“If you treat every situation as a life and death matter, you’ll die a lot of times.”
– Dean Smith
Worry has an understandable place in our emotional toolboxes. Being able to see a problem from all angles before you take action can help you get the most value out of your decisions. If you are able to see the bigger picture before you act, you may be able to prevent heartache or create a more successful outcome for all involved. The reality though is that, unless you are in a war zone or in another life and death situation, those life changing decisions don’t usually happen every second of the day. At some point you need to move the worry out of the way to make a decision and learn to simply relax and enjoy the present more often.
Worrying is a path to nowhere. It certainly doesn’t solve the challenges you’re facing. All it does is to empty the present moment of its joy. After all, if you’re worrying, you’re not actually doing anything. You’re simply mulling over whatever it is you’re afraid of, without really getting anything done.
I admit, I have been known to worry unnecessarily about the future. I would be very guilty of this. I would consider myself to be analytical on the one hand, yet very creative on the other. I once took one of those personality quizzes which tested whether you are right or left brained and I came out equally both. As a result, I like to weigh up every possibility before I take inspired, yet measured action. Sometimes this has worked for me and sometimes I have failed miserably. But I can categorically say, there isn’t a time that simply worrying about something has actually achieved a darn thing for me.
Erma Bombeck said that worry is like sitting in a rocking chair, you are moving, but you aren’t going anywhere. If you worry too much, you can become paralyzed. Worrying feeds on your physical and mental energy, which can create quite a lot of confusion and anxiety. If you want to change your life, it’s extremely important to stop being afraid of the future.
You cannot predict or control what happens in the future. Nor can you stop unexpected outcomes from happening. The one thing you can definitely control is how you feel in this moment. In my opinion, the best thing you can do in most situations is to try to return to the present moment. You may think that focus on the present is putting off making decisions about the future, but it is quite the contrary. Savoring the present moment often leads to more ease in making decisions about the future. If you look at it realistically, that’s all you can do to influence the future in a beneficial way. However, the power of the present moment should not be underestimated. Make good use of it as it helps you to create a step-by-step strategy for future decisions.
With worry about the past , you can often get swept up in what I call “if only” thinking, where you beat yourself up about what you should have done and rob your present of powerful joy. With worry about the future, you can get caught up in what I call “ what if” thinking. “What if this doesn’t go right, then what will happen?”, “what if I say the wrong thing, then it will be a total disaster”. You can quickly allow ‘what if” thinking to snowball into unnecessary worries about possible destruction. “What if” you used that same time and energy imagining what could possibly go right in your future instead? What is the worst that could happen? Things could still go totally wrong, but you will have saved precious moments of your life and health fully living in the present instead of the havoc that creating disaster scenarios in your mind can cause on your body.
Chances are that, if you spend that time thinking positively instead of negatively, you are likely to radiate with the positive energy you need to step up and create a successful future. Our brains and bodies are complex organs. They only put out what we feed them. If you feed your brain constant disaster scenes, then it will almost feel kind of satisfying when the worst happens, because it is what you are telling yourself to expect. You may have heard about athletes who have practiced simulations and their brains and bodies fire off in exactly the same ways as if they were actually performing the sport on the day. Your mind can create a scene even without your body actually experiencing it. Why create a virtual disaster before you need to?
I believe the biggest antidote to worries about the future is to shift yourself back to the present. So here are 5 ways that I use to to get back to the present and curb worry into the future:
1.Stop and breathe. Literally STOP and breathe. Sometimes it helps to use an app for this. There are some available on both Android and iPhone. Slowing down or stopping is always a good way to get you back to the present moment.
2.Expose your worry to the light of day in some way. Write it down. Do a brain dump. Just write down what is on your mind without censoring it. Sometimes bringing your worries out into the open can help you get it out of your head and start on a path to something more productive. At the very least, seeing your problems written down can be the start of you looking at them more objectively and creating a useful strategy to start taking action.
3.Focus on small steps you can take now to feel that you are moving forward. When I’m feeling overwhelmed I have found that asking myself, “Does this have to be done this very minute?” or “What small step can I do right now which will lead to progress on this?”. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase“a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You don’t always have to do everything right now. Sometimes it is worth just breaking a problem down into small steps to tackle it. And once you have taken all the action you can take in this moment, shelve thinking about it until you have planned the next time you will focus on it.
4.Take a walk or change your scenery. This is pretty self-explanatory. If your brain is swimming around with worries, one of the handiest forms of mediation is to take a walk. This grounds you in the present. You can observe what might be changing in your neighborhood or in the seasons. Changing your scenery can give a new perspective by literally putting something else in front of you. This allows you time to process and time to focus on some of the things that are going well for you rather than just the worries.
5.Think of the problem from multiple perspectives. What would your 5 year old niece think of this situation? What would your elderly neighbor do in this situation?Kids are usually very good at seeing things only from the present moment. While this can seem irresponsible at times, when you are overcome with worry, it be exactly the thing you need. Sometimes this can minimize the worry by almost making it comical, particularly with looking at a problem from a child’s perspective. It is one of the benefits of adulthood that we can see things from several perspectives, yet have the ability and the choice in how we handle solutions.
What are some ways that you overcome worries about the future?