We all worry. We all get out ahead of ourselves in an attempt to make sure we will somehow be able to avoid some tradegy or event that is in the future. We think. And we think. And we think. We come up with all the what ifs. We are so certain that the negative scenes we have will come true and we need to keep this from happening. So we take ourselves out of the moment we are in, and jump ahead to the next moment, or the next week, in hopes that will keep us comfortable. All the while we are completely uncomfotable in the present moment we are in because we are filled with anxiety, panic, and fear. So what are we to do?
1) Become aware that you are “out ahead of yourself” and worrying.
This is the first mistake we all make. We are not even aware that we are worrying. We see it as planning, goal setting, being safe, etc. You know it is worry if you ask yourself this question: “Can I do anything about what I am worrying about right now?” If the answer comes back “no,” then you are worrying and you need to visualize setting that thought or thoughts on the self like a book that you are not reading. if there is nothing you can do right now, then you need to move on to something you can do right now and actually have control over. If the answer comes back “yes,” then go take care of it. Plan, talk to someone, set the goal, go for the walk, pray, etc. Then it is not worry it is living in the moment and taking action.
2) Acknowledge that you are not all-knowing, all-powerful, or all-present.
You cannot be everywhere at once. You cannot control the weather, other people’s thoughts or actions, and events that will happen that you have not even encountered yet. You are not God and their is no way for you to know everything that is going on at all times with everyone or every event that you may have to face. We have given our minds the impossible task of trying to control and be knowledgable about things it will never be able to control or have knowledge about. So stop trying to do the impossible. Jesus told us that the flower of the field do not worry. They have no capacity to think “man I hope the sun comes out tomorrow it has been raining for 5 days, one more day and I will drown.” They cannot even think like this, but they are beautiful. So remember when you catch yourself thinking about the future, you are not there – you can’t control it – and you really don’t know what will happen. You have been in that place before and guess what? You are OK!! You are sitting reading this and just fine. Maybe things did not work out exactly like you wanted, but you are ok.
3) Focus on something you can do right now that will have an impact on your life.
When faced with worry, notice it, remember that you cannot solve it all, place it on the shelf and turn your attention to something you can do to move your life forward. You can go for a walk, meditate, talk to a friend, help someone, catch up on your paperwork, make that phone call you keep putting off, put some money in your savings, ask for help, take a nap, take a shower, etc. The list of things we can do in a moment that will move us forward is endless. Yet sometime we choose to focus our attention on what we don’t control and don’t have power over.
When i began to practice these three things something very interesting happened! I was able to notice, put it on the shelf and do something productive. Sometimes that meant i stopped worrying for five seconds. Then I would have to do that process all over again. Five seconds, turned into thirty seconds, which turned into a minute, which turned into hours and days before I would get out ahead of myself and “pick my worry back up.” When this happens I start that whole process over again. It is practice. This practice has lead me to notice that all those things I once worried about, eventually worked out. They worked themselves out or I finally acquired the skills or tools to take on the problem and find a solution. My whole life those things had always worked out, but I never noticed it because I had been given my attention to my worry and never noticed that I was ok. I never added anything to my life, ever.
4) Be thankful.
Finally, whenever you find yourself worrying and out ahead of the present moment, just stop and be thankful. From a psychological perspective, being thankful takes us out of what we are worried about an puts us back into the present moment. Even if you don’t “feel” thankful, be thankful. Do it anyway. Make a mental list. Write down a list. Focus on what you currently have to be thankful. This is a spiritual and psychological exercise that literally takes your brain from “out there” to “her now!” it reminds you that whatever you are worried about is probably something you have faced before and guess what you are “ok.” Probably better than ok. You came out the other side last time and never thought about it again because there was nothing to worry about in the first place.
Practice these four steps and see what happens to your worry. Watch it fade into the background of your life.