How to Win With Worry
“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles…
by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.”
― Mark Twain
We are wired to worry. But it's a wire that can be used to harness heat that can be put to some personal and professional use. I used to resist my worried self. Now I treasure it and harness its energy to productive growth in my life.
Here are some ways to transform worry into a workforce.
- Create with it.
Worry has a lot of energy, It is a thought packed with desire and anticipation. So instead of letting it smoke and suffocate you, use it to create something you can use or give or share. I cook when I feel the hounds of worry coming. I write about worry to make its contours visible. Creation is an act of rebellion of the frontal cortex against the limbic brain. Use the worry in your mind to find alternate solutions to the problems held inside the emotion of worry. It's difficult to separate the two but if you focus on the desire for creation, worry will transform into a life-enhancing force.
“Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
2. Meditate on your worry.
The more you meditate and watch your worry, the more you start to observe it dispassionately. The act of observing what you worry about has the immense power of healing in itself. I used to worry about being incomplete and not good enough. Until I started to observe this thought when I meditated. The more I watched it rise and fall the more I understood it to be a belief that was linked to my childhood traumas. Slowly I started to shower that thought with love and warmth. I started to hug my worry and accept it. I started to surrender to the feeling of being low and unloved. Until slowly but surely that worry started to lighten and start to fade. Like how ink on a page starts to fade when exposed to the sun. Slowly but surely the act of meditating on my worries and observing the thoughts when they appeared, turned my worries into actions that I could take to overcome my weaknesses or do something to change my situations. Affirmative and positive actions rose from that meditation…that have removed a lot of my anxieties and I feel better for it.
It's also a sure sign that your ego is losing its grip on your mind. It is becoming smaller compared to your whole, higher self. It’s a sign that you are awakening to your enlightened self.
I read this recently,
“According to Vedanta, there are only two symptoms of enlightenment, just two indications that a transformation is taking place within you toward a higher consciousness. The first symptom is that you stop worrying. Things don’t bother you anymore. You become light-hearted and full of joy. The second symptom is that you encounter more and more meaningful coincidences in your life, more and more synchronicities. And this accelerates to the point where you actually experience the miraculous. (quoted by Carol Lynn Pearson in Consider the Butterfly)”
3. Practice replacing worry with gratitude.
I used to wake up worried. Middle of the night, 3 am, 5 am…in fact I still do. The mind is full of subconscious thoughts that we can’t control. Only manage.
I used to wake up in cold sweat and find it hard to go back to sleep for hours after. The adrenaline in my body would be awakened by my anxious mammalian brain as it perceived an apparent threat. Cortisol would shoot into the body and I would be wide awake dreading the worst.
It was exhausting.
So I tried a game to counter the mental turmoil. I used what I call replacement therapy. I started to use words of gratitude for all the things that were working fine at that moment in my life. So I started to be grateful and say thank you for my breathing that was working great. I started to be thankful for the warm bed and my snoring wife who slept beside me; thankful for the duvet and the hot water and the fact that my toilet worked great…you get the drift. I just started to swap every worry with words of faith and gratitude. Slowly but surely my worries have diminished greatly. I now still wake up before dawn but I can recall my dreams and observe their contents without any feelings of worry.
“Sorrow looks back, Worry looks around, Faith looks up”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
4. Fill your worries. One brick at a time.
I used to worry about being a crap writer. I worried so much that I never wrote a word for months. Until one day I just started writing. Then Publishing. Then writing again. Slowly, I started to enjoy it. I started to feel the flow when I typed. Now, I write without worrying. I write because I enjoy the feeling of writing in my head.
I used to worry I was not fit. I used to stand on the weighing scale and cringe. I used to stroke my stomach and groan. Every time I ate too much or drank that extra pint the mind would scream at me and I would sulk. Then one day I saw myself in a mirror and a thought crossed my mind that I could actually have a lean six-pack abs body. Like I could have it if I wanted it enough.
That day I decided to find an exercise routine that I would enjoy. I found my fit in Calisthenics. It was my way to feel like I was making the most progress on becoming fit. Then I kept at it. It's been years now and I now enjoy a routine that allows me to strengthen my core and entire body five days a week, 1 hour a day. The same guy who would buckle at 5 push-ups, is the same body that can do three reps of 50 push-ups. My worry led me to this.
“Times will change for the better when you change.”
― Maxwell Maltz
5. Share your worry with someone you trust to help lighten it and imagine some ways out.
Worry comes concentrated when it arises. It shows up suddenly and uninvited. But worry essentially is an act of imagination. It is your mind conjuring up scenarios of a yet uncertain future.
According to Psychology Tools, To worry means to think about problems that might happen in a way that leaves you feeling anxious or apprehensive. Worry is experienced as a chain of thoughts and images that can progress in increasingly catastrophic and unlikely directions. It is often experienced as uncontrollable and seems to take on a life of its own.
But if you want to channel this imagination into a constructive direction, share it with a person you trust. Let them comment /create/ collaborate with you on designing scenarios that could lead to useful action that you can do. I really like what John Ortberg has to say about this;
“Never worry alone. When anxiety grabs my mind, it is self-perpetuating. Worrisome thoughts reproduce faster than rabbits, so one of the most powerful ways to stop the spiral of worry is simply to disclose my worry to a friend… The simple act of reassurance from another human being [becomes] a tool of the Spirit to cast out fear — because peace and fear are both contagious.”
― John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You
6. Compassion will dissolve the bitterness of worry.
My mother is slowly starting to lose her mind. As she fast approaches her 90th candle on the cake, her mind is starting to fade while the breath still fights to sing. I used to be worried about her future. I used to express that worry by getting angry with her and trying to get her to take her medicines on time. But the worry would outweigh all my actions.
Until I decided to find her an old age home. Against the will of my brother and a large section of my family. Including my mother. But I know that if she is not given professional care she will suffer a lot more if she stayed at home. This conviction has melted the bitterness of my worry. I can now work on getting her admitted. I want her to be safe and cared for till her last day. I can’t do that for her. And no one else has any better ideas. I found my peace when I imagined her life from her old but proud bright eyes.
7. Pray with those who are worried.
The best way to help someone is to listen to what they are worried about. If you can make time for their thoughts and just patiently hear them out, you will be amazed at the effect it will have on you. It lightens your own mind because you have lived in another. I often tell people to not worry and then I end by saying I will pray for them. It always makes us both feel lighter and hopeful. A worry is a lonely place for the worrier. By joining that person on the metaphorical mat and praying together, you are lessening the load of that worry. I like what Sybil MacBeth has to say about the power of praying together;
“..when someone says “please pray for me,” they are not just saying “let’s have lunch sometime.” They are issuing an invitation into the depths of their lives and their humanity- and often with some urgency. And worry is not a substitute for prayer. Worry is a starting place, but not a staying place. Worry invites me into prayer. As a staying place, worry can be self-indulgent, paralyzing, draining, and controlling. When I take worry into prayer, it doesn’t disappear, but it becomes smaller.”
― Sybil MacBeth, Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God
Worry is your old mind’s way to show you a threat but for the higher mind to spot the opportunity. Don’t waste it. Turn the worry pebbles into beads of progress.