Sometimes we might think that it is OK to worry about the future. Often times we believe that if we don’t worry about it, then we will not be prepared for what is to come. But, it’s actually never good to “worry” at all.
Worrying is a trick that your mind plays on you to make you “think” you are problem-solving.
Our brains are very active and these thoughts associated with worry about the future are natural – the problem is that if we don’t control what we do with those thoughts, we can go into fight or flight mode which isn’t good for us long-term.
Perseverating about something can cause physical symptoms like a pit in your stomach, rapid heartbeat, tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, and insomnia. These are all indications that worry has activated a stress response in the body. The emotional response to worry can be anxiety or panic – even depression if we are catastrophizing.
What is catastrophizing? Catastrophic thinking is when we envision the worst-case scenarios. Instead of thinking of the other outcomes which are more plausible (and much less intense or bad), someone who is catastrophizing (aka experiencing cognitive distortions) is only focused on the likelihood of the most extreme poor possible outcomes of any given situation. An example would be worrying that you’ll lose your job for a simple mistake instead of the more probably likelihood of your boss being understanding and taking positive steps to ensure there are new checks in place to help catch future mistakes.
When our thoughts go into catastrophe mode, we think we are preparing ourselves to handle something that we never want to happen. But because we are thinking about it so much, we go into the activated fight or flight stress response. We need to stop and ask ourselves, “what I am really doing right now?” We are, more often than not, inventing and exacerbating a problem that may never even exist. Remember, if you aren’t planning, then you are just worrying – and that is never helpful. It’s imperative to use conscious, active mindfulness to move beyond this trap.
How to Transforming Worry into Action…
When a short-term worry pops into the mind, then it’s helpful to notice that – and ask yourself “am I worrying right now? Or am I planning? … And do I need to plan for this?” If we do need to plan, it’s time to take pen to paper and write down the plan including the deadline and some required steps if needed.
When things are documented and outlined on paper – and in a calendar, for example – when the worry pops back into the mind, you can more easily let it go because you know you have a plan for that. It doesn’t matter if the concern is related to the immediate future or your long-term goals, making a plan and documenting it in writing somewhere is the resolution. When you have a plan of attack, you can focus your energy on manifesting the good result instead of putting more of your energy into worrying about poor results instead.
If your answer to yourself is that you aren’t “planning”, then this is indeed a worry.
Many times, you find yourself pontificating about something that can even have a plan for it! Since there is nothing you can do to circumvent it, it’s just pure worry for worry’s sake. In these cases, you can label it as “worry” and practice mindfulness techniques to regulate your high emotions. This “labeling” action helps you train your brain to not react with such activated emotion to these types of thoughts. Sometimes this takes discipline to really stop and notice the thoughts and process them, but it is possible and meditation is a great method for retraining ourselves.
Is your worry the type of anxiety that wakes you up in the middle of the night?
Well, before you go to sleep, if you already confronted the worry and made a documented plan for it, then you should more easily be able to quell the late-night/early-morning worry and get back to sleep. If you haven’t documented the plan already, then it will be useful to keep a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed to quickly write a note down so that you can remember to address it properly in the morning.
If writing the worry down to address later doesn’t help relax you enough to get back to sleep, a sleep mediation video should help ease your mind back to a restful state. One of our favorites is Yoga Nidra Progressive 61-Point Body Relaxation Meditation by Jason Stephenson. It’s a half-hour long and really makes you focus so it is a great tool for getting your mind off almost any worrisome topic.
Anxious thoughts about the future can impede positive manifestations!
When you have a plan instead of a worry, you can focus your energy on manifesting a positive result. You will be more mindful and appreciative of all the good that you have in the present moment. You’re then more open to allowing optimistic outcomes and the solutions to achieve them will likely present themselves.
So, in conclusion, if you have a worry about something, start with a positive affirmation of what you want the outcome to be. Set a plan of action. Write it down. Take action. Focus your energy on your plan to manifest the good things that are to come!
For more resources on practicing mindfulness, check out these two posts: