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Stop Worry in Its Tracks With This Simple Trick

Stop Worry in Its Tracks With This Simple Trick

“How am I going to pay my bills? I have no money and no income. I don’t have a job. Where and how can I find employment? No one wants to hire me, I’m too old. I’m at the point where many companies offer buy-outs. Beside, the economy is terrible and no one is hiring. How am I going to pay my bills, I have no money?”

This is an example of a worry whirlpool that many of us experience. Worry is that quagmire of circular thinking we get stuck in when we are afraid, as it involves circular thoughts based on fear. We’ve all experienced it: if not about finance, then about relationships or performance.

Whether you are preparing for a date or just completed one, fear can produce worry. You might get stuck focusing on questions that have no immediate answer, for example. Before the date you might think: “Will he like me?” or “Am I dressed appropriately?” After the date, other questions can be found running around in your head. We frequently worry about what other people think about us and/or our performance. “Was that the correct way to handle the situation, or was there something else I should have done?” or perhaps “I wonder if they will be pleased with my presentation.”

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One often-recommended method to counteract worry is to stop, take a deep breath, and let it out slowly while relaxing your body. If you are mired deep in the worry whirlpool, however, you can’t relax. If you find yourself stuck in this thought circle quagmire and are having a difficulty finding  an escape, here’s a simple trick I found:

Stop the Worry Cycle

What works is to stop and focus externally on where you are physically, with no valuation or judgement. It’s that simple to stop the worry whirlpool.

Here’s an example:

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Right now I am sitting on a chair with my feet on the ground, in my home office. The chair has wheels, a low back and no arm rests. It has a gray, burlap textured covering. I am typing on my computer keyboard. My keyboard is plastic and black with white letters.

Notice how it is all external details: just facts. I don’t mention that the burlap textured covering FEELS rough, as that would be a judgement. I don’t mention the small fan keeping me cool or that my office is a mess—those would all be judgements as well.

This thought process of focusing on the external physical facts stops the emotions in a manner that trying to “relax” muscles never manages to attain. I think that is because “relaxing” is internal and similar to an emotion, and it is emotion that triggers the cycle in the first place.

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You see, emotions are first presented in the body. This is from the evolution of the fight-or-flight response controlled by the portion of the brain called the amygdala, which also handles emotion. To get past the emotion and think rationally, you need to activate your prefrontal cortex—the reasoning part of your brain. That’s what focusing on the external physical details does for you: it activates your brain’s reasoning center. Once the circling thoughts are stopped, you can begin thinking logically and rationally again to realize what you are afraid of and thinking about what, if any, actions you can take to reduce that fear.

You can use this process for many varieties of worry, because worry is a manifestation of anxiety: an emotional response. Once you can think without anxiety, you can develop a non-emotional plan of action, even if that action is nothing but deciding on acceptance of the reality that there is nothing you can do to change what happened.

Financial worry is usually a fear of failure. After stopping the circling thoughts, you are able to once again use the logical, rational part of your brain to identify this fear of failure. Then you can developed a plan of action, which really fights against fear.

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Dating fear is the fear of the unknown. You don’t know what your date is thinking, and you can’t know without an extremely intimate and honest conversation. So, the first step is to stop the emotional thinking. Once you can stop the emotional response, you can rationally think about what you can and can’t do about it. You can call and ask your date about the plans and what the dress code might be. After the fact, you can’t change what happened on last night’s date, but you can learn from it and change how you act on the next one.

The next time you find yourself stuck in the worry whirlpool, stop and focus externally on your physical location and surroundings.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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