Admittedly, I am a worry wart. Or should I say a “recovering worry wart”. I think up the unthinkable before the unthinkable even happens (and the vast majority of the time, it usually doesn’t).
“What if I said too much?”
“What if by doing ______, they’ll think I’m not happy with where I am?”
“What if I love him more than he loves me?”
“What if we get married and end up getting divorced?”
“Do they think I’m awkward?”
“Do they not care about me anymore?”
“Could that be the last of our friendship?”
“What am I going to be when I grow up?”
“Who will I marry?”
“I don’t have enough money”
… and it goes on, and on and on. But do you see a theme here? The basis of which all of these worries are formed off of is a single thought beginning with the question “what if”? In other words, it implies that nothing has even happened or come true, and yet, we’re allowing our mind to validate these fears and turn them into one big story for our brain to believe.
If we turn to our dear friend Merriam-Webster (the dictionary), that is, worry is defined as:
“to feel or show concern because you think that something bad has happened or could happen”
Again, we’re discovering that worry is coming from a place of imagination.
Why we need to stop worrying
I felt inspired to dive into this today with you and share some insights around it because it’s truly something that almost everyone struggles with, that I’ve seen show up with multiple clients I’ve worked with, including myself at various points in time. While we think something as mundane and “normal” as worry is harmless, the truth is that it comes with some serious health side effects.
This is because, whether your stress comes from the worry of losing your job, failing a test, or not being able to outrun that bear chasing you, your body perceives it as a threat and reacts in the same way. Your physiological stress response turns on and the mind begins to communicate with the body by activating a cascade of hormones, leading to things like hormonal imbalances and keeping us in a state of constant high-stress.
That constant (or chronic) state of high stress eventually adds up, initially communicating to you in the form of body whispers (a headache, dizziness, insomnia, fatigue, eye strain) and later with something like a serious gastrointestinal disease. Stress, whether real or perceived (more often, it is perceived), is going to take a toll on our health, causing everything from increased blood pressure, digestive issues (this is a biggie!), weight gain, anxiety, fatigue and insomnia.
Knowing this, it’s so important that we start addressing this as part of our overall health. You can eat all of the kale salads and take all of the supplements, but if you’re constantly worried or in a state of high stress, all of that means nothing (for the most part) given that your body physically isn’t in the proper state to break down foods and absorb nutrients. Your body’s priority is shifted to merely surviving and getting out of whichever “stressful” situation it believes it’s in.
And so, based on my practice of working with clients 1:1 and my own experience, I’ve drawn up a list of things we can do to start releasing worry TODAY!
How To Release Worry in 3 Steps
1.Play the what if game: This is a fun one! It’ll make you recognize how elaborate our worries can really be at times and how at the end of the day, whatever challenge you are faced with, all we can really do is accept the cards and circumstances that come our way. Start by selecting a worry (I know, there’s so many to choose from!) For example, when applying for a job in the past year, I took myself through a whole wave of worries, starting with “What if I don’t get the job?” Once you’ve selected your worry, ask yourself – OK, so what IF you don’t get the job, what will happen?
For me, it was “I won’t have a job”.
What if I don’t have a job?
“I won’t make money.”
What if you don’t make money?
“I may end up in debt and not be able to pay for things like the gym, food/ingredients for recipes etc”
What if you end up in debt and can’t pay for those things?
“I will feel like a failure and bad about myself, and be unhappy because I can’t do the things I love?”
What if you feel like a failure?
“I will have low self esteem and no one will like me”
What if you have low self esteem/if no one likes you?
“I’ll be alone”
Ah – “I’ll be alone.” So at the root of my fear or worry of not getting a job, the deeply rooted worry was a fear of loneliness. Once we understand these things, we’re able to make sense of them more to tackle the root issue head on. Clearly loneliness or a fear of loneliness is something I was struggling with at the time.
2.Develop an affirmation: As I mentioned briefly earlier, I’ve been a worry wart since I was a young pup. My Mom, being the angel of a mama she is, has always been there to soothe my racing thoughts. Whenever I would approach her with a new worry or stress on my mind, she would respond by saying “96% of what you worry about doesn’t come true.” The truth is, there’s no science behind this. There’s no truth behind this. It’s simply a statement she made up to ease my worrying mind – but it worked! Having an affirmation that you can turn to in those moments of stress or worry is an amazing tool to “bring you back to Earth” for lack of better words and help you let go of those worries or false story you’re telling yourself.
3.Address the worry then let it go: This is a tool that’s going to help us become more present and active in our thought process. Instead of letting your mind make up an entire story based on a single worry, stop it in it’s tracks. When it comes in, address that is there and that is simply a worry. Say hello to it if you’d like, and then don’t give it a second more of your time or apply any meaning to it. Bring yourself back. Ask yourself if it’s real? Is it true? If there’s nothing truthful about that thought, let it go. The worst thing we can do (which most of us end up doing) is fuel that worry with other things we might know to be true to further validate that false worry.
Are you a worry wart? How do you let go of fear?