Recently I had a client who'd spent a long lifetime worrying. He found himself waking up in the middle of the night with his latest troubles on his mind, and during the day his mind returning to them. Does that sound like you?
We're all wired differently. You probably know someone who seems to breeze through life, not worrying, or not much. Maybe you're lucky enough to be like that yourself - in which case, I'm assuming you're reading this because you have someone close to you, perhaps a partner or a child, who is most certainly not like that and you'd love them to get some peace.
But it would be a mistake to conclude that, just because you're not one of those lucky enough to be blessed with a sunny disposition, you're stuck with your worries. That would be like looking at people riding bikes and assuming that they were born that way, and you were born to be a non-bike rider!
So that's the first step towards changing: believe that change is possible. Instead of saying, "I'm a worrier,' say to yourself something like this: 'I'm very good at worrying, and that's something I've learned along the way. So I must be good at learning! I wonder where I can learn NOT to be a worrier?'
Worriers remind me of those blokes - and it is nearly always blokes, admit it - who spend all their time in the gym and never do legs day. That's you, that is. You've got this massively developed upper half, able to worry yourself half to death over just about anything... and chicken legs, where your 'non-worrying' part should be!
So, if it's not a question of character or personality, but one of skills, then how do you go about learning these new skills?
First thing to know is this: telling yourself not to worry, or trying to push the worry down, doesn't help. You already know this, and yet still it's your 'go to' technique. Why doesn't it work? Well, perhaps it's just the case that the unconscious doesn't do negatives - you know, that old 'Don't think of a white polar bear' thing. What do you think of when I tell you not to think of a white polar bear? See?!
Instead, try this little routine. It has three parts:
1) Welcome the worry!
Yeah I know, this sounds daft. But if pushing (telling the worry to go away) doesn't work, try pulling. Accept that you have a creative, problem-solving part that wants to help. Now admittedly this part isn't very bright, and is very poor at picking the right time... but that's just how it is. It means well, and wants to help. So, say something like this: 'Thank you, my little creative problem-solving part. I really appreciate it.'
2) Make an appointment
And then go on to say this: 'Now I'd really like to work on this problem, and I promise that I will. But you know what, I really need to be on top form if we're going to crack this. So how about this: I promise to give this my full and undivided attention at 11am today (make your own appointment time that suits). So how about that? If I get a good night's sleep, then we can really give this a good go in the morning, OK?'
3) Keep the appointment!
You see what you've done now? You've stopped trying to push down a worry - which, as you very well know, doesn't work - and you've also taken control. Now you've decided where and when you're going to worry. And I don't know about you (because I'm not immune from this), but often these things seem so much darker and bigger in the middle of the night. In the cold light of day, somehow they often seem more manageable.
But you need to keep the appointment! Sit down, perhaps with pen and paper, and then invite the creative problem-solving part to come out. You may be surprised at what you discover.
4) Oh, and one more thing...
Here's a very valuable question. If your answer is 'I don't know,' which is likely to be the case, then you've some work to do to come up with an answer, or at least a way of looking to find an answer. Here's that great question. Ready? It goes like this (do get on with it Steve):
What process do you use to decide what thoughts to pay attention to?
If you'd like some help putting the above plan into action, arrange a free call and we can discuss it. (One thing I can do, for example, is to record with you a gentle session that you can listen to in the night to help you put this plan into action.)