“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” Corrie ten Boom
From health and financial concerns to children and relationships, we are all faced with daily worries. Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can boost energy and focus for sport or public speaking but continual worry turns into chronic stress e.g. being overworked or daily arguments with a spouse. Studies have shown just how damaging chronic stress is on your body , altering your brain size, structure and function – all the way down to the gene level!
Worry is anxiety and negative thoughts about potential future problems. Especially where the actions of others are concerned, we often hold limited to no responsibility over the outcome anyway. When future uncertainty arises it plays right into our inherent human need to feel both ‘safe’, and ‘right’. Many psychologists believe, fear of the unknown is the basis of all other fears , and that one of the leading strengths of successful people is an ability to accept a high level of ambiguity and uncertainty.
A study at Cornel University proved a whopping 85% of what humans stress about never actually happens! With the 15% of worries that did happen, 79% of subjects discovered they were able handle it much better than they predicted, or that the scenario taught them a valuable lesson. That equals 97% of completely fabricated and exaggerated misperceptions!
“My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.” – Michel de Montaigne
That may give you a giggle but what these worries can cost us is no laughing matter. So how do we manage our worry effectively? Here are some tips:
Reframe Stressful Scenarios & Embrace Gratitude
This helps to focus on what you can control, instead of what you can’t. Let go of your false sense of security, surrender and and accept life does not always go to plan (quite often!). Try to reframe it, look for the upside, or take the lesson from it. What is this trying to teach me here? As Tony Robbins says, “Life happens for you, not to you”. What can you learn from this? Research also shows embracing gratitude boosts mental strength.
Scenario: put off car repairs for too long. Car breaks down at inconvenient time/location.
Reframing, upside, lesson: A reminder to stay on top of car maintenance in future, prioritise your safety, minimise risk and expensive potential repair bills. A breakdown is much better than an accident. Compared to a majority of the world, you are lucky to own a car. While you waited for the tow truck, you were able to finish reading that book you didn’t have time for, or catch up on the phone with a loved one. There are so many ways to look at one scenario.
“Man is not disturbed by events but by the view he takes of them.”
A recent study published in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience journal proved practicing “zen” decreases anxiety levels and helps the brain control thinking and emotion.
Physical Activity and Decent Sleep
Along with meditation, exercise is proven to decrease stress levels. This allows you to problem solve any potential concerns with a clear headed mindset. Best combined with a good daily 7-9 hours sleep!
Technology – Take Back Control
For all its uses, too much technology often negatively impacts mental health and stress levels. Limit social media, email, etc use to set blocks of time instead of constantly throughout the day.
A good morning routine is especially important. Optimise your mindset and get your brain off to the best start for the day by not checking phone or social media for an hour upon waking. Declutter your mind, remove distractions – and be alone with your thoughts sometimes! This will help you get out of “Survival Mode” and be more present. Remaining in the present moment also helps counteracts any future-orientated worry.
Write Worries Down or Reach Out
Share your thoughts with paper or a supportive ear. Stop it circulating in that imaginative head of yours!
Clear Button Method
It is thought our brains have a 90-second window to turn around any stressful thoughts, before our minds can turn these worries into full-blown anxiety, stress or anger. With that in mind Don Joseph Goeway, Author of The End of Stress: Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain, recommends practicing the Clear Button technique to both distract you, and in turn rewire your thought patterns in less than a minute.
How it works:
Imagine there is a button in the middle of your hand that, when pressed, tells your brain to completely stop any fearful, worried, judgmental or negative thinking.
Breathe in, count 1, think red
Breathe in, count 2, think blue
Breathe in, count 3, think green
While exhaling, let your mind go totally blank and relax into the present moment
Also known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques), Tapping is an effective alternative healing strategy combining Chinese acupressure and psychology. Tapping has shown incredible results for a wide range of problems from stress, anxiety, phobias, emotional disorders, chronic pain, addiction, weight management, and limiting beliefs. It helps to clear unresolved emotional baggage, which often worsens small daily stress.
Use fingertips to “tap” repetitively over meridian endpoints of your body while focusing on negative emotions or physical sensations. This calms the nerves, reprograms the brain to react better, and rebalances your body’s energy. Dr Peta Stapleton has a wide variety of resources on Tapping and EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques).
“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
— Lao Tsu
While we all have daily hurdles, the research is clear that worrying about them only makes it worse, negatively affect your mental and physical health, rest and general happiness. But the good news is you can start to change this way of thinking, learn how to stay in the present and reprogram your mind with regular practice.