Just when life it ticking along rather nicely, isn’t it funny how something can come along and jolt you out of that comfortable plateau? Just recently my hubby’s contract came to an end rather abruptly, and along with 22 other employees working in the product area, he was told to wrap up work in a few days. Thankfully, he was given a couple of month’s salary but of course, as the main provider for our family, it was quite a knock to our cosy existence.
After the initial shock, we both agreed that the worse space we could find ourselves in was one of fear. It’s an energy that only works in a fight or flight situation, and I for one can find it debilitating and paralysing so I choose not to succumb to it as much as I am can. I don’t like how my heart races, or how my thoughts spiral downwards to darker places if I get too caught up in dread. So, together we have approached the challenge of him finding new work as positively and optimistically as we can. We’ve crafted a great mantra for the kind of work he wants, and we have enjoyed the upsides of having dad and husband ‘back in the room’ with us as he has now much more time to play, relax, cook and share family experiences.
Of course there are moments when either he or I find ourselves just on the edge of fear or panic – like when a bill comes in, or when we venture a thought about ‘the future’ but I’m happy to say that we’ve both made a real effort to keep smiling and feel good about the situation, viewing it as a new opportunity. And besides, there’s nothing like an attitude of gratitude to bring about a feeling of comfort; we have a lovely home, a wonderful child, amazing friends and great prospects so I find thinking in those terms helps me through the tough times.
But worrying is something most of us will feel at some time or another so here are some tips on how we can help overcome those fears and anxieties:
1. Create a worry time
Look to allocate a period of time – say 10-20 minutes - in which to ponder on those worries. Maybe write down the worries you have and then decide on a time in the day when you give over to the worries, reflect upon them and then when the time is up, move on to something else.
2. Learn to overcome the unwanted thought
Start doing the thought intentionally – don’t resist thinking it (as we know, what we resist often persists). So to get more control over the thought, bring your intention to thinking it – be aware of it.
Do this frequently for a period so you can begin to see your brain ‘working on’ this thought; you are effectively in control of this thought rather than it controlling you.
Just start labelling it – that it is just a thought.Say ‘it’s just a thought’ and nothing more.
White it out – literally right after that thought comes, begin to white it out. Like using an eraser or Tipex, simply white out the thought visually/mentally.What you are doing is training your brain in this process and gradually thought is no longer ‘unwanted’ – you control it.
3. Challenge your thoughts!
Instead of viewing your thoughts as facts or reality, view them as some kind of hypothesis you are testing. Ask yourself some questions:
What evidence do I have that this thought is true?
What evidence is there that the thought is not true?
What is the probability that ‘X thing’ will actually happen?
What are some of the potential outcomes?
Is having this thought helpful to me? And how does worrying about it help me or hurt me?
If a friend shared with me this same worry, what would I say to them?
4. Understand and accept that there are uncertainties in life
Worrying about life doesn’t make it any more predictable. Dwelling on what may or may not happen, means we’re not enjoying the present moment. Look at tackling your need for immediate answers and certainty.
"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity." Gilda Radner
5. Emotions are infectious
Spend time with the people who make you feel good and bring a smile to your face, and avoid those who bring you down. The people around you have a big impact on your mood. Maybe you need to establish clearer or healthier boundaries, or determine what topics are ‘off limits’. If you want to share your worries, do it with those who can provide you with perspective, rather than fuel the doubts and fears.
"Our true friends are those who are with us when the good things happen. They cheer us on and are pleased by our triumphs. False friends only appear at difficult times, with their sad, supportive faces, when, in fact, our suffering is serving to console them for their miserable lives."
Paulo Coelho (The Zahir)
6. Practice mindfulness and meditation
These approaches, based on observing your thoughts and then letting them go. You look to acknowledge and observe your feelings and thoughts as an outsider might, without reaction or judgement.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Thích Nhất Hạnh, Stepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices
In order to stop worry and anxiety for good, you need to give up your belief that worrying serves you or delivers a positive purpose. When you realize that worrying itself is the problem, not the solution, you can begin to recover control of your worried mind.
A funny thing has happened since starting this blog – hubby was just informed that his former employers would like him to come back and work for them… It could be that we’re lucky, or it could simply be that we didn’t succumb to worry and instead as a family, we’ve been dwelling in gratitude and enjoying the present moment and the family-time we’ve been having…
"Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty."
— Brené Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are)