We know that worrying is unhelpful and uses up far too much mental energy but what has become more clear in recent years is that worrying is robbing us of quality sleep. In a recent blog post I wrote: Worrying about what has happened or what could happen tomorrow releases stress hormones which sends sleep packing. And we know that good sleep helps improve mood and increase your ability to problem-solve the next day, so in essence the more you worry, the less you sleep, the more you will worry and the less chance you will have of actually solving the problem…. so how do you break the cycle?
This week we take worry by the horns and offer some perspective to keep worry in its rightful place.
1. The correct dose - Bob Marley sung about it: "Don't worry about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be alright!" as did Timon and Pumba in the Lion King: "Hakuna matata... it means no worries for the rest of your days...its a problem-free philosophy..." Both songs seem to imply that by not worrying your life will be better. And perhaps it would. However, a small dose of worry is required to get one moving in a pro-active direction. Overdose on worry and you are sure to become completely overwhelmed and head no where. For example, legitimate concern about your finances may get you drawing up a budget and putting some logical measures in place, whilst obsessing over them may keep you from doing anything about it altogether.
2. Stay SMART - When worry hits, grab a piece of paper and pen and jot down your thoughts. Set up realistic appointments for yourself in your diary or on your smart phone where you will address this worry. Keep it SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and within a Time frame. For example, if you are worried that your car is making a strange sound, set up a deadline for yourself. Your SMART goal would be: To have at least two mechanics look at your car and give you a diagnosis and quote by the 17th of February. This way you feel like you are taking steps towards sorting the problem out rather than running away from it.
3. Try some simple self-talk - Choose a line and learn it off by heart. The next time you are caught in a negative spiral and your thoughts are running wild, stop. Now talk yourself off the ledge. Your line may be short: "This too shall pass" or more floaty "Put it in a bubble and blow it away". It can be a question such as: "Is this helping you?" or it can be a statement "You have survived thus far. Most of the things you worried about last year may not have even have come about. Worrying is not going to help". It may take some practice but self-talk can re-engineer your brain and lead to more helpful thought processes.