Somewhere between carefree living and ceaseless worry we discover thoughtful preparation. Through properly directed planning, we create better futures. The gift of thought (episodic foresight), although essential to weave our way through complexity, is packaged with curses. Thoughts sometimes haunt the present, cajoling needless pasts and entertaining disastrous futures. Hence, our ability to plan easily slips from productive precautions to bothersome worry, hindering rather than helping. If you are a habitual worrier, anxiety may overwhelm.
We can tame disrupting worry but never dispose of it. Some thought directed towards the future motivates necessary preparations. I discovered success through focused attention to underlying thought processes. Simple awareness to our thoughts provides space—a separation between action and disrupting thoughts.
We can tame disrupting worry but never dispose of it.~T. Franklin Murphy
Instead of being dragged into an emotional storm, we observe the internal process as a third person, curiously watching the flow of thought through a biological organ—the brain. Consequently, by stepping away from burdensome thoughts—even just briefly—we loosen the emotional pull. This space allows for curiosity. We observe with compassion, exploring the human mind at work.
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Redirecting thoughts from a reactionary state to a curious investigation eases the impacting force, interrupting the chain, and allowing for gentle redirections.
When we interpret feelings with softer words, such as “Hmmmm, I am worrying again. How interesting that my mind does this. I wonder what started this bout of worrying,” our words create a manageable experience. Perhaps, if the habitual worrier was able to refocus on interpretations, they will find a measure of relief.
“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.”~Thich Nhat Hanh
By creating space, we shift attention from the object of worry to an examination of the thought process contributing to worry. Accordingly, the emotions settle, and we rebalance.
Cognitive Reappraisal to Calm Worry
Cognitive Reappraisal is a proven emotional regulation strategy. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are intertwined into a constant feedback loop, each playing off the energy of the other. We must break the circuit, infusing more manageable elements.
See Three Emotional Regulation Techniques for more on this topic
Mindfulness and Worry
The moment and life habitually pulls us in, placing pressure on our sources of strength. The cognitive load of excruciating worry exhausts our system, and eventually we collapse. Through mindfulness we may creating space, allowing our mind to rest—just for a moment. We can work with the momentary break to restore the beginnings of balance and re-insert more constructive thinking and planning.
if we worry, we need to be more mindful of the condition and surrounding environments that contribute to or diminish the anxiety. by Robert Augustus Masters PhD. wrote, “if we’re habitual worriers, such fearful concern—or over concern—may seem natural to us, to the point where we don’t question it. But question it we must if we are to cease being bound up in it and its negative forecast of what might happen” (2013).
Worry and Anxiety as a Medical Problem
Early in my writing career, I falsely believed most emotional challenges were solvable with the right methods. I originally wrote this article with this mindset. Habitual worriers often have a mind programmed to worry. In regulation focus theory, we call this a prevention focus mindset. Comparatively, other psychology theories point to fundamental world beliefs such as “the world is a dangerous place” to be the cause of worry.
I believe certain brains, for whatever the reason, or set to worry. Its not so much the environment, or specific arising events, as they have a set point of a certain level of anxiety. Consequently, you remove the element currently causing the most discomfort, and several new worries rush to take its place. Those that experience little worry, often have been that way since birth. Hence, they like to point to certain mind skills they use to achieve this wonderful feat; but most likely they just are not habitual worriers because of biology says so.
Please excuse the deterministic point of view. Our biology is not set. Certain events can cause worry for the non-worrier and some practices may provide relief to the habitual worrier. Accordingly, because worry is strongly associated with brain function, some medications may assist alleviate some of the habitual worrying.
Masters, Robert Augustus (2013). Emotional Intimacy: A Comprehensive Guide for Connecting with the Power of Your Emotions. Sounds True.