Bringing You Back Into Balance

Does Worry Blight Your Life?

October 02, 2020 Harinder Ghatora Season 1 Episode 5
Bringing You Back Into Balance
Does Worry Blight Your Life?
Chapters
Bringing You Back Into Balance
Does Worry Blight Your Life?
Oct 02, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Harinder Ghatora

If there’s one thing that can really cast a shadow over a person’s inner world it is worry. We all do it from time to time but for some people it becomes an incessant activity that has a seriously detrimental effect on their happiness and wellbeing.

Did you know that worry really is an optional activity. It may not seem that way initially to someone who has little or no control over their mind, but a little knowledge, self-awareness and discipline can turn even the biggest worrywart into a chilled-out optimist.

In this podcast I present a series of ways in which you can retrain the mind to let go of this habit, quieten the mind and promote happiness, inner peace and wellbeing.

For more free information on healthy, balanced living subscribe to my mailing list on the homepage of my website: http://www.harinderghatora.co.uk

Show Notes Transcript

If there’s one thing that can really cast a shadow over a person’s inner world it is worry. We all do it from time to time but for some people it becomes an incessant activity that has a seriously detrimental effect on their happiness and wellbeing.

Did you know that worry really is an optional activity. It may not seem that way initially to someone who has little or no control over their mind, but a little knowledge, self-awareness and discipline can turn even the biggest worrywart into a chilled-out optimist.

In this podcast I present a series of ways in which you can retrain the mind to let go of this habit, quieten the mind and promote happiness, inner peace and wellbeing.

For more free information on healthy, balanced living subscribe to my mailing list on the homepage of my website: http://www.harinderghatora.co.uk


Does Worry Blight Your Life?

Hi, it’s Harinder, Holistic Life Coach and Counsellor, helping you to bring peace and balance back into your life. 

Now, if there’s one thing that can really cast a shadow over a person’s inner world it is worry. We all do it from time to time but for some people it becomes an incessant activity that has a seriously detrimental effect on their happiness and wellbeing. 

When I look back at my younger days, I am stunned at how much time and energy I spent worrying. I used to worry about everything; exams, my health, work deadlines, presentations, my ability to manage the house and later on, the children. I’m sure you get the picture. A big dark cloud followed me around everywhere. I know this sounds overly dramatic but the worry along, with my anxiety and panic disorder, meant that my internal world was a living hell. 

Thank goodness things have changed. 

So, What Exactly is Worry?

The dictionary definition of the verb ‘to worry’ is:

‘to give way to anxiety or unease; to allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.’

I really like this definition because if you listen to it carefully, embedded within it is a huge amount of empowerment. The words “to give way to” and “to allow” suggests that worry is an entirely optional activity. It may not seem that way initially to someone who has little or no control over their mind, but a little knowledge, self-awareness and discipline can turn even the biggest worrywart into a chilled-out optimist. 

And, you know what, quite frankly, if I can do it, anyone can.

What is the Real Underlying Problem?

Well, it is the human mind’s oversensitivity to negative information.

The human mind likes to be firmly anchored in ‘known’ territory. It likes:

  • control
  • certainty
  • predictability 
  • and familiarity, 

so much so that whenever it treads into the ‘unknown’ it creates feelings of anxiety. 

The human mind is also hardwired to focus on the negatives in life as opposed to the positives. 

Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius provide a great metaphor in their book ‘Buddha’s Brain; The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom’:

 And I quote:

‘When an event is flagged as negative, the hippocampus (a part of the brain) makes sure it’s stored carefully for future reference. Once burned twice shy. Your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones – even though most of your experiences are probably neutral or positive.’

Unquote.

It seems that we all have a natural tendency to focus on the negatives in life. This makes sense. When we were cavemen, it didn’t matter if we remembered how stunningly beautiful the sunset was, but it did matter that we remembered the exact location of the cave that was home to a dangerous animal. Our survival depending on us registering and remembering these negative facts and experiences.  This negativity bias has literally kept our species alive. 

The good news though is that this is a tendency and not a compulsion that cannot be overridden. 

You can train yourself to be different. And, why would anybody not want to do this? Especially when you consider the consequences of incessant worry, which, with one exception which I’ll speak about in a moment, are all pretty damaging.

Worry brings:

  • Feelings of stress and overwhelm
  • Fear 
  • Anxiety/Panic
  • A pessimistic outlook on life
  • A lack of trust in the natural balance of and goodness of life
  • Feelings of displacement away from the ‘here and now’ 
  • Feelings of being ungrounded 
  • Excessive expenditure of energy and time
  • The inability to live life to the full and realise dreams
  • And it puts an enormous strain on relationships. Most people don’t like to be around ‘doom and gloom’ merchants. Worrywarts are not pleasant to be around. They can drain you of your energy, enthusiasm and optimism.

So does worry serve any positive function? Well, yes, there is one productive thing it does, and that is prompt action. A little worry can be good for you if it makes you pay attention, helps you to put together a plan or action and be better prepared for the future. 

Exams provide a perfect example of this. I remember coming home from school very many decades ago, tired and hungry and just wanting to sit all evening watching TV. If it was not for the nagging feelings of worry about exams looming on the horizon, I am sure I would never have studied. 

  • The worry made me pay attention to the need to do some revision. 
  • The worry prompted me to devise a detailed revision timetable. 
  • The worry made me stick to this timetable and as a consequence I was brilliantly prepared for my exams. 

So, if your worry actually prompts positive action then it is useful. All other worry is a complete and utter waste of time and energy.

So What Can You Do About Your Worrying?

Firstly, you can be mindful of the following statistics. 

 Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: "My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened." 

Now there's a study that proves this. This study looked into how many of our imagined calamities never materialize. In this study, subjects were asked to write down their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did not actually happen. Lo and behold, it turns out that 85 percent of what people worried about never happened, and with the 15 percent that did happen, 79 percent of subjects discovered either they could handle the difficulty better than expected, or the difficulty taught them a lesson worth learning. This means that 97 percent of what you worry over is not much more than a fearful mind punishing you with exaggerations and misperceptions.

 I came across another set of figures which suggested that:

·      40% of the things we worry about never happen

·      30% have already happened and we can’t do anything about them

·      12% are needless worries such as what someone thinks about us

·      10% are petty and unimportant things in the grand scheme of things

·      4% are about things we have absolutely no control over

·      4% are real worries about which we can do something.

The second thing to do to ask yourself if there is any point in worrying about the thing you are focusing on. 

There are four things that are not worth worrying about but account for a lot of our worries. These are 

  • the unimportant, 
  • the unlikely, 
  • the uncertain
  • and the uncontrollable. 

If you identify and ban these from your life, and you will worry less.

Let’s look at each one in turn. 

Pointless Worry Number 1: The Unimportant

It is easy to fill your life with worries about little things. When you find yourself worrying, start to question yourself instead. Ask yourself, “How important is the thing that I am worrying about?” Here are three points to help you answer this question.

  • The 5-year rule: Ask yourself “will this matter in 5 years’ time?” This is a way of looking at your worry from a long-term point of view. View your worries in different ways: will this still be a concern in a week, a month, a year? 
  • The measuring rod: Ask yourself: “Where, on a scale of bad experiences, is the thing I’m worried about?” Think about a very bad experience you have had. How does your current worry feel when compared with this? 
  • The calculator: Ask yourself. “How much worry is this worth?” We only have a certain amount of time and energy. Make sure you do not spend more worry on your problem than it is worth. 

When you have thought about these three points, decide if your worry seems unimportant. If so, try to stop worrying and distract yourself by using some of the techniques I outline in a few minutes.

If you still feel your worry is important then move onto 

Pointless Worry Number 2: The Unlikely

A lot of worries ask “What if…” questions. All kinds of terrible things could happen today or tomorrow, but most things are very unlikely. If you allow yourself to worry about the unlikely then there will be no end to your worrying. Your life will be truly miserable. Tackling real, existing problems in life is hard enough. Do you really want to waste time, energy and happiness on problems that do not exist? 

When I first started driving, I remember always worrying about what I would do if my car broke down in the middle of a busy roundabout that I had to cross every day. Did my car ever breakdown in this roundabout; no. What a ridiculous waste of my precious energy!

 Then there is pointless Worry Number 3: The Uncertain

Often, we do not know how something will turn out. Many things we worry about have not yet happened and we can only take action once we know what has happened. 

For example, worrying that you may have failed an exam is not going to improve the results. It is only once the results are released that you can decide what, if anything, needs to be done.

Finally, there is Pointless Worry Number 4: The Uncontrollable

We have no control over many of the things we worry about. For example, worrying about what others think about you is a good example of ‘the uncontrollable’. You have no way of controlling others’ opinions of you so why expend energy and lose happiness over worrying about that?

If you have spent time analysing your worries using the above exercise and you still feel worried, then try taking some of the following actions.

Try Stepping Through the Worries

  • This involves being clear what the worry is. So ask yourself “What exactly am I worrying about?” Think about each worry and write them down one at a time as clearly as you can.
  • Then decide if something can be done. Look at each worry you have written down and ask yourself, ”Is there anything I can do about this?”
  • If the answer is no, nothing can be done? Then you can be certain that no matter how much you worry, nothing will change therefore there is no point in worrying. Try the distraction techniques outlined in a moment. 
  • If the answer is yes...something can be done? Then write a list of things you could do to solve your worry. 

If there something you can do right now then do it. And, if there is something that can’t be done then make a plan of when, where and how you will tackle the problem. 

When you’ve finished tell yourself that you have done what is needed, let go of the worry and get on with your day.  

Ways to Distract Yourself

There is only a limited amount of space in the human mind so keeping yourself busy with other things can make a real difference to how you feel as this will leave no room for worry. Try some of the following things to distract yourself when you find yourself worrying. 

  • Keeping yourself physically active by doing some exercise is a good way to stop worrying thoughts. And, exercise has been clinically proven to result in the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel good chemicals. These boost your mood naturally and actively contribute to a heightened sense of wellbeing.
  • You can distract yourself by focusing on your surroundings. Concentrate on a specific detail of the world around you, for example making words out of number plates of cars or guessing what people do for a living. Focusing on the outside world will prevent you from thinking about your inner worry-filled thoughts. 
  • Another great way to mentally distract yourself is by actively engaging in other mental activities. Examples could include doing puzzles, crosswords, reciting a poem or singing a song or even concentrating really hard and counting backwards from one hundred. Just like a computer only has a certain amount of processing space so too does your mind. These activities ‘fill’ your mind so there is no room for any worry. 

Sometimes your attention may drift from what you are doing back to a worry. If this happens, say to yourself that you have done all you can for now. Remind yourself that there is nothing more that can be done today and shift your attention back to your task.

When it comes to distraction there is just one little proviso. Do not use distraction techniques as a way of avoiding dealing with your worries. Be sure you’ve gone through the earlier steps before using distraction.

Boxing In Your Worries

Another trick you could try is boxing in your worrier. If you are really plagued by worry, then try this simple technique. Honour your worry by setting yourself some dedicated “worry time”. Decide on a time and place every day in which you are going to worry. If you start to worry at other times, postpone the worry until “worry time” and return your focus to what you were doing.

During “worry time” let your mind worry freely! Take a pen and paper and write down your worries one by one. Try using some of techniques already mentioned to work on the worries. Funnily enough, some people find that they are unable to worry to order and so the worry time ends up being trouble free!

Lastly Share Your Worries

It’s really interesting to note that worries do not survive very well outside our own heads. They seem to lose their power over us as they are articulated and brought out into the open. Talking about a worry can help us to see the bigger picture and can help with finding possible solutions or planning actions. 

Try and meet a friend or relative…make sure it is someone that you trust and tell them what is on your mind. There really is some truth in the old adage “A worry shared is a worry halved.” We all worry, and you can be sure that your friend will also have things that they worry about. 

Now, if all else fails then seek some professional support. Talking through the things that worry you in a safe, confidential, therapeutic space with a trained professional who can facilitate the process and even being some creative solutions to your attention can really help you to  quieten the mind and promote happiness, peace and wellbeing.