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How to Stop Worrying

self esteem Jul 16, 2019

Can't listen? Here's the transcript: 

From an evolutionary standpoint, Fear has helped us evolve as a species. In fact, millions of years ago, people needed to have fear to be able to respond to danger. But in our modern world, we really no longer need fear in order to stay alive. In fact, many of the things that we are afraid of are not even dangerous. 

Being afraid of being rejected, being not good enough, failing, or looking stupid might feel unpleasant but it’s not something that will kill us. In fact, much of our fear is caused by the belief that something or someone will cause us pain.  And this is where worry comes into play.

Worrying is a conditioned habit. It is a habit that is completely not useful. The feeling of worry is about your thoughts. Either your mind is in the past, thinking about what has already occurred and you can’t change, or your mind is focused on possible pain you may feel in the future. We focus on the future to prevent circumstances that make us uncomfortable.

Eckert Tolle says, "Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose." The illusion is that if we worry we can control life. Worry is an action. Your automatic mind likes to worry. It makes you feel like you’re doing something about controlling how life will go. But you’re not!

Most of us really have no use for worry. You are just so habitually conditioned to worry, that your mind will suck you in! And once you’re sucked in, one thought needs to the next and the next. This is how we get lost in the habit of excessive thinking. And then we drum up worry even when we’re lying in a comfortable bed.

Worry is just repetitive negative thought patterns. But your body doesn’t know that you're actually safe and comfortable. Your body thinks you’re in danger. This is how people get sick from worry because they are in a constant state of an increase of chemicals in the body that are toxic. Our bodies were designed to create chemicals like adrenalin in order to run away from actual danger.  So when we worry, and we feel afraid, we are actually causing our bodies to continually release chemicals that over time can cause physical disease.

Breaking the addiction to worry is about being willing to recognize the thoughts that are automatically on a vicious loop in your mind. This is what I call the Inner Critic. And most people don’t know that they have an automatic conditioned voice that speaks to them. They think that the voice is them!

Our Inner Critic focuses on all different circumstances. It focuses on why you can’t lose weight, or what is your son’s future going to be, or how is your presentation at your job going to go, or what did people think of me when I gave that speech at my daughter’s graduation party. When you practice recognizing the habitual thoughts that continue to float around in your mind day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, you can start to notice a pattern of thinking.  This is your Inner Critic.

It is your old computer programming that has been playing on a repetitive loop for much of your life. It says, "I'm not good enough, and here's why." Then it looks for evidence for what isn't perfect, or what you need to fix or change.  And you know the old saying, "seek and you shall find!"

Learning to practice managing your mind is how you can let go of the conditioned thinking that is connected to worry. This is how you can slow down your overactive mind. You can recognize when your Inner Critic is speaking to you by paying attention to those familiar feelings that you don't like to feel... like sadness, anger, regret, shame, embarrassment, inadequacy.

You can pay attention to the familiar moods like crankiness, tiredness, quietness, withdrawal from people. You can pay attention to the behaviors like drinking too much, eating too much, scrolling social media too much, playing online games too much, shopping too much.

When you actually allow yourself to tune into the discomfort of these feelings, body sensations, and behaviors, you can use the discomfort to practice separating your thoughts from the circumstances.  The circumstances are always neutral. It's the thoughts that create your discomfort. Your money in your bank account, how someone is treating you, the fact that you were rejected or you failed...those circumstances don't determine how you feel. It's always the thoughts in your mind. It's always how you are conditioned to think about yourself and your life that determines your habit of worry.

Worry is connected to trying to change the circumstances in order to change how you feel.  Your Inner Critic is trying to protect you from feeling pain and convinces you that if you worry enough, you will somehow control the circumstances of your life to ensure you won’t experience pain.

Think about it--You worry about what might be because if it turns out that way, you will feel something you don't want to feel. But you can't control how it will turn out, and how you feel about it is about YOUR thoughts. The worst possible case scenario is that you will feel an emotion.  That’s it! There is no real danger.

Your Inner Critic wants you to worry because worry feels like protection. But, being afraid to feel uncomfortable emotions has you either avoid doing things in your life that could potentially bring them up or has you attempt to control parts of life that you actually have no control over!

You might worry about your kids and then try to control their lives so that you don’t feel the discomfort that comes with your kids potential mistakes. Sometimes, our children have to make their own decisions.  I can say to my kids, "I would suggest that you focus on your school work if you want to go to college." But whether they do that or not is not in my control. I can even set consequences if they don't act responsibly but that might not change their behavior either.

The more you allow yourself to worry and to try to control what you can't, the more you will suffer. The more you worry about what other people will think or that you will make a mistake or get rejected or fail, the more you will be stopped from taking actions that give you the life that you really want to live. 

We experience fear, worry, and anxiety when we are faced with the unknown. The unknown feels scary and uncomfortable. But if we avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions, that is what leads to an emotionally unhealthy life.

Emotional health doesn't feel like being joyful and ecstatic. It feels like understanding your human mind, how it works, and learning how to manage it. Learn to make room for the uncomfortable emotions and making room for the messy and automatic thoughts so that you can see them. You can't change that which you are unwilling to see.

Think about it--Anything that truly brings us joy and fulfillment, like creating intimate relationships, building your dream career, or losing weight takes a willingness to take risks, do things that make you uncomfortable, to set boundaries.  It is not always easy to stay loving and connected with someone, even if you’re angry. It’s not easy to take professional risks. It’s not easy to resist the urge to eat the Big Mac if you have been using food to numb your feelings.  

Stopping worrying boils down to your willingness to be with discomfort.  If we keep trying to live our life by avoiding pain, we will never grow. We have to be willing to use courage in order to take actions in our lives that have us risk being uncomfortable.  If I am afraid of being rejected, being not good enough, or failing (which is always a fear that my Inner critic mind whips up), I can acknowledge that those thoughts and feelings are nothing more than my conditioned Inner Critic trying to protect me. 

I can have compassion for my Inner Critic that was developed a long time ago in my life to keep me protected from pain. But I now know that I don’t need to be protected anymore. In fact, what I know now is that I can actually feel the fear of being judged, rejected, criticized and I can have the courage to take the action that’s going to give me the life that I want. 

I have had to do this every single day as I am building my dream business. I don’t try to avoid discomfort by allowing myself to worry about how life will go or who will think what. I have to be courageous enough to do things that make me afraid so that I can grow. I have to allow for mistakes, failures, imperfections both in my life and in the lives of others (especially my kids!)

I manage my Inner Critic mind every day to let go of the habitual and conditioned worry that would otherwise have me stuck in a repetitive loop about worrying about how my kids' lives will be. When my Inner Critic drudges up fear, I actually embrace the fear. I move towards the fear and embrace it.

I don’t try to distract myself from my fear with food, wine or other distractions. I instead use my fear and automatic worry to examine what is the worst case scenario that I am really afraid of?  I ask myself my favorite question: “If I weren't afraid, what would I be doing?” This allows me to see what is the next action for me to take, even if I am afraid!

Here are four steps to combat worry:

1. Do a thought download. What am I really worried about?

2. What is the worst case scenario? And if that were to happen, what's the worst emotion I can feel? (Remember, you can handle that emotion. It's just an emotion!)

3. Recognize what you can't control and what you can. You can only control this very moment. You can't change your past, and you can’t control the future.

4. Instead of allowing yourself to put energy into worrying, take that energy and put it into action. Worrying is an action that is passive. Taking action is what allows you to feel like you are doing something to get the desired result you are trying to achieve in your life. 

Is Your Inner Critic Keeping You From Success?

Find out what your Inner Critic is saying to sabotage your success and how you can move past her limiting beliefs. 


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