladaptive and unproductive. The key is recognizing where and when you take on maladaptive future thinking.  It is the first step in combating unnecessary and damaging worry.

Worry During COVID-19

It’s tough not to be worried during the current pandemic. And it’s even harder to be productive and positive each day while going through all of the uncertainty. Anxiousness and stress are dominating many people’s lives right now and distracting them from focusing on the generous current moment where life is truly lived. Having a strategy to handle worry when it shows up is a smart step forward towards peace and towards controlling how you are living your life right here, right now.

Here are 4 of the top tips for handling worry during COVID-19:

  1. Imagine putting your worries in a box.

This is all about you controlling when and how you worry and to stop being a victim to your emotional state. To gain control over the feeling of worry, follow these easy and fun steps. Recognize that by implementing this method, you are allowing yourself to live worry-free for the majority of your day.

Step 1: Write down any worry that comes into your awareness on a piece of paper during the day. Be as specific about the feeling of worry as possible.

Step 2: Put the pieces of paper containing your worries into a designated worry box.

Step 3: Choose a time of day (preferably the same time each day and no longer than 30 minutes) to allow yourself to read each of your worries and to give them some attention.

Step 4: After you have read your worry it may no longer feel like a concern.  If so, throw the worry in the garbage.  If it still feels concerning, give yourself some time (around 5 minutes) to contemplate the worry.  Put the worry back in the worry box if you feel that it needs more attention tomorrow.

  1. Examine the thoughts that are triggering the worry

Recognize the extreme thinking that is fueling each worry that you have written down. More than likely the worry will be centered around an overestimation that everything will go badly or conversely an underestimation that things will go well. You most likely will have used words such as always, never, everything, everyone, all, no one, every or forever. You may have also used words such as can’t, won’t, shouldn’t, must, must not, or need to.

Next, ask yourself some challenging questions about each worry. Ask such questions such as: “how do I know for sure”, “what if something different happened”, “what are some facts that do not support my thinking.”

  1. Re-write each worry

Rewrite each worry in a more positive and realistic way.  Recognize the probability of the feared outcome is probably very low and so now focus on the more likely outcome. Focus on the result that is most desired by you, the one you truly want to become your reality.

  1. Recognize what is outside of your control and then let it go

Worries that are adaptive are usually ones that can you can approach with meaningful, productive, actionable steps. For example, if you were worried about not making your flight on time tomorrow, you can take steps to reduce that worry by checking-in online, pre-arranging a taxi, packing the night before, and so on.

If the worry is unsolvable or outside of your control to fix, then it is best to accept the uncertainty. This is the wheelhouse for most chronic worriers and where they need to do most of their work.

Worrying is often an attempt to predict the future to prevent unpleasant surprises and to control outcomes. The problem is that it does not work, it never has and it never will. Worrying about all of the ways that things could go wrong does not make life more predictable, it just keeps you from enjoying the good times that are right in front of you now.

To read more about handling uncertainty during the current pandemic, watch for my next blog coming out soon.

Let’s Connect

If you are interested in how my proprietary coaching program Rewire Your mind® can help you step away from worry and into a more joy-filled life, sign up for a complimentary consultation on my website.

And as always, I invite you to join in on the conversation on Facebook and Instagram.

To Your Health and Wellbeing,

Karen

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