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21 Jun
2012
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Worrying is a Choice – Find Out How to Choose Not To

Worry takes up a lot of time. When I started to stop worrying, I found myself wondering what to do with all the ‘space’ in my head. There was a tendency to want to find something to worry about. I’ve noticed this too with clients who come to visit for help with anxiety and stress. The worry is such a habit that it feels really uncomfortable when it isn’t there.

But that’s true of any habit.

Once a habit is removed it leaves a space. Nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum, so if you don’t fill that space with something else, the habit will return.

So the easiest way to reduce the amount of worrying you do is to do something else.

But first we need to correct the error in thinking that says you are supposed to worry, or you can’t help worrying, or it shows you care when you worry about someone.

None of that is true.

I know how, at times, it can feel as if you are powerless to do anything about it once you are in the grip of a big worry – especially stuff like money. I mean if you can’t pay your bills and you are going to be evicted and end up in the streets, then surely that’s worth worrying about? I would disagree. Worry doesn’t actually change anything; all it does is make you feel bad. When you feel bad, that reduces your adaptability and creativity so you are much less able to find solutions. With the money situation, what you want is a solution. Worrying doesn’t solve your problem. Of course if you feel powerless to do anything to change your circumstances then you might as well just worry. But it still won’t help.

But it’s that sense of powerlessness that is so often at the heart of the problem.

The first step out is to recognise that you are never powerless. There is always something you can do. That something can be quite simple. I have done ridiculously simple, easy things, like just sitting in another chair. You’d be amazed at how this simple action can give you a slightly different perspective. This is partly because you engage in physical action and that always helps, and partly because as you change your viewpoint you encourage your creativity to see things from another direction.

Other simple actions you can take are to read something inspirational or listen to something like a guided meditation.

But I don’t want to go to deeply into the psychology of all of this right now. What I want is to give you a very simple tool that you can use to help you to break out of the worry cycle when you get trapped in it.

Before you use this though, you have to be really sure that you want a rest from worrying. Remember you can always go back to worrying. You will realise after you do this a few times that worrying is a choice. Once you realise that worrying is a choice then you can save your worrying for the really important things in your life and for the people you really care about. It won’t change things for them but it will probably make you feel as if you are a loving, caring human being.

So the first idea that I want you to entertain is that time does not exist. The future is a fantasy that you create. The past is a memory and a memory is not a videotape. Memory changes and is malleable so what you remember is almost certainly not what happened – no matter how real the memory seems to you. So what does that leave you with?

It leaves you with right now.

Worrying, most of the time, is about what happened that you wanted to happen differently, or what you don’t want to happen at all.

Consider that memory is just thoughts.

So when you worry about what happened that you wanted to have happened differently – you are worrying about thoughts in your mind.

When you worry about what you don’t want to happen at all, you are again worrying about thoughts, because whatever it is that hasn’t happened doesn’t exist. All it is is a probable future and probabilities are not real.

So all of your worrying is about thoughts.

And the worrying itself is just thoughts.

So ask yourself this – are thoughts REAL?

No, they are not, they are just movements of energy flowing through your brain cells. This energy flow creates the illusion of images, sounds, and sensations, but it is as real as a dream. If your dreams are real then take your worries seriously. If not then treat your worries as if they were dreams.

I hope you’ve realised that all that’s left is right now and right now is a sort of permanent timeless space.

So do whatever you can do right now. Take whatever action to deal with a problem right now. Make a plan of action, right now. And if you are unable to do any of that then ask yourself whether you are safe right now.

Repeat this mantra to yourself until you feel more stable and ready to tackle the important and pleasurable activities that are available to you.

The mantra is:

‘Am I alright NOW?’

Answer that and repeat – regardless of whether the answer is yes or no.

Michael

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