Worry. It can keep you up at night. It can get in the way of your enjoyment of the day. It can prevent you from connecting with other people. It can make you sick.
Worry is often accompanied by the same thought, or thoughts, being cycled through your brain. Some people might call it ruminating. I like to call it ‘annoying’.
When you find that you are noticing the same occurring thought(s), or that you are behaving in ways that might indicate anxiety, such as nail-biting or pen-tapping; when you experience restlessness and an inability to relax…you might be worried about something… and this quick strategy might provide some relief.
Since, worries can ‘sneak up’ on you (until you develop a habit of ‘tuning in’ to your thoughts regularly), I invite you to begin with a short meditation.
Find a comfortable position, sitting or laying down. Close your eyes and begin to notice your breath. After a few moments of focusing on your breath, begin to observe your thoughts. I know I am making this sound easier than it might be for you…but I just bet that if you are in a state of worry, your thoughts might just be yelling at you, at this point.
Begin by identifying the worry. Say it out loud or inside, or better yet write it down.
I worry _________________________________.
Then, try this simple strategy of asking and answering these questions (again, I recommend that you write this down on a piece of paper that you can access again later):
- What is the worst thing that could possibly happen? (Since your worry is likely anchored in thoughts about the worst possible scenario, and since your mind and body are responding as though the worst thing is actually happening, the first step is to identify that worst thing.)
- How likely is it that this terrible thing will, in fact, occur? (You can answer this in many ways … ‘Likely/Not Very Likely/Unlikely’ …. or ’50/50′, … or ‘25%’, etc.) I bet you will immediately begin to feel a little bit better, as you realize that each ruminating thought is “awfulizing” (I just made that word up) a ‘reality’ that is perhaps very unlikely to happen (or at least not as likely as you are imaging).
- If it did happen (the terrible thing), what would you do? Who can you call on for support? (This question immediately moves you to action (moving ‘toward’ what you can do), and to remembering your resources. There are people in your life that you can reach out to for support…even if the most horrible thing you imagined actually happened.)
- What record of success do you have that will show you that you will be okay, no matter what comes your way? (This helps to remind you that you have handled difficult things in the past, you have overcome obstacles and you have accomplished goals. You have developed a magnificent repertoire of personal resources that will help you to move through this situation as well.)
Let’s look at an example that a colleague shared with me recently:
I worry that I will not have enough money to retire.
- What is the worst thing that could possibly happen? I will become homeless and be forced to live on the streets.
- How likely is it that this terrible thing will, in fact, occur? Not very likely, but it could happen.
- If it did happen, what would you do? Who can you call on for support? I would speak with my good friends about ideas they have to help me consider my options. I would be totally transparent with my children about my ability to continue to financially support them. I would meet with a financial planner and set a plan in place.
- What record of success do you have that will show you that you will be okay, no matter what comes your way? I have build two companies from the ground up, and sold them both at a profit. I have been financially strapped before, and found my way through that tough time. I have raised three amazing children who are educated and independent. I have dealt with the loss of both of my parents and many good friends; and through it all, I have remained optimistic and grateful.
Another friend shared how she used this strategy recently:
I worry about my good friend who has cancer.
- What is the worst thing that could possibly happen? He could die.
- How likely is it that this terrible thing will, in fact, occur? I do not know for sure, but it could happen. My understanding is that this type of cancer can be treated when caught early, as is the case with him.
- If it did happen, what would you do? Who can you call on for support? I would immediately reach out to our mutual friend. I would remind myself that my friend who passed away, did all that he could to be well, and that we did all we could to support him.
- What record of success do you have that will show you that you will be okay, no matter what comes your way? I have lost very important people in my life. I keep all of those people close to my heart, and in my thoughts as I live my life. With all of the tragedy I have suffered, I have not become bitter…but have, instead, become even more resilient…and, I think, more helpful to other people who are experiencing similar situations.
To make it easy to recall when I need it, I remember this strategy this way:
- Worst thing?
- How likely?
- What if?
- Record of success?
We wish you a future filled with more presence and less worry. Let us know how this strategy works for you.
Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker, Author, and Organizational consultant, Deri works with organizations who want to create happy and healthy workplaces for increased positivity, productivity and prosperity!