Let's face it, we all do it and we say we can't help it, but that's far from the truth.
For as long as I can remember I've worried about absolutely everything imaginable. School grades, piano lessons, not being part of the cool crew at school, failing to pass the audition to get into ballet school, and that's just for starters. In fact I did get in, and everything else worked out just fine too, apart from not being a cool kid, but that didn't matter at all in the long run... Boy did I pile the pressure on, and this was way back in the late 70's and early 80's, before the constant bombardment of social media pushing whichever aspirational trend of the day.
Eventually my worry turned to career and relationships. I never viewed myself as competent, or as intelligent, or as attractive, or as witty as my friends and peers. I always knew deep down that I was my own worst critic but it felt like an intrinsic part of me, which I (wrongly) believed, spurred me on to achieve my goals. It was my belief that this worrying was what gave me my drive to succeed, and if I didn't worry I would be even more sure to fail in my ambitions.
It's taken half a lifetime, the loss of my parents, a redundancy and several failed relationships to discover, that in reality, worry gets me absolutely nowhere. In the past it has paralysed me into procrastination, delayed my actions and caused me to miss some amazing opportunities.
In my case it all stemmed out of comparing myself to others, but we all have our own personal reasons for falling into the worry trap. We're all different with our own individual belief systems which dictate our thinking but as this is just a short blog and not a dissertation, I'll leave that for another day...
No matter what the cause, these days, when that nagging worry starts creeping in, I pause to reflect and gently ask the following questions:
Why am I worrying? The key is defining precisely what is causing the worry. This is where you need to be absolutely truthful. Most of us are guilty of lying to ourselves from time to time, so make sure this isn't one of these times. It won't benefit you in the longer term, that's for sure!
How is it making me feel? Those pesky thoughts are directly responsible for how you feel right now.
How is my 'worrying' making me act? What is the physical manifestation of what I'm thinking?
How it this preventing me from doing what I truly want to do? It is holding me back?
What would be a better way to think about the situation that is causing me to worry? This is the key.
Stick to hard facts and acknowledge that these facts can be quite different from the way you have allowed yourself to think about it up till now.
Write it all down. I'm a big fan of putting pen to paper as this helps me to focus and provides me with written evidence which I can refer back to whenever I feel the need to regain my focus in the future.
By experiencing and understanding this process of rationalisation, and by embracing the way your feelings are changing, you create the ability to sense far calmer emotions derived from logical reasoning. It takes time, but gets easier with practice. So don't rush, and don't expect to feel happy right away. If you can get to a neutral place where your thoughts aren't causing any discomfort, that's OK too. Even now, when life throws a curveball and I catch myself slipping back into my old worry habit, I know I have the ability within myself to turn things around into a positive light, and find my way to where I need to be.