Worry is anxiety about the future. Anxiety is an essential part of our makeup. It is our protective mechanism; an alertness to the environment, watching for danger. Worry has wider horizons where perspective can be difficult.
I always feel that the meerkat epitomises anxiety, sitting up tall, constantly watching all around for danger. This is the life of animals – and was for early humans. The challenges are for the present moment for safety, food and shelter. With developed intelligence in modern living we now must plan for life and our anxieties are for the future. This is worry.
We suffer worry as a continuous internal dialogue. For many people it is the default setting for their self-talk which is the constant conversation which we have with ourselves. Self-talk can be fantastic as in a day dream but often it is the conversation of guilt, shame and blame; of anxiety and worry. This unpleasant negative conversation continues in a repetitive loop, sticking in our thoughts.
The common portrayal of a worry situation is wakening at four in the morning when all problems seem at their worst. This is the loneliest time when no help is available.
But we all know about this and attempts at a definition of worry is not going to solve anything. The most useless thing at a time of worry, I always feel, is when someone gives a hug at a time of disaster and says “it’s going to be all right”. How do they know? But it usually is, isn’t it?
Anxiety is our protection for the moment. Worry is for the future. It may be about how events of the past will affect our future. Both anxiety and worry can get out of control. We can spend life like a meercat constantly on guard or we can use our intelligence to develop strategies to help us plan and manage.
The real problem is the dreadful feeling which is caused by the self-talk. Anxiety, and worry, prepare the body for action. It is the state where we are ready for fight or flight. If we do not have to react in that way, the chemistry which is flowing to prepare the body does not get burned away but accumulates and intensifies giving the dreadful feeling. The chemistry is for action. The inability to take that action causes a dreadful emotion.
The mind creates this feeling by stimulating the chemistry for fight or flight. It will also take it away. We must learn how to use the mind in this way.
So how to do this. In worry, the self-talk of approaching disaster is not helping you. The constant loop of repetitive negative self-talk is a state of mind. You need a new state of mind; a new way of looking at the problem. Find a way for a different part and function of the mind to look at the situation.
Write it down.
Whether it is four in the morning or not, get a piece of paper and write down what the problem is. Write in detail and rewrite until you have described exactly what it is. The physical act of writing and seeing the problem written out draw many parts of the brain into action.
Once the problem is clearly analysed and defined in this way it may not seem so dreadful after all. This is a very therapeutic process.
What is the worst possible outcome.
Unfortunately some of the worries of life are great. The next question stage is to ask what the worst possible outcome may be. Once again clearly define what the outcome may be.
What can you do to minimise the outcome
Consciously reasoning is utilising a very different part of the brain than the subconscious self-talk of the earlier worry. Just as the mind produces chemistry for unnecessary action in anxiety, it will produce helpful chemistry for reasoning and planning.
Draw up a plan of action.
Divide this plan into goals. Write the plan in small achievable goals even if they all have to be done quickly. There is a great feeling in being able to tick things off a to-do list. Achieving helps motivation. The more steps of achievement there are along the way, the greater the motivation will be.
Write the goals in an organised timed way so that the most important get done first, the great feeling of both planning and working your way through the plan is the reward in terms of body chemistry from your mind. It is your mind, it is there to help you and will reward you in the great feeling of achievement. You just have to learn how to use it.
Once you take action the whole internal motivational and support chemistry kicks in and empowers you to move forward.
Who do you need to help.
It is good to confide in someone. Talking through a problem uses yet another part of the brain. But, you must be careful to whom you talk. All the best planning can be undone by unhelpful comment or by well-intentioned friends who may worry too much about you. You want sensible support at a time like this and not someone to massage the worry. Now is the time for action.
Once you have a clear understanding of a threat and a clearly planned direction of travel the mind will give the power – the chemistry – necessary for action but now. This is similar chemistry to anxiety. The massive difference is that the pathway to resolution has been cleared.
Worry yourself sick.
Anxiety and worry are feelings produced by body chemistry – hormones. If the chemistry is not resolved it will damage the body at cellular level.
We become what we think about.
What I have written about above is about managing hormones by the power of thought and organising the mind. There are many other ways to get control of body chemistry. Diet, exercise and meditation for example.
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