Humans worry. There’s no getting around it. We are biological predisposed to have negative thoughts, images and emotions in order to plan for anticipated potential threats. The problem with worry is that we worry too much. The problem with problems is that we often don’t take them in stride or review them peacefully. Instead, we tend to think ‘worst case scenario’ without coming to solutions – instead, we come up with a scenario that is the ‘bad thing’ and get stuck in the vision of the bad thing. Our foreheads scowl, our muscles tense, our bellies tighten, our joy plummets. Worry, at this level, is not simply a function of planning for possible outcomes, instead, it is both a side-effect and cause of anxiety in a vicious cycle that decreases happiness.
There are 12 practical tools for helping with worry.
- Breathe. Breathwork helps to slow things down. Do a body scan and look for tensions. Soften the tensions.
- Stay in the present moment. All worry is future or past oriented. Staying in the now is contrary to worry.
- Practice positive what ifs. f you’re thinking of all the negative ‘what ifs,’ start thinking of the positive ‘what ifs.’ Thought process like, “what if I lose my job and then I can’t find another and I can’t make mortgage and lose my house” can be given reality checks of all possible outcomes. “What if I don’t lose my job and everything goes on as it always does.” or “What if I lose my job and that forces me to look for work that I really love. What if I find a job and make even more money than I do now. What if that allows me to save up some money so that I know when hard times hit I have a safety net.”
- Give yourself reality checks. For example, if you’ve never been homeless, remind yourself that your fears of homelessness are likely unfounded. If you have been, then remind yourself that you survived that so likely you’ll survive it again.
- Meditate. Anxiety-based worries make the mind circulate and perseverate, the solution then, is stillness for the mind. Meditation is one form of finding stillness, though seated meditation isn’t always my first suggestion for people who worry. Anything that takes you into ‘the zone’ can do that. It might be crossword puzzles, making jewelry or art, or gardening.
- Get in your body. Anxiety-based worries take us out of our physical experience while increasing our physical tension. Relocating ourselves within our bodies is a great way to get out of our heads. Moving meditation practices like tai chi are great ways to soften the speeding up that tends to arise with anxiety, But vigorous physicality like dancing or biking is also a way to move that anxious energy out of your head and body. Embodiment practices like Authentic Movement, Dance/Movement Therapy and some forms of Yoga are great ways to reconnect with the wisdom of your body.
- Find a counselor or therapist. Most of us have some trauma or core beliefs that keep us stuck in anxiety-based worries. A trained professional can help you to heal the wounds that cause anxiety and shift the core beliefs that keep you stuck in a worry cycle.
- Slow down and simplify your life. Part of worry comes from the practical reality that our lives are often too big for us. We own too much stuff, have too much debt, and do too many activities. All beings need time to rest and recuperate in order to be sustainable. If your life doesn’t allow you space to rest, something’s gotta go.
- Get more loving touch. Loving touch calms down the nervous system. So get more massages if you can. And touch your loved ones more. Studies have shown that those who are touching get similar soothing benefits as those who are being touched.
- Look for the good and practice gratitude. Gratitude increases joy and happiness and changes our negative disposition into a positive disposition.
- Play more. You cannot skip for any length of time and still worry. Try it. Play increases joy, which is like kryptonite to worry.
- Practice your faith. Studies show that those who believe in a higher-power and practice their faith do better on mental health scales, including anxiety. So if you believe in a higher-power, hand over your worries to him/her/it/them.
May you be relieved of the suffering of your own anxiety. May you know peace.
Sabrina Santa Clara – Authentic Alchemy x3
Spiritual Counseling – Temecula, CA