Last week, I talked about worry and if you’re a worrier, I have a short, really practical episode for you today. I also said I’m typically not a worrier. For example, I really haven’t worried about this upcoming trip much. But, this morning, waking up to a new work week, the crazy end of school details, figuring out how to pack a backpack for a 9 day international trip and some assignments for that trip that I wasn’t anticipating…I’m a fair bit worried this morning! The reality of 4 days until I leave was glaringly obvious when I checked the week’s calendar and I have a lot to do!
I haven’t noticed being worried before today, but I know I’m getting close to overload because I’m doing things like losing my keys at church yesterday. I’m sure they’ll turn up, we know what happened and I’m sure someone picked them up and hadn’t turned them in yet. But, I had to be rescued with delivery of my valet key…because my original set has been misplaced in my house somewhere for the last few days! Yes, this is a good indication that I have too much going on! But, now the worry is showing up alongside the overload missteps.
I want to talk through the top ten things I found last week in my research for dealing with worry. Actually, I’m going to split this into two posts. I’ll share five of them this week and five next week. Now, I need to insert my typical disclaimer that I’m not a doctor and didn’t even sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so if you need professional care for anxiety issues, I’m not your girl. This is for the everyday worrying that keeps us from sleeping occasionally or impacts our life in average ways.
I’m going to treat this like an experiment. I’ll talk you through this list using my worries about my week as an example. In no particular order, here we go.
Remove uncertainty (or in other words, measure something). For example, if you’re worried about your health, your weight or your fitness and you chose to measure–not your weight–but something that helps you address the problem. Like, the number of daily steps you take or walking for 20 minutes each day. Measuring something combats worry by giving you active progress toward a solution.
For me, I think I’m going to apply a to do list to this one. I need to sit down and do a massive brain dump of details onto paper, then assign each task a day and measure the tasks completed rather than cope with this overwhelmingly large mental list I can’t keep track of. From previous experience, I know that helps me know how it’s all going to get done and assures me that all the things will get taken care of and I don’t have to worry about them all right now. Which leads me to the next item.
Shift Your Worry. This is similar to the “measure something” I just spoke about, but is more about shifting your attention. So, if you’re worrying about a long term problem, shift your focus to a daily routine that will address the problem. If you’re worrying about saving for your kids college funds, how can you create a saving routine that you can focus on that will help you reach your goal instead of worrying about the goal itself? So, I’ll shift my attention to today’s to do list instead of freaking out about the sheer number of details for the whole week.
Write a “Grateful List.” Studies have shown that people who journal about the things they’re grateful for and that make them happy manage stress better, have happier days and even experience less physical pain. I don’t have a regular gratefulness practice, other than in prayer, but I know that it’s had a huge impact for a lot of people who do it regularly. So, let’s try it, here’s my list right this minute.
I’m grateful for the small moments with my son this week. I’m grateful to sit and let him teach me how to tie knots he needs to know for scouts. I’m grateful he wants to teach me his favorite video game and watch me play (which provides a great deal of amusement to him) and I’m grateful for a few fun moments this morning during a surprise fire alarm at the school. It involved donuts and his eyes lighting up. I’m grateful for the 11 years spent with him so far. I’m also grateful for the opportunity to take this trip, for all the things happening to make it possible. This is a perspective shifting exercise and I do think it helps.
Exercise. Exercise reduces stress and clears thinking. Usually, I’d have worked out on my own this morning and I was planning on running after dropping Cody off for school. But, the surprise fire drill ate up my workout time. My temptation is to say I’m too busy the next few days and I should skip the gym, but even though I did skip today, I’m making a public commitment to my group to not skip, to meet at the regular time Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I know I’ll feel better and be better able to cope with life.
Plan Worry Time. This suggestion is to respond to your worries by allowing a specific time to hear them out. So, for example, I’ll let myself worry while I’m making dinner, or driving to get my son from school or at 7:00 every morning. So, when you start to worry, tell yourself. “Oh, that’s a worry…cool, I’ll think about that on my drive to the school this afternoon.” Giving it a formal hearing acknowledges the worry and allows you to take it off your current plate of things to deal with. I’ve never tried this before, but it’s worth a shot. I’ll allow myself to worry when I wake up (this will get me alert) for about 15 minutes…when I bring the dog in from his morning walk, I’m done and need to get on with my day.
That’s the five for this week. To recap, here they are again:
- Remove uncertainty/measure something which helps you take action and control over the problem
- Shift your worry to a daily routine that will address the problem
- Write a grateful list
- Plan a specific worry time
The art this week is about what worry can do. I love boxers, but they do have a perpetual scowl. This was a foster pup of mine a few years ago, the first boxer I ever had in my home. Her name was Ms. O. And on a beautiful Spring day she could stand in a beautiful field of blooming daffodils (or buttercups as they’re called here in the South) and create a virtual rain cloud with her expression. The contrast in this image has always made me laugh. We can do the very same thing in our lives with our worry.
Want to explore the ideas in this post further? Download the Coffee Talk Worksheet or put this week’s art on your phone: Episode 32 Downloads