“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” Winston Churchill
I confess. I do. And it does.
Last week an old business contact made mention that since I was a life coach now I must have my life ‘all set’ and ‘be perfect’. Oh, how I laughed!
It’s true that I have made many changes in my life, and I have an awesome array of tools and strategies to help, but when I choose not to practice the strategies, then I’m in no better shape than I was before. It’s a daily, sometimes hourly, choice.
Interestingly, I caught myself in a worry frenzy this week. It used to be that I didn’t question worry frenzies, I bought into all of the noise and saw the whirling thoughts and pictures as absolute possibilities that I needed to plan around, fix, fix, fix and brace myself for.
I’d walk around, alternating between stiff as a board and twitchy as a caffeinated squirrel, wearing my shoulders as earrings with a background of whirring worry thoughts of what could go wrong at any time? And was I really good enough? And is that option safe? And don’t get me started on how worry functioned around risk or approval….
After having children, the worrying was even more exacerbated. At times it debilitated me, sending me into cold, wet anxiety and frustrating indecision.
I am blessed with 2 beautiful and resilient children. However, the early years were peppered with medical intervention – both had allergic colitis from 5 weeks and were bleeding from the bowel for weeks, my son had brain surgery at 7 months, both went into respiratory distress with each sniffle or cold making me a huge fan of nebulizers and albuterol (and a frequent flyer in the Emergency Room), and 2 hospitalizations for my daughter before the age of 2. And then the usual strep throats, sinus infections, 2 extremely frightening flu episodes, oh and let’s not forget resuscitating my daughter after she choked on a grape at 4 years old.
Many of those memories deeply, viscerally terrifying, and, left unquestioned, funding the worry machine.
Life can be joy-filled on many levels and there are no guarantees that it will be skirmish-free.
Worry can keep imagined skirmishes bleating, throughout the joyful times, taking the gloss off the fun and goodness. Unattended to, worry can become a huge energy drain and is rarely, if ever, helpful.
So if the worry churns catastrophe in the background, or foreground, how do you live a full potential and joyful life?
Here are some strategies I use for busting the worry cycle:
Awareness – I notice the worries rather than getting right on the worry train. I try to view them with curiosity and see what is there to be learned.
Kindness and Compassion – I stop beating myself about being a worry wart. It doesn’t help.
Acceptance and Reality Checking – I stop arguing with reality and get back on my yoga mat (in my business). I remember Byron Katie’s words, “When you argue with reality, you lose—but only 100% of the time.” It helps me ground myself in what is happening and what’s in my control – centering in my business, choices, values and desires.
Find a mantra that helps – in Joan Borysenko’s wonderful book, Pocketful of Miracles, she gives a beautiful mantra for worry “What is is and I can handle it”. I find this very helpful as I have handled many emergencies in my lifetime. In most situations I have been capable, resourceful, and, after all, I am still here. Great evidence that I can handle it.
Space / Allowing time for worry – on the basis of whatever you resist persists, giving yourself a part of your day, say 10-15 mins, where you allow yourself to worry and mine the messages for meaning and potential action, and then let them go.
Take care of yourself – if I’m nourishing my body with good food, sleep and movement, I find I’m more resilient to worry overload.
Thought sanitation – if I’m doing thought work and spending some time in mindfulness, I find it helps decrease my worried whirring.
Gratitude – Being in a place of gratitude is a wonderful antidote to fear and worry. The bonus is that gratitude practice is linked to more joy too.
Play and Laughter – having fun, being playful, laughing out loud are such soul soothers and creativity boosters. They also help me connect and be present – worry often skips the present, hanging out in the past and mired in potential future difficulties.
Faith and Trust – if you feel a spiritual connection – with the Universe, God, Great Spirit, or your spiritual belief of choice – then there can be peace and comfort in leaning in, and surrendering or allowing ourselves to be with whatever our circumstance is, that there is meaning, even if we can’t see it at that moment.
That’s my list. What’s yours? Are you a worrier? If so what do you do? I’d love to hear your comments.