How to Train your Brain to Stop Worrying
Many people are habitual worriers; they just can’t stop worrying. Are you a worry wart too?
Do you worry about specific things or do you worry about anything and everything?
Even if there is nothing to worry about, do you worry, “Why don’t I have anything to worry about?”
Many people do. They feel that if they are not worried about something then they are missing something or something bad is going to happen. Even though they know that worrying is not going to prevent anything from happening, they continue. It wastes their time and energy.
You may have noticed that sometimes your worries are about things that are likely to happen and other times about events that have very little chance of happening.
In this article, let’s explore a powerful technique that can help when you can’t stop worrying about something that may potentially happen, therefore, it may be a legitimate concern, but worrying about it may not be helping you.
Rachel is a 35 year old nurse who was worried about failing her licensing exam. When people told her that she was worrying too much, her mind rationalized and justified that it is legitimate worry. She was getting trapped in the other meaning of the acronym “FEAR” i.e. False Evidence Appearing Real”
What is going to happen is going to happen. You can take proactive actions, but after that, you have to allow the events to unfold and wait. Sometimes, this is hard to do.
So what advice would you give Rachel to help her stop worrying after she has done what she could do to prepare?
Let me share the technique she applied to stop worrying and start living and enjoying her life. She used a technique from my upcoming book “Stress to Joy” called 3 R formula; Recognize, Realize and Respond.
1. Recognized what part of her concern was in her influence.
2. Realize what thoughts were making her worry and stress
3. Respond by choosing the actions that can make a difference.
Step 1: Recognize
Rachel realized that she is so worried about failing that she is not able to sleep at night and feels tense most of the time. She recognized that preparing for her exam was in her control but the results were not. The result was an outside event, but her thoughts and behavior were adding to that stress and worry which were within her control.
Step 2: Realize
She went thru the following dialogue with me (abbreviated as Dr below) which helped her realize the thinking pattern leading to this worrying.
Dr: “How many times in your life have you failed?”
Dr: “How many times have you passed?
Dr: “So you have 100% evidence from your past that you pass all your exams and 0% evidence that you fail.”
Rachel: “But this is different. A lot of people don’t pass this exam.”
Dr: “What is the passing ratio of all who sit for this exam?”
Dr:“So there is 90% chance that you may be one of those who passes the exams and 10% chance that you may be one of those who doesn’t pass. By focusing on not passing, you are focusing on the 10% probability and not on the 90%. Even if the chance is 50-50. There is still a 50% chance that you may pass and 50% chance that you may not.”
Dr: “Have you done all you could be in your power to pass the exam?”
Rachel: “Yes. I attended all the classes. I studied and did my best to prepare.”
Dr: “So now when the thought comes “what if I don’t pass,” consider this.
* If you think positive, and things go positive, you could be happy all along.
* If you think positive, and things go negative, you would be mentally strong to deal with whatever comes.
* If you think negative, and things turn out positive, you would have suffered for no reason. Sometimes, you may even feel disappointed with the positive results and are not able to enjoy them because you have already suffered in your mind.
* If you think negative and things turn out negative then you will suffer twice, before and after the event.
There is a myth that if you expect an unfavorable outcome, and things do, in fact, turn out negative, it doesn’t hurt you as much. That is not true. You still hurt when your results are negative. It is not the worrying that helps to cope; it is the acceptance of what is outside your control and taking actions on the things that are in your circle of influence that helps. Worrying usually makes it worse because it takes away your attention from what you can actually do.
Step 3: Respond:
Once she realized that her mind is going into that cycle of negativity and nagging worries and that she has taken all the steps, within her power, to pass the test; she started repeating the following “mantras” to herself.
- “I will deal with the problem if it happens, when it happens.”
(There is a chance that the problem may never occur and if it does, it may not occur for a long time.)
- “I choose not to suffer before suffering.”
- “I intend to focus on the results I want, rather than the results I don’t want.”
This gave her relief for a few minutes, but her worries would return. She repeated the mantra. She posted it in a few visible places, as reminders, so she could remember to repeat it whenever she started to feel apprehensive. As she practiced, she noticed that the interval between the worry thoughts increased and her mind experienced relief for longer periods of time. She had fewer worries, and as a result, she felt less stressed.
She realized that worrying is like rocking chair- it doesn’t take you anywhere. You lose so much time and energy worrying that you are not left with any time or energy to take action to prevent the consequences you’re worried about. On the other hand, taking action, any action, no matter how small, can shift your focus and bring you closer to the resolution of your problem that is causing you to worry.
So try this crossroad technique when you are worried about something and see how you can shift your worries, decrease feeling stress, and enjoy your life. Let me know how it goes by writing to me at [email protected] or leaving a comment below. (comments will appear after mediator review)
You can download a copy of this mantra and worksheet, get more tips like this, and sign up for my upcoming book “Stress to joy; Your toolkit to restore peace of mind in minutes” at https://drrozina.com/
In case you missed it, you can still download a one-minute relaxation exercise for busy people here.
Wishing you optimum health and happiness,
Psychiatrist, Speaker and Author of “Stress to Joy™”
All comments will appear after moderator review. The tools and techniques I teach have proven to be highly successful for improving emotional, mental and physical balance, but they are not intended to replace treatments prescribed by licensed medical or health professionals.