The Worry Trap
I often see people who are desperate to move away from worrying: a disruptive and habitual thinking pattern. One of the first questions I ask them is “ If you weren’t worrying what would you be doing instead?” The answer is always, “I don't know!”
So what is the opposite of worrying? And why do so many of us fall into the worry trap?
One belief people have about worry is that it prepares them for the worst. Stop and think about that one. If in the unlikely event that the worse does happen, do you feel more prepared? Is it any less difficult, distressing or disappointing when it does happen? Or have you just felt worse for longer, and even unnecessarily?
Worry has been described to me as 'over thinking'. When you come up with all sorts of questions that are either impossible to answer (uncertainty) "I have never done this before" or "I don't know how to do this". Or questions you don't answer but cause a lot of stress (negative predictions). "What if it goes wrong?" What if I can’t do it" "What if other people think i'm stupid?"
Does this sound familiar?
But here is where the problem lies. If the brain interprets uncertainty or negative predictions as dangerous (because that's what you are telling it!), it will generate a reaction to prepare you for the danger. Reactions may include anxiety, muscle tension, or the stress response. Those that have experienced these will know they can be uncomfortable, exhausting, and often cloud your judgement and decision making.
The reality is, if it goes wrong you will handle it. If you can’t do it you will have learnt something and if someone judges you, it doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things anyway. So why worry???
So let’s consider what the opposite to uncertainty and negative prediction is and therefore,
how to avoid the worry trap.
Find some Certainty
If I could take action to increase my certainty in my ability, would this be more productive than worry - Yes!
So take a course, ask a colleague, watch a TED Talk, just take action to fill-in the blanks where possible. Then let go or accept areas you can not make certain and trust in yourself that you will handle it, whatever the outcome.
Create Positive Predications
This one is easy right! If we can imagine what might go wrong, we can also imagine what might go right. The good news, the more we do this, the more our brain listens and the more this becomes habitual. As the old saying goes, neurons that fire together wire together!
So next time you find yourself in the worry trap, know you can get out of it just by thinking differently.
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