A good antidote to worrying.
Photo by Lorna Sass
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I guess I was busy being busy even though I know full well that Busyness is Overrated.
While I was busy, I also found time to worry–and no doubt the worry contributed even more to my busyness.
In addition to my niggling worries, there was a big worry: I was waiting for the results of a blood test used to diagnose a potentially life-threatening illness. During the 10-day gap, I tried to remember to breathe deeply. I even reminded myself that there was a decent chance the results would be in my favor. But despite all the positive self talk, my thoughts returned to worry and to the endless “What if’s…”
When I finally got the results, it was good news: I didn’t have the dreaded disease and wouldn’t have to spend the summer figuring out how to deal with it. I experienced a sense of relief. But that relief lasted for only a few hours.
Then I noticed something interesting and alarming: my worry cup began filling up again. Little worries became bigger, as if my brain didn’t know how to run on empty and automatically expanded what I was already fretting about.
When I had an opportunity to tell spiritual teacher Fiona Moore about the devilish workings of my worry cup, she reflected back that the brain’s job is to figure things out, so whenever it’s not focused on a useful task (like multiplying or dividing or writing a recipe), it creates problems and then goes about trying to solve them. (I am paraphrasing here.) Fiona teaches a course called Let Go, Let Love and is very good at setting her students straight about the workings of what she calls “the every day mind.” Fiona’s comment helped me remember that worries are only thoughts, not the truth.
On and off over the past decade, I have made a study of worrying and here is what else I’ve discovered:
1) Worries are always based on past experiences cast into a future context.
2) While I’m worrying, I’m not living in the present.
3) The worrying mind doesn’t leave room for pleasant surprises.
4) 99.9% of the things I’ve worried about never happened.
5) Worrying is a compete waste of time.
Dear reader, I wish I could offer a magic solution, wave a wand, and take all of our worries away. I’m not there yet, but I do have some tools in my personal and coach’s toolkit that help when worrying gets out of control. Here’s a quick exercise that I find very helpful. Doing it alters the neural pathways in the brain, a good thing when the brain is stuck in worry!
Close your eyes and connect into the worry.
Imagine the worry as a disc spinning behind your forehead inside your head. Notice the speed and whether the disc is spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise.
Move the disc about 6 inches outside of your head and continue to watch it spin.
Then abruptly stop and begin spinning the disc in the opposite direction outside of your head, working up to the same speed.
Move the disc back inside your head, behind your forehead and begin laughing–a real belly laugh for about 30 seconds. This part is really important so don’t leave it out.
Check in with your worry. It will have lost its charge!
It’s an amazingly effective exercise which I’ve done many times.
And just for good measure, after you’ve done the disc-spinning, listen to what Bing has to say.