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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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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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