Are you a worrier? Are you a pessimist rather than an optimist? Do you worry about everything all the time? Is it hard to look on the bright side? My definition of worry is ‘a negative future expectancy’ – about one or more specific things. It often involves cycling through all potential worst case scenarios and trying to fend them off or avoid them.
This habitual negative mental focus can start to occupy your mind all the time, as these ‘potential’ future problems are always just round the corner, they never go away, but most just don’t happen. Nothing has actually gone wrong right now, but if you think a disappointment means your life is ruined, your job is killing you, your mild symptoms mean the worst, other people always get the promotion, then you feel like the disaster is actually happening and you experience all the emotions anyway and stress levels rise.
Since all behaviour is purposeful, what is the purpose of worrying? In Hypnotherapy sessions I ask the subconscious mind why the need to worry started. The answer is usually to keep the client safe by taking certain actions.
“Worry doesn’t prevent disasters, it prevents joy”
The thing is, persistent worrying and fearing the worst doesn’t keep you safe. All thoughts, whether they are regrets about the past, fears about the future or concerns about current events, create a chemical and emotional response in the body right now. These worry thoughts produce stress hormones holding you in negative emotions such as fear, anger, guilt, sadness.
Constant worry thoughts keep the body under stress which leads to all sorts of health issues, poor sleep, lack of confidence, exhaustion and depression, the list is endless. So you know this, and decide to stop worrying. But there is a trap. The next thought is that you have been doing all this worrying for years, and those dreaded things haven’t happened. So the worry must be working! What if I stop worrying and it happens? So now you are scared to stop. It’s just like having the same numbers for your lottery ticket every time. What if they come up this week and I didn’t get a ticket. So you can never stop!
For this reason many people keep up their protective worrying, until the price they are paying with their health gets too much. And it’s worse than that, because there’s a second way persistent worrying is not safe. The part of our brain activated when we are stressed only cares about survival – running away or defending ourselves. It becomes dominant and the analytical, problem solving part of our brain takes a back seat. We call it brain fog, can’t think straight, can’t concentrate or focus, study or learn. That’s what is meant by ‘fear makes you stupid.’ If you are calm and in control, you can think your way out if an unexpected dilemma, you quickly gather information and resources and take action that keeps you and yours safe. You don’t need to plan for it in advance.
Is it safer to be driving in calm control even when the traffic is making you late for an appointment, or in an agitated rage whilst you berate yourself for not leaving earlier?
So you just can’t afford the luxury of a negative thought. You will be happier and safer without it. Excessive worrying doesn’t make you safer. So what does? Absolutely be aware of what might go wrong, or what you don’t want, but only for long enough to know what you want instead and create ‘a future positive expectancy’ about that. Expect that the traffic will clear, or your appointment is delayed, and you arrive in good time and all works out perfectly for you. You can enjoy the journey and arrive unflustered, with a clear mind, able to deal with anything life brings you.
If you really don’t feel comfortable without worrying, give yourself 15 minutes to thoroughly worry about an issue. Then focus on a positive outcome for longer! Keep doing it and it will become easier. Because it works.
“Whatever you think about most, becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.”