This is part two of my episodes on worry. A few weeks ago while doing some research for another episode, I compiled a list of top ten ways to stop worrying. And because I’m taking a trip to Greece the last full week of school, which is the busiest season for my little family…I’m all the sudden in the midst of a lot of anxiety about all the details that have to happen before I leave. When you hear this, I’ll actually be on my way home and I know that it’s going to all work out. The things that have to get done will and some of the not-quite-as-necessary things might not. But, I’ll get on that plane and the trip will happen. Knowing that, though, isn’t quite enough to halt my worry over all that has to happen in the next few days.
I’m working through the list of ways to stop worrying and we’re going to see how effective they are together. I covered the first five items on the list in last week’s episode, so here’s the second half in no particular order.
Focus on Others. A lot of our worrying is about ourselves. It’s really internally focused. It’s about something that will or won’t happen to us. So, one way to combat this, is to choose to shift our attention to someone else. Frankly, I think this item on the list isn’t quite as good as it could be. Worrying for me is a hamster wheel in my head. What I really need to do is get out of my head and off that hamster wheel and the best way to do that is to not just think about other people, but to actually do something.
Here’s how that’s going to play out for me this week. I’m going to pay extra careful attention to my son’s stories, his questions, his chatter about his games and his requests for my attention. I also have some letters I’m supposed to write for this trip. So, I’m going to be spending some time in an activity all about other people.
Get Some Sleep. Friends, I know you don’t sleep enough. I’m tracking my sleep with a Fitbit these days and so now I know that I’m not getting enough! Getting sufficient rest will do wonders for your ability to ward off anxiety and worry and it helps us cope with the reality in front of us as well. But, it’s a vicious cycle isn’t it? Worry often keeps us from sleeping and then lack of sleep makes it harder to keep the worry monster at bay.
Here’s what I’d recommend. Treat sleep as a priority as much as you can. Do all the things that help sleep happen and all the things you can to curtail your worry. On the sleep side, wind down an hour before bed, establish a routine, stop looking at screens in that last hour before sleep, create a sleep only, dark environment. These aren’t new suggestions, I’m sure you’ve heard them before. Make them a priority.
Also, you can create a worry offload routine. Some of the things that we’ve talked about on this list could be done before sleeping to help offload your worries. Write them down, give your mind permission to put them away until the next scheduled worry time, write a grateful list, review what you’re measuring or your daily routine.
Start paying attention to making your evening circumstances and routines as sleep friendly as possible instead of dropping into bed with no transition time and expecting to immediately switch to sleep mode. Not that I’ve ever done that!
Note and Accept. This is a great practice to get into and works for other things besides worry as well. The idea is that as worries come up, quit letting them wriggle around the outsides of your consciousness creating background stress. Don’t let them take over your internal dialog feed either. You’re in control of that feed, you can make the decisions over what happens inside your head. That takes some practice but can be done. Note and accept works like this: a worry comes up or you feel it around the edges of your mind as generalized anxiety. Take a moment to recognize it. “Oh, there’s that worry that I’m not going to get everything done. I hear it, I recognize it. Got it. Ok, move on to the next thought.” You’re simply recognizing it for what it is and choosing to move on.
Change the Subject. This is a great follow up to note and accept. Once you’ve acknowledged the thought as a worry. You choose to change the subject. I know you’re skilled at doing this around the Thanksgiving table when Aunt Emma wants to know why you don’t have kids yet. Or, you do have kids and you need to redirect their attention away from the candy at the checkout counter. Put those skills to work inside your own head and choose to think about something else that will grip your focus instead of the worry.
When I start to worry about the details of my week, I’m going to change the subject to how much good will come out of this trip, how it’s going to help other people, change my own perspective and how it will feel to feel to be traveling again. I’ve missed it, so I’m excited!
The last one for this week is to brainstorm solutions. This only works for worry over something that you actually have control over and studies show that most of our worry is over things we don’t have any control over. But, if you do, taking some time to face the worry and generate as many solutions as you can will help you get a handle on ways you could address the situation. We can spend an awful lot of time worrying about things and not ever address the actions we can actually take. I control my time this week. Yes, there are certain things that really have to be done before I leave. But, I know that I’m also choosing to add some extras onto my plate that probably aren’t necessary.
Here are some ideas I generated for my situation. I can do is divide up the to do list I made last week into “must be done” and “hope to get done” and not feel bad if I need to drop some of those “hopes” off the list. I mentioned I needed to take some letters with me. I’m actually printing some of my artwork, writing notes on the back and taking those along. I want to take 23 of them. I only have to take two of them. Here’s my solution. I must get them printed before I leave. If I have to, I can write the notes on the back on flights, on train rides and in the airport. I also must get last week’s and this podcast ready to go. But, if I have to, I can have this one recorded and do all the other work on the trip or on the way home. Those are some ways to lighten my load if I need to this week.
To recap, here are this week’s five worry-busters:
- Focus on others
- Get some sleep
- Note & accept
- Change the subject
- Brainstorm solutions
The artwork this week is another “boxer in flowers” portrait. Because you just can’t have enough of those! Please meet my dog, Wiley. He’s the rescue that ended my foster career. He’s not quite as grouchy looking as Ms. O was last week, but he certainly is very serious looking in that field of flowers. His expression doesn’t at all match the pretty wildflower area he’s standing in and it’s a reminder that worry is often a mismatch to our life too. Usually, what we’re worrying about doesn’t happen (I’ve heard statistics ranging up to 85% of worries don’t happen), so don’t let worry cause you to miss the wildflower fields of your life that are right in front of you.
Want to explore the ideas in this post further? Download the Coffee Talk Worksheet or put this week’s art on your phone: Episode 33 Downloads