A practice for your when your thoughts turn to worry is something I think most of us can use.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I catch myself in a spiral of future-tripping, which is usually triggered by worry. One worried thought creates another worried thought on top of another…and now I’m down the rabbit hole.
Like many of us, I have had to learn many tools to help me when I’m in this spiral, and one thing that has been supportive lately is to be unattached from the future outcome of what I’m worrying about.
I have needed this reminder so much lately, as I find my thoughts turning towards worry more often than I would like. So this practice is just as much for me as it is for you.
It isn’t enough to just tell myself not to worry and not to get attached. I wish it were that easy. But the practice I do to help me detach is simple and that is important. Your mind is already in overdrive, so the simpler the practice, the more likely you (and me) are willing to turn to it for support. And the more likely it is to be mentally and emotionally supportive. Simplistic is definitely something that I believe many of us need.
The practice is to ask myself: “what do you have control over in this moment?” And then to do all the present moment things that I do have control over throughout the day.
As an example, imagine that you are lying in bed, you wake up and a worried thought pops into your mind. Mornings are when I do my best worrying. You can feel it begin to take over you, mentally, emotionally and even physically.
This is when you bring in the practice. You think, “yes, perhaps this could happen, but what do I have control over in this present moment?”
You know logically that you can’t control the future, but worry doesn’t care about logic, so you start to make your mental list. I usually begin by telling myself that I am safe. “Right now I am safe in my bed. I can get up, go make a coffee, or I can go let my dog out of his crate and enjoy his morning excitement and take care of his needs. I can I get ready for work and have a shower or brush my teeth.”
You continue ‘right nowing’ until your mind calms and those thoughts of worry get replaced by something else. That something else is all the things you actually do have present moment control of. The future is not one of them.
As you can see, most of the things are little tasks, like making a coffee, or going to have a shower. Even the tasks are simplistic and don’t need to take up much mental bandwidth. Which again, when in worry, is already feeling like it is at its max.
The worry may come back, it probably will, so you do this practice again, and again, and again.
What will happen, overtime, is that your brain will start to shift and offer up other thoughts that are not worry. Perhaps ideas, or solutions that will help you with the thing you are worrying about. Or at the very least, your stress over it will be minimized and you will trust that everything is going to be okay – even if it comes with temporary challenges.
If you imagine yourself as just the thinker of your thoughts, and not your thoughts, you become an observer of them from the present moment. Any distraction is a good distraction. It is a wonderful way to pivot and remind yourself that you do have control over some things, all of which are in the present moment, even though you can’t control a future outcome.
I cannot control that currently where I live we are experiencing another lockdown. You have been on this journey too, so you can imagine where my thoughts of worry have turned to. I have no control over the lockdown mandates, so when my worried thoughts creep in, and trust me, they do, I ask myself, “what do I have control over?”
For example, I can write this blog. The lockdown doesn’t prevent me from writing this and sharing my practice with you. In fact, sharing what I’m doing actually helps me because it reminds me that I’m not alone. And it reminds me that we can support each other. Something no one can ever take away from us.
As the thoughts of worry creep in, you are simply allowing the thoughts to ebb and flow in and out of your conscious awareness.
For example, if you are worrying over a problem you can’t solve, this practice will allow you to let the solution naturally come to you. Which it will, I promise. But what is so great about focusing on doing what you have control over in this moment, is that it will flow to you with more ease. Think about when you step away from your desk after spending hours trying to solve something. So often, the moment you step away, and focus on something else, is when the solution comes.
When we stop forcing things to come is usually when they come because the forcing just creates more frustration and more worry. There is no ebb and flow when we become our thoughts instead of observing them without judgement. This is how we can detach ourselves from the future-tripping we are in.
Your worried thoughts are very normal. It is the stuff we compound on top of that worry that often takes us down a dark rabbit hole. How can you see another solution, or another option, or even have hope when you have taken up permanent residence in worry? I don’t believe we can.
So when your mind starts to spiral into worry, especially all the future-tripping and what if scenarios, simplify it by asking yourself: “what do I have control over in this moment?”
Right now I can do this…
Supportive Digital Workshop: Stress & Emotional Management