Why do you worry? I don't mean, 'What do you worry about?' I mean: 'What is worry for?' When you know the answer, you'll begin to discover something very important...
The purpose of worry is to prevent pain, either emotional or physical. Think about it. If you have no food, you'll starve. No shelter? You'll die of exposure. No friends? You'll be lonely. Worry is like a friend who cares about us and wants to see us doing well. 'Hey, are you looking after yourself?' they might say, with genuine care. 'Are you OK?'
We sometimes think of worry as a negative emotion, and it really isn't. It isn't a pleasant emotion, for sure - but that doesn't make it a negative one. Of course, worry is negative if it takes over your life and ruins your enjoyment of being alive - but that's not the same as saying that all worry is essentially negative. It has its place, and even if as a Hypnotherapist I could prevent someone from ever worrying again, I wouldn't.
Worry, you might say, is a good servant but a bad master. Let it run away with you and it becomes like a crazy obsessed friend, constantly poking you in the shoulder and never for a single moment letting you forget your troubles.
You know what I'm talking about. It's that worry that - BAM! - jolts you awake at 3am, or takes the opportunity to come and torment you if you happen to be awake at 3am... and then, come the morning, as like as not you're mystified as to why it was so terrifying. It's that worry that pops into your head when you're doing something else, just wanting a bit of peace and quiet. It's that worry that just seems to pick the very worst moments, and jumps out of the shadows like a monster in a horror movie, scaring the bejaysus out of you when you least expect it. Your crazy, crazy friend.
So what can you do? Here's what I've learned, not only from working with countless clients over the past fifteen years, but also from working on my own worrying. I've gotten a whole lot better, and here's how I've done it...
Step One: you can only think one thought at a time
You know that old phrase, 'Don't think of a polar bear?' What happens? That's right - you think of a white polar bear! And the way to stop it is to think of something else, a giraffe or a lion perhaps. Telling yourself not to worry doesn't work, in my experience, and certainly not nearly as well as thinking of something else. You can't worry while you're thinking of something else.
Step Two: where are you right now?
Imagine you're worried over a medical procedure that's booked for, say, three months from now. That's your crazy friend the worry, wanting you to know that this may be uncomfortable and it's not your favourite way to spend a Wednesday. But once you've accepted that, the reality of the matter is this: you... are... right here... right now. And that medical procedure can't hurt you! Or rather, the only way it can hurt you, right here and right now, is if you are worrying about it.
This is hard. When your worry comes calling it doesn't ask your permission, and before you know it you've spent twenty minutes in the land of medical procedure-based unpleasantness. If it was easy to avoid it, you've have worked it out already.
So it's hard. But it's also simple. You are here, now. Be here, now. If like that lovely photo at the top you're a dad with your little boy (and happy Father's Day, by the way - I don't just throw this stuff together, you know), then work hard to be with him. 'Being present' is like a muscle: the more you do it, the easier it gets and the better at it you become. Worry's the same, and sheesh, with practice you got pretty darn good at that, didn't you?
Step Three: do it again. And again. And again
If, as we said, worry is that friend who means well, constantly reminding you to take care, then simply not responding once won't do the trick. After all, you've responded perfectly well the past 14,737 times, so why should now be any different? What it takes is having a simple formula for when worry comes a-visiting. Here's what I use, and what my clients tell me makes a big difference:
1) Notice when it's happening - whether it's been going on for a few minutes or just hits you, just be aware of it;
2) Acknowledge that your crazy friend means well. Even if the result is terrible, your worry wants to help. It doesn't, but it means well!
3) Think of three things you're grateful for - you have something for dinner, the love of people around you, you live in a wonderful country, your team is in the finals... whatever it is, big or small, thinking about things you're grateful for means you're not worrying right now!
Rinse and repeat. And repeat and repeat and repeat... Eventually, believe me, your crazy friend will begin to lose heart and stop trying quite so hard. Occasionally you'll still worry, but believe me it will be less often, and less intensely, and somehow it'll matter just a little bit less each time.
To find out about more tools and techniques, including Clinical Hypnotherapy to help install them, book in a free discovery call with me.