It’s easy to get into the habit of worrying. You can get on the thought treadmill and waste a lot of energy as you obsess about your worries. I talk about a new way to manage worrying in the New Healing Connection course. Here’s an excerpt from the 12th lesson in the Thoughts Module.
In this lesson I’ll talk about what you can do to change this unhealthy thought habit of worrying.
Have you ever been worried about something? It could have been a rather minor issue, like worrying about getting to an appointment on time. Or it could have been a major event, like worrying about whether your cancer is in remission. Starting from the time we’re young, there are many things for us to worry about.
Children can worry about whether they’ll find new friends when they move to a new school. They might worry about whether their parents are going to get a divorce. They might worry about whether they’ll get on the cheerleading squad or the football team.
As we get older, the potential situations to worry about continue to crop up: Will I get into the college I applied to? Will I get the job I interviewed for? Does my boyfriend or girlfriend really love me?
One thing that’s guaranteed about being human is the unknown of the future.
No one has a crystal ball. Or I should say, even if you have a crystal ball, your predictions won’t be correct 100 percent of the time.
The problem with our plans and the future, is that they don’t always turn out the way we’d like. After you’ve been on the earth for a little while, you start to realize that everyone has times when things don’t turn out the way they’d planned. Everyone has times of disappointment and pain.
None of us really wants to be disappointed. So early on, we start to try to find ways to avoid the disappointment. When we have a situation where we’re waiting to learn the outcome, we develop coping mechanisms to help soften the blows that may be coming.
It’s common for our bodies to feel the physical emotion of fear when we’re anticipating an unknown outcome. But because we learn to suppress our emotions, we try not to feel that fear. Sometimes people avoid their fear by getting into the habit of excessive planning. They think that if they can control the situation with their plans, they may change the outcome and avoid the fear and pain.
Sometimes people get in the habit of judging the situation they’re anticipating as another way of controlling it. And some people get in the habit of worrying.
When you’re worrying, you have a sense that maybe if you worry enough, you’ll make everything turn out all right. If you focus hard enough, maybe you’ll think of a new idea to change the outcome, even if it’s out of your control.
Maybe you’ve just lost your job, and you’re worried about the fact that you don’t have enough money to pay the rent next month. As you face this shocking and upsetting situation, your thoughts go all over the place: I can’t believe I lost my job! Where am I going to get the rent money? Is there someone I haven’t thought of already who could loan me the money? Should I use my last $10 bill to play the lottery? Should I call my sister and see if I can borrow money from her? But I know that she got mad the last time I asked her for money. Should I risk her wrath and ask her anyway? And maybe I’ll have to ask if I can move in with her. But that would be terrible. The two of us are like oil and water. We’d want to kill each other after a few hours together.
You might try to go out for a walk or watch television to distract yourself. But whenever your intellect has a free moment, you find yourself getting back on the worry treadmill. You spend hours worrying about the situation. And it seems that all your worrying doesn’t help at all. It just makes you more confused about what to do.
The problem with worrying—just like with judging and excessive planning—is that you waste time and valuable energy units when you’re doing it. You’re on the thought treadmill, and it can seem impossible to get off.
If you’ve just lost your job and you need to find a way to get rent money, you’re going to need a lot of energy units to spend on the situation. You have no energy to waste on worrying.
As with the other unhealthy thought patterns, it’s possible to work with your worries so that you can let them go. The process is similar to the one I talked about in the lesson on excessive planning. You’ll be working with both sides of the thought-emotion balance. You’ll be using your intellect to do the work of recognizing your worries and creating healthy new messages. Your intellect will love to be busy, and instead of doing degenerative thought work that gets you nowhere, it will be helping you change the situation. At the same time, you’ll be working to let your emotions flow in a healthy way.
The first step is to be aware of the fact that you’re on the worry treadmill. As you’re observing your thoughts, pay attention to when you have worries about the future. Observe yourself and recognize how you’re worrying. Instead of just thinking the worry thoughts, also be aware of them: Wow, look at how I’m worrying. Look at all the thoughts I’m putting into the situation. Look how I keep thinking the same thing over and over again. Just by observing yourself, you’re already creating a change.