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Last Updated on April 17, 2018

How to Stop Worrying About Your Future (and Start Saving Time!)

How to Stop Worrying About Your Future (and Start Saving Time!)

Have you ever lost sleep worrying about something that has yet to happen?

Has worrying about the future interrupted your productivity? Your flow? Your day? Your mood?

If you answered “yes”, you are not alone.

Worry happens to all of us, particularly when it comes to events, people, and things that are important.

The trouble with worry is it is a complete and total waste of our valuable time and energy. We all know that on a logical level, and yet we still worry.

Here’s the good news; while we may never learn how to stop worrying about the future completely, there are ways to help us better manage that worry so we can save ourselves some time. In this article, we’ll go over exactly how to do just that.

Worrying Wastes Time And Energy

“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” –Leo F. Buscaglia

Part of managing worry is being aware of the costs. When we create awareness we are better able to create proactive solutions to minimize or eliminate that cost.

  • Cost #1: Worrying about what has yet to happen uses up valuable mental real estate and time.

“Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere” –Erma Bombeck

  • Cost #2: While worry may give you something to do, you most likely have better things to do with your time and your energy. For example, you could instead focus on your to-do list or notice the multitude of opportunities waiting for you. Focusing on worry not only makes it difficult to handle your to-do list, it also blocks you from seeing those opportunities or the steps that lead to them.
  • Cost #3: Worrying about the future is also an energy drain leaving you susceptible to more worry. Did you know that worry takes advantage of the times when your energy is low? That is when worry is at its most powerful.
  • Cost #4: It is a present moment joy crusher that can lower not just your energy but also your mood.
  • Cost #5: Speaking of mood; worry never gets you anywhere. Worry does not get you to a place where everything is OK. It does not make sure that everything is taken care of. Actually it does the opposite.
  • Cost #6: Worrying about the future creates a vicious loop of more worry about the future.

What does worrying about the future cost you?

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Tried and True Worry Busting Techniques

When I find myself worrying about the future, I use the following techniques to manage the worry. (Just a little side note: I like to switch it up a bit. I use a different technique each time I find myself worried about the future, or worried about anything for that matter.)

Practice Mindfulness

Since worrying about the future pulls us into the future, nothing busts worry faster than some good old fashion present moment mindfulness.

Take a look around and notice what is surrounding you. What do you see? What do you feel? What do you taste? What do you hear? What do you smell?

Taking note of your surroundings by using your senses is an awesome way to pull yourself into the present moment where future-related worry cannot bother you.

Do Deep Breathing

Have you ever noticed your breathing when you are worrying? If not, the next time you are worried about a future-related event check in with your breathing.

Worrying causes our breathing to become shallow. And, deep breathing can help us to relax and get us out of worry mode.

Here are two techniques to use to engage those deep breathes and cue the relaxation:

The first is the 4,4,and 4 technique. Give it a try right now by taking a deep breath in through your nose to a count of four. Then let the breath out through your nose or mouth to a count of four. Do that four times. (Another side note: Be sure to do this technique slowly so you do not hyperventilate or make yourself dizzy.)

The second technique is called Oxytocin Breathing because it actually releases the powerful hormone oxytocin into your brain. This is the same hormone that is released when you are hugging or kissing someone you love or after making love.

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Just a word of caution: you may not want to do this breathing technique in the middle of your busy office or a crowded street. It is best to do it some place private.

Here’s how to do Oxytocin Breathing:

Take a REALLY deep breath so that you are filling up your belly with air. Once you feel your belly expand to the point that you can no longer take in any more air, release it slowly by letting out an audible “Haaaaaaaaaaaahhh”.

Repeat this technique a few times until you feel yourself relaxing.

Check out this video to see the technique in action.

By the way, worry hates deep breathing so this is one of the quickest and the easiest techniques to use.

Express Extra Gratitude

As you are probably already aware, worry creates negative thoughts (and feelings). Gratitude does the exact opposite.

Since your brain can not think positive and negative thoughts at the same time gratitude is an awesome worry buster. Not to mention it’s something you can do any where, any time, especially when you are short on time.

I actually use gratitude when worry wakes me up in the middle of the night. When this happens, I begin listing all the things I am grateful for until I fall back to sleep. It works like a charm.

Similar to the present moment exercise, take a look around.

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Really quickly begin listing at least three things (or more) that you are grateful for. It could be the chair you are sitting in or the sleeping pet at your feet. Just start listing and before you know it the feeling of gratitude will replace the negative feeling that worry causes.

Lean Into “What Ifs”

It is all too common to want to shove worry aside or try and stuff it. Especially when you have a tight project deadline or a calendar full of obligations. Doing so, however, is just an invitation for the worry to stick around even longer.

Rather than try to ignore the worry, lean into by asking yourself the following question, “What if what I’m worrying about were to actually happen?”

Once you have your answer then ask yourself this follow-up question, “Then what would happen?” Keep asking the follow-up question until you have run out of “then what’s”.

I always find that doing this exercise takes the bite out of worry. I also walk away with a plan should what I’m worrying about actually happen. (Which, by the way, usually does not happen.)

Take Back Control

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” — The Dalai Lama

What do you have control over? What can you fix? What can you do to prevent whatever you are worrying about from happening?

For many us worry creates a feeling of being out of control and not safe. Doing things that are within our control helps us to regain those feelings of control and safety.

Tighten and Release

When you are worried, do you often feel a tightness in your stomach or your neck? Use that tightness to help you relax.

It sounds funny, but go ahead and tighten every muscle in your body. Tighten your legs, suck in your stomach, clench your bottom, tighten your arms, and make fists. Hold your muscles in that tight position for just a moment, and then release all your muscles.

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This technique is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. It combats worry and even stress by creating awareness around what the body feels like when it is in a relaxed state. And when you are in a relaxed state you are not in a state of worry.

Use Worry As A Gauge

Worry serves as a great gauge to let us know what is important and what is not. When you are worrying about something, tune-in to the gauge.

How important is what you are worrying about on a scale of 1-10? If you gave it a 5 or less, ask yourself this question,”Since this thing I’m worried about isn’t super important, what is really driving the worry?”

If you gave it a 5 or higher then it’s time to turn worry into a motivator to start taking action. To help, go back to the Take Back Control technique and ask yourself those questions.

Write or Talk It Out

Getting worry out of your head diminishes it. It is like the old analogy that if you shine a light on bacteria it dies. But if you keep it in the dark it grows.

If you do not feel comfortable talking it out with a friend, family member, coach, or another trusted professional, try writing about it. Get it all out on paper and then throw the paper away.

Writing about your future-related worry takes the charge out of it and creates more clarity and awareness.

Worrying Has Nothing On You

The next time you find yourself worrying about the future:

  • Create awareness around what the worry is costing you.
  • Use one or more of the worry busting techniques.
  • Remember that you are not alone when it comes to worrying (we all do it).

So, there you have it. By following the steps above you’ll be able to have a more worry-free life so that you can reclaim your precious time and get stuff done!

Featured photo credit: Freely via freelyphotos.com

More by this author

Pam Thomas, M.S, PCC, RMT | Chief Change Officer

Chief Change Officer @What's Within U; Helping people find solutions for the ruts that keep them stuck personally and professionally.

Writing Journal for a Better and More Productive Self (The How-To Guide) How to Stop Worrying About Your Future (and Start Saving Time!)

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Published on June 13, 2018

Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

Imagine yourself running at top speed. After a few minutes pass, you feel yourself slowly getting out of breath. You feel the aches in your muscles as your body slows down but you keep pushing yourself to keep going. Eventually, you collapse because you’ve exhausted all energy and you can no longer function.

For many people, this is what we do to our minds when we are constantly under stress. All the thoughts dictated by our endless to-do lists accompanied by our worries and fears are burning out our brains.

What if I told you there was a simple process backed by science that you can do in as little as 20 minutes a day that will lower your stress levels, improve your decision making skills and relieve anxiety?

This process is meditation. It has now become widely popular with over 18 million people practicing it in the U.S. alone[1] and it now also has grown into a billion dollar business.[2] Leading companies such as Google, Goldman Sachs and Salesforce use meditation practices in the workplace and 22% of employers have offered mindfulness training to staff back in 2016.

We’ve created this article about meditation for beginners so you can learn about what it is, and how you can use it right now to start experiencing the many benefits it provides.

What meditation means to your body and mind

The actual practice of meditation can be done in many different ways but the one type that has shown promising results is known as mindfulness meditation.

The purpose of the practice is to train your mind to be firmly focused on the present moment. It involves the act of focusing your attention on something such as your breathing, as well as taking moments to simply observe and be aware of things around and within you.

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Meditation recharges your brain

Meditation is what helps you to be in a restful and recuperative state where you are not controlled by your thoughts and feelings. As a result your mind will become better able to manage them in a way where you just observe them so you can make better decisions.

“Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.”[3]

Meditation keeps your brain healthy

Just like how exercises will make your body physically stronger, this mental exercise will make your brain stronger. It activates the parts of your brain that promote things like intelligence, empathy, and happiness just to list a few.

It’s a known fact that our brain start slowly shrinking starting around the age of 30[4] but keeping your brain in shape with meditation can prevent the shrinking altogether.

Meditation hears the cries of your body

When we’re too busy, we may not notice the subtle symptoms of our body. For example, when we are stressed, there are early symptoms such as tightness, irritation and heaviness in the body. When we ignore these symptoms, it can lead to much more amplified symptoms such as high blood pressure, fatigue and anxiety.

Meditation helps you become more aware with what your body has been trying to communicate with you about your health and well-being in order address certain issues before it’s too late.[5]

Why it’s worth it to start meditation

Over 50 years of scientific research has shown compelling evidence of the many different types of benefits meditation can have on both your brain and your body.

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One of the most compelling piece of evidence for meditation that I have found was that it literally changes your brain. Brain scans have shown that the neuron rich part of the brain known as grey matter was noticeably increased in multiple areas of the brain involved with important functions such as decision making, emotional regulation and memory.[6]

To learn more about some of the amazing benefits, you can read my other article: 15 Ways Meditation Boosts Your Brain Power and Your Mood

A simple way to meditate (even for absolute beginners)

If you’ve never meditated before, spending as little as 2 minutes a day may be a great start to develop a meditation habit and experience the results.[7]

One thing to keep in mind is that meditation isn’t about trying to stop your thoughts. It’s more about being aware of them and then simply allowing them to come and go.

All you need is a comfortable space where you are likely not to be disturbed and do the following:

  1. Sit with your back straight at a comfortable level, either on a chair or on the floor (Whichever is more comfortable).
  2. Start by leaving your eyes open with a relaxed soft focus.
  3. Take one deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  4. While breathing out, gently close your eyes and resume normal breathing
  5. Take a moment to pause and enjoy being present in the moment. Feel the pressure of your body on the chair beneath you, the feet on the floor and the hands and the arms just resting on the legs.
  6. Gently bring the focus back to your breathing and notice the breath and the body with its rising and falling sensation.
  7. When you’ve realized your mind has wandered from any thoughts, sounds or other sensations, gently bring the focus back to your breath again.
  8. Gradually bring the attention back to your body and the space around you. Then gently open your eyes again.
  9. Take a moment to soak in how that felt for you before going about your day.

Clearing the obstacles to meditation

There are many things that may be preventing you from experiencing the amazing results of engaging in regular meditation. Here are some challenges to expect as well as some guidance on how to handle them:

  • Doubt – Your skepticism might take over and you might be questioning if such a simple practice can really help you in any way. A ton of evidence has shown it does, so go in with an open mind and trust the process. You will notice the changes gradually and the possibilities will soon become a reality for you.
  • Restlessness – You may find yourself restless and constantly distracted with thoughts when meditating. Be aware this is totally normal especially in the beginning. Like any other practice, you will have some good days and bad days but as you continue training your mind, you’ll become more and more fluent with entering into a calm state.
  • Impatience– You might not experiencing the benefits as quickly as some other people do. Don’t worry. While it might take you a little longer to see the positive outcomes, go at your own pace and as you continue to practice and get better, you will definitely experience the results.
  • Sleepiness – You will definitely have trouble focusing if you’re tired or low on energy. If you find this happening often, try to meditate during a time where you are more awake such as earlier in the day rather than closer to bedtime.
  • Discouragement – As with any other new habit formation, life happens and you will miss some days that you were hoping to get a meditation session in. Don’t let this discourage you into giving up. Keep moving forward and do it whenever you can. Every little bit helps to create a big result.

Basic techniques and practicing exercises (With specific steps)

Two of the most researched types of meditation include focused attention meditation (FAM) and open monitoring meditation (OMM).

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Focused attention meditation involves the active focusing of attention on an object, your breathing, an image or some words.

Open monitoring meditation involves more of a observation approach where you practice being aware of any experience that comes up without any judgement nor focus towards it.

Most mindfulness meditation sessions use a combination of both these types with focused attention meditation usually in the beginning and gradually shifting to open monitoring meditation.

To help you take your meditation a little further, here are some basic techniques you can practice for each type:

Focused attention meditation

Focused attention meditation can be done in a variety of ways as there are many things you can choose to focus on. Here are some basic techniques that you can use to incorporate:

  • Breathing Meditation – This is a very common form of focused attention method where you focus on the breath while meditating. Simply count to 10 with each breath that goes in and out and repeat. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring the focus back to your breath and start the count over again.
  • Walking Meditation – Go out for a walk at a comfortable pace. As you do, start focusing on the sensations you feel in your body. Notice the weight of your feet as it hits the floor and the swinging of your arms with each stride. If you find thoughts coming into your mind, just gently bring the focus back to the sensations you feel as you walk.
  • Mantra Meditation – A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself. It can be any word so choose a positive one you like that’s comfortable for you to say. As you begin meditation, close your eyes and repeat your mantra to yourself. Focus only on the sound and feel of your mantra and gently bring your focus back to it whenever your mind wanders.
  • Object or Image Meditation – This involves placing your focus either on an image in your mind or on an actual object in the environment. Meditation with images can be done with your eyes closed whereas you would need to do it with your eyes open when focusing on an actual object such as a flower or candle flame.

Open monitoring meditation

Open monitoring meditation is all about observing experiences without judging or getting attached to them. This sort of awareness of your thoughts and feelings without being controlled by them is what’s referred to as mindfulness.

This promotes the clarity, perspective and wisdom that comes when gaining insight and helps you make better decisions especially when handling challenging emotions such as fear and stress.

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Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Get comfortable into your meditation position and relax.
  2. Take long and deep breaths. With every exhale, feel how your body is getting more and more relaxed.
  3. Now rest your awareness in the present moment.
  4. Tune into your sensory experiences for several moments. Take a moment to observe the weight of your body on the chair and your hands on your lap. Notice any sounds or smells in your room.
  5. Monitor your organs by doing a body scan from the top of your head to the tip of your toes and observe any sensations as you do it.
  6. Take your awareness deeper by monitoring and thoughts or feelings. Recognize any deep emotions. Remember not to think about these emotions, but to simply notice them instead. One way that can help you not get caught up in the emotion is to label them. If you experience fear, just tell yourself “This is fear”. Then let go of it.
  7. When your mind wanders from the moment, resist the urge to attach yourself to those thoughts. Just let them come and go.
  8. Exit the meditation by letting your mind slip out of awareness and back to the present moment.

Guided meditation

One way to help you get started and really experience the perks of meditation is to participate in guided meditation.

You can always search for a local class or if you’re more introverted, you can download great apps like Headspace that have free meditation sessions that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

You can also try this Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day)

The transformation you’ve been searching for

One of the key ways that meditation helps you, is by bringing you to the realization that you are not your thoughts or feelings; meditation frees you if you’ve been chained by your thoughts.

By simply connecting with and being more aware of yourself, you develop the amazing ability to handle stress, improve your health and increase your intellect.

So take two minutes now to close your eyes, focus on your breath and be present. Then you’ll be on your way to changing your life for the better.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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