Taking Your Mind off Worry
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” - Leo Buscaglia
We all worry occasionally, but worry can consume many of us from time to time. Worries are thoughts about the future that are negative in nature. According to business executive Dan Zadra: “Worry is a misuse of the imagination”. This is very important to understand. Worries are not facts. They are our imagination projecting our fearful thoughts onto the future.
According to Tomoaki Sato, MD, PhD, one primary source of worry is our problems. Fortunately, just because we label something a problem in our life does not mean we have to start worrying. Sato states that we need to understand that there are two types of problems. One is a problem that you need to think about in order to solve. If your car is making strange noises, then you need to make a plan to figure out what is wrong. In other words, we need to think when we are planning for the future (in this case, to get your car to work properly). The second type of problem is a problem which doesn’t benefit you at all by thinking of it. In this case, thinking about the problem does not lead to a solution and so thinking about it is a waste of time. If we continuously think about a future situation that may or may not occur, we are in the realm of the impossible. We cannot solve something that has not happened yet by thinking about it over and over again.
So what do we do about worrying? According to Chad LeJeune, Clinical Psychologist, the first step is to begin to notice your worry thoughts and label them “worry thought”. Once you know you have a worry thought, he says, you don’t want to fight it or try to get rid of it. Instead, recognize it is merely a thought which is “separate from oneself”. Also, remember that thoughts are not facts. After noticing the worry thought and labeling it as such, you then practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means “getting out of your head” in order to be aware of your experience right now through your senses. Focus your attention on what you are seeing, doing, eating, smelling, touching or hearing. We can gently refocus our attention away from worry thoughts to this moment. Is this easy? No, it isn’t. But the more you practice the better you get.
Another helpful technique is to ask yourself: “What might be the best thing that could happen?”, and picture that clearly. We tend to create worst case scenarios, when actually many times something quite good or at least “okay” might be the outcome. It also helps to remember that worrying will not alter the future or help prevent something from happening. Focus on your skills to cope with whatever happens and trust that you can handle it if something difficult happens.
If you struggle with worrying and would like to talk to a counselor about it, please contact your EAP at 402-398-5566 or 1-888- 847-4975.
“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened”. ~Michel de Montaigne