|My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.
Worry is one of the most unproductive, and often destructive feelings in our emotional universe. The feelings associated with worry include fear, insecurity, agitation, irritability and an overall sense of restlessness. The bodily sensations associated with fear may include tightness in the chest, palpitation and sweaty hands. The thoughts are usually obsessive and difficult to shake. Their content is almost always about the possible worst case scenario. All of these experiences tend to hijack our attention and keep our minds completely distracted from what is occurring in the moment, leaving us in excruciating discomfort.
Why all this aggravation? What’s the purpose of this feeling?
It is part of our survival mechanism. There is a part of our brains that is programmed to always be anticipating problems and figure out solutions in advance. Its purpose is to keep us safe. Its need is to figure out all possible negative outcomes whether they will actually occur or not. As a result, our minds worry or obsess about something that may or may not happen in the future, causing us severe distress in the present. Additionally, while we are busy worrying about some future event, we are missing out on our present moment, with all it may have to offer us.
The reality is this mechanism is actually not serving us at all. There are two constructive ways to handle a concern we may have about the future.
1. Think about whatever is concerning you and ask yourself: “Is there anything I can do about the situation right now that will change its outcome?” For example, I am worried about the pain I have in my stomach that is not going away. Or I am concerned about my child doing poorly on his test tomorrow.
In both of the above cases, there is something you can do about it: go to the doctor, or help your child study for the exam. Then choose to do it and then let go.
2. When there is nothing you can do about the situation, e.g. waiting on test results from the doctor, or waiting to hear from your spouse who is late coming home, stop worrying and redirect yourself to the present moment. You might say this is easier said then done, and that is true. But given that worrying is not going to change the situation, and the outcome may not even turn out badly, what’s the point. All you are accomplishing is making your life miserable in the moment. In the unlikely event that the worst case scenario does occur, you will deal with it when you need to.
Rewiring this feeling in an important step in taking care of yourself and affirming your life.
One exercise which I like to give my clients to handle situations they have no control over is to ask them to picture the worry as an object. Choose its shape and color. Then find a “mental shelf” and put that worry on that shelf. Go about your daily life and don’t attend to that shelf until the situation changes and there is actually something you can do about it.
If you take this on, overtime you will discover that it becomes your second nature to let go of something over which you have no control. You will find that life is more peaceful and happy and free.