How to Train your Brain to Stop Worrying

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Are you a habitual worrier?

Do you worry about specific things or do you worry about anything and everything?

Even when things are running smoothly, do you still worry that you don’t have anything to worry about?

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.

Many people are suffering from habitual worrying. They feel that if they are not worried about something, then they are missing something or that something bad is going to happen. Even though they know they cannot prevent anything from happening by worrying, they still do so, resulting in wasted energy and time.

In this article, we will explore a powerful technique that can help when you can’t stop worrying about something that may potentially happen (thus, can 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 a legitimate worry. She was getting trapped in the other meaning of the acronym “FEAR” i.e. False Evidence Appearing Real”

In instances like this, it is important to remember that 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 the 3 R formula; Recognize, Realize and Respond.

  1.     Recognize what part of her concern was within her influence.
  2.     Realize what thoughts cause her to worry and stress
  3.     Respond by choosing the actions that can make a difference.

Step 1: Recognize

Rachel realized her sleeplessness and her tense feeling were caused by her constant worry about failing. 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 through 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?”

Rachel: “Never.”

Dr: “How many times have you passed?

Rachel: “Always.”

Dr: “So you have 100% evidence from your past that you passed 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?”

Rachel: “90%.”

Dr: “So there is a 90% chance that you may be one of those who pass the exams and a 10% chance that you may be one of those who don’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 a 50% chance that you may not.”

Dr: “Have you done all you could 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 positively, and things go positive, you could be happy all along.

* If you think positively, and things go negative, you would be mentally strong to deal with whatever comes.

* If you think negatively, 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 feel upset with yourself for suffering for no reason.

* If you think negatively and things turn out negative then you will suffer twice, before (due to anticipation) and after the event ( due to actual event).

Some people believe in 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 feel hurt when your results are negative. It is not the worrying that helps us cope; it is the acceptance of what is outside your control and taking action on the things that are in your 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.

  1. “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.)

  1. “I choose not to suffer before suffering.”
  2. “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 worrisome 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 a 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 stress, and enjoy your life. Let me know how it goes by writing to me.

You can download a copy of this mantra and worksheet, get more tips like this,  and get my bestselling book “Stress to joy; Your toolkit to restore peace of mind in minutes” at stresstojoy.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,

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