Do you worry constantly? To worry does not change the future. All it does is take the joy from the present. It is wasted energy. It is tiring and ages you and makes you sick.

We know this. But when we’re lying awake in the middle of the night tossing and turning, all this goes out the window. WORRY steps in with its twisted sense of humour and torments us, and we become even more helpless, worrying because we are worrying.

And saying to someone “Don’t worry” is often the worst thing we can do. It’s like saying “Don’t think of blue elephants”. What do you think of? Blue elephants, loads of them! Telling a worrier to “Chill, man!” is like saying to a shy person to take over the party. It ain’t gonna happen.

There is a difference between worrying and being realistic. Sometimes we beat ourselves up unnecessarily when we are only being pragmatic. However, mostly we worry way too much, and it is true – most, if not all of what we worry about, never eventuates.

We worry due to lack of information or uncertainty. It is a thought process and thought processes can be changed. Worry causes anxiety or fear which is an emotion and harder to change. So stop or change your thought process.

So how can we stop? Here are a few pointers and tools to stop or at least more efficiently channel the energy taken up by worrying:

Understand the trigger

Association is a very powerful thing. What caused the concern? Was it something you saw, heard, or thought? Is it being in a certain environment? Is it the behaviour of others? Then learn to minimise worry-triggers. If others are pessimistic, they could unknowingly project that on to you. Avoid situations that are worry-hotspots. Groups of people speculating are an infectious breeding ground for imaginary concerns.

Consider if you worry about a future possibility or about a present reality

Is it a lover suddenly appearing aloof and you’re worried they may have lost interest (a future based possibility)? Or is it realizing the time and knowing that you’re going to be late for that presentation (present reality even if it is impacting the future)? You can manage present realities (already late so best call in to the office ahead and organise lunch on your account, or work on a more dazzling opening line to knock ’em out with). For the possible ones – well, it’s only a possibility after allWork on the meaning you give to events (I use a process of re-decisioning with great success in my coaching practice).

Use worry constructively

…And tell your mind that you are doing it. You are not your mind, you have one. If you’re worried about not finishing that report on time, tell your mind – and your body – to use the adrenaline constructively and get your backside into gear. If this means you have to get up in the middle of the night to do it, do it. You can sleep later!

Get perspective

Imagine you’re an eagle (or anything with wings) floating high up in the air and looking down on the issue. What do you see? Things look a bit different from here, don’t they? Maybe not as big, bleak, poor, tight, or whatever it looks down theeeeere. It may even appear funny! And yes, it works better if you actually do picture the image; close your eyes if you need to.

Act chilled

The eye of the beholder… Trick yourself into believing you’re not worried, and your subconscious will play ball. But make sure you look the part…change your physiology and those tell-tale signs of worry – the frown, tight shoulders, pursed lips, clenched teeth, darting eyes. Now, worried much?

Understand your personality

When you understand the architecture of your personality and your motivators, you are better able to address the cause, not the symptom which is worry. I’ll use an example to illustrate: One of my motivators is the need to be free and not tied down by too many commitments. Other than in business, I am forever hesitant to commit to obligations, lest it limits me.  So when I slip, my worries are often related to options – that I might shoot myself in the foot or miss out on something better if I choose one. Some might say this is an excellent position to be in, and sure, it is better than worrying about someone dying, but I can drive myself to a standstill worrying about which alternative to choose. So instead of beating myself up, or trying to Just Stop Worrying, I sometimes just remind myself about what motivates me, and then address that instead. Sometimes the mere realisation about your drivers is enough to put it in context. Works like a kind of decoy…

Cover your bases and use your tools

If your child is due home and not answering their mobile phone, you’re likely to worry. So when eventually they do answer or get home (they will!), agree on how to handle similar situations in future. Be realistic (note – realistic, not pessimistic!) and do what you can to make sure the situation is contained as far as possible. And then acknowledge that you’ve covered your bases and did what you could, and trust. If you’re religious or you have spiritual practices and tools, use them!

Do the maths

Be a statistician. I’m not too sure of the formula, but this one is easy to figure out. There are a few variables: What is the worst case scenario? And what is most likely to happen? And which would you bet on? In other words what is the real probability that what you worry about will happen? Try to be objective and honest here…really see it as a mathematical problem. (You’re more likely to be objective then as the maths doesn’t lie). See, it doesn’t look so bad now, does it!

Meditate

I can’t emphasize this enough and I mention this in almost all of my content. The benefits of meditation extend well beyond just becoming present and in tune with your inner self. It has been reported many times how prolonged and regular meditation causes our thought patterns to become less erratic. We really do become more peaceful in our everyday lives. In the same way as you would develop a particular muscle in the gym through intense physical training, you develop your ability to focus and be calm through regular mindfulness practice (of which meditation is a form). Don’t believe me. Try it!

Interrupt the worry – change state

In NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) we call this a pattern interrupt or breaking state. When you’re lying in bed, just turning over and trying to get rid of the worry might not be effective, as you’re still in the same environment and the association to the worry is still intact. A better idea might be to actually get up, walk around, read something…anything to interrupt (break) the physical state (and consequently, the mental and emotional association). Everything looks brighter in the morning, right? This is because our state and environment has changed, so our associations change along with it.

Deconstruct the pattern

What lies behind the worry? And are you generalising? Worrying that people might not turn up could be insecurity that you expect rejection. Worrying that your car might break down could be an anxiety about not having resources. We tend to generalise this thought pattern, thinking it is always the case. When you break it down and deconstruct the pattern, you might lift your worries.

Note: Outside perspective or a life coach might help with this, as often we are so caught up in the pattern, that we don’t recognise it.

Come to think of it: Imagine you carrying al your worries in a big bag. Would you exchange your bag with that of another person? I bet not! You never know how heavy their bag is….

And remember everything looks better in the morning!

About the author:

Celeste Du Toit is a qualified Life Coach, NLP practitioner and Reiki healer in Durban. She works on holistic health principles, helping clients to become unstuck, find balance and live a fulfilled life. She works individually or with groups, runs regular workshops and retreats, and does motivational speaking engagements.

Connect with Celeste at celeste@yesparadigm.co.za or visit http://www.yesparadigm.co.za