In the midst of a pandemic, worry has enveloped us all at one moment or another. I imagine that if you ever characterized yourself as a worrier, you are really struggling right now.
"Don't worry", they say. "It's going to be over eventually", they say. But does that stop you? HARDLY!
Here's a suggestion backed up by scientific research: If you are going to worry, pencil it in. I mean it! Have a time in mind that you will set aside to worry each day- perhaps 5-20 minutes (max), and take that time to worry your little heart out. This way, it is more contained and is not permeating throughout your day. Planning is a little different from worry but similar in that you don't want planning to be taking over too much of your mind space either.
The more you allow worry to sneak in here and there, the more you will find yourself losing days or weeks when you could have been finding pockets of enjoyment, engaging with family or friends (albeit from a distance) or delving into a project that you've been putting off.
Did you know that your thoughts trigger chemicals to be released? The more you allow worry to creep in, the closer your brain/body chemistry becomes to being more anxious or maybe even depressed.
How does one just turn off the worry, you ask? Well, this part is not entirely simple. Here are just a couple coping skills to start.
1. Mental Noting
When you find yourself taken up by worry, take a moment to mentally note to yourself without judgement what's going on. There are two components to this: 1.) Stating the facts, for example, that your mind is jumping to worst case scenarios, or that you are worrying about your financial future. 2.) Note what emotions this brings up for you- fear, sadness, confusion, frustration, etc.
Mental noting actually links the left and right sides of the brain (emotional and rational), and it puts a little more distance between you and your thoughts, helping you to be more objective. It is similar to talking to a friend or journaling, which also usually makes us feel better!
2. Grounding into the Present
As humans, what tools do we have to be in the present? None other than our five senses- Taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound. Our senses ground us to the present moment instead of being in our head, so to speak.
When you ground into your senses, your brain is able to switch from the fear based response to a more present and grounded response. So even if you are only able to do this for a few seconds here and there in the beginning, it is going to help lower the stress response and keep it from escalating as far as it would have otherwise.
No matter what you are doing, you can apply grounding into your senses.
Here are some examples.......
-When you are washing your hands- tuning into the temperature, sounds, and sensations of the water as it rushes over your hands. An added bonus would be to take at least one conscious breath as you are doing this.
-When you are walking, tuning into your breath and what you see, hear, feel, etc.
-This one is a very useful example on multiple levels........When you are having a conversation, try to notice, what do I SEE on this person’s face. What are their facial expressions, what do I SEE in their body language. What do you HEAR them saying…….Not your interpretation of what they are saying, but what they are actually saying. So just using these two senses so far is getting out of your head and into the present moment. The person you are talking to will have no idea that you are doing this by the way….....They are likely to think…..wow! They are really listening to me....….I like this!
In addition, what you will find is that you will automatically have more in tune and authentic responses to them, because you are really listening and not being distracted by your own "stuff" or your judgements about this particular person.
Every time you notice the worry and bring your mind back to the present, think of it as a little victory, even if you have to do this over and over at first.
***It's important to recognize that we can’t control what pops into our mind, but as you can see, we can learn to have more control over what happens next.
These coping skills are part of an approach called Mindfulness. If you would like to learn more about how to cope with stress and anxiety and how to get better at mindfulness check out my course Overcome Stress and Anxiety which contains coping skills similar to the above and much more!!
Available now at https://amanda-mccall-professional-counselor-lpc.teachable.…
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Amanda McCall, Licensed Professional Counselor