Have you ever found yourself worrying about the smallest thing? You take that thing and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger in your head until it feels out of control and the possibilities of what can happen are endless.
My friend calls this 'catastrophising'. I think this is a great word. 'Catastrophising'. She can go from worrying about not meeting a deadline in work to being sacked in no time at all.
Anyone ever done this?
Me too, especially in the burnout years, and whilst it's completely human, it's a complete waste of energy if left to grow.
What if I were to tell you that the worst case scenario was very, very unlikely to happen? What if I were to tell you that in fact the worst case scenario has never, ever happened to me in all my years worrying?
"Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no purpose" Eckhart Tolle
I'm not sure I completely agree with Eckhart on this one. I think worry serves a purpose as a signal to be acted upon.
If you are a honorary 'worry wart' you won't believe me because already your brain will tell you 'What if she is wrong or doesn't know what she's talking about?'
Worry, in the early stages, can be a good thing. Yes, you heard me right. Worry can be an action signal that something needs to change in the way you are thinking, doing or saying something. But if you don't act on it, you may continue to the point of 'catastrophising' A worry that has taken over and becomes the overpowering way of thinking, the one that keeps you awake and saps you of energy. That serves no purpose. That stops you in your tracks and stops you from enjoying life, the moment, now.
So, here's what I do once that first pang of worry hits my stomach (biologically probably elsewhere, but you know what I mean) to ensure the 'catastrophising' does one big time.
Top action to take to see worry as a gift.
1. What is at the root of the fear?
Write down on a piece of paper exactly what you are worrying about. Where is it coming from? Once you've done this, write down what is factually accurate about what you've written. Where is the proof? Having done this, write out what is fiction? What is the lie that you are telling yourself about the situation? Just seeing it in black and white helps you stop feeling worried
2. Take action on what your worry is telling you.
If you are worried about giving a presentation, do you need more practice? More inner belief? Proof of when you've achieved something like this before?
Do what needs to be done to get rid of the worry before it gets to the next stage. I was worrying about my business this weekend with having had loads of time off with the kids. (Which I enjoyed, but meant work was on a go slow.) So, I listened to the worry and booked some time with a business coach to get me back on track and help feel confident about the progress I am making with the business.
3. What if? v Reality
At the top of a piece of paper on the left write, What if? On the right, Reality.
Write down the series of events that could lead to the worst case scenario. E.g. What if the fact I called my boss an idiot to a colleague, in a moment of stress, gets back to him? What if the fact I called my boss an idiot ends up in him discipling me? What if the fact I called my boss an idiot makes him sack me and I end up destitute and depressed.
Then write down the reality. My boss is unlikely to hear that I called him an idiot. If he does hear it he may not pay any attention to it. If he does hear it and wants to talk to me about it, it's a chance for me to explain the stress the department is under and how everyone is feeling about this contract. If I lost this job it would be very difficult but I have skills and experience I could take into lots of other areas or decided to become self employed.
3. Create positive What ifs?
What if I get a business coach this week and set SMART targets and have the accountability to move forward confidently? What if I read that book, complete that course to gain the knowledge I feel I have lacking? What if I speak to my husband about how much I'd love to spend a weekend away with him?
What ifs don't have to be negative unless you let them?
4. If you are worrying about a mistake you've made you've two choices.
If you are at the stage you can repair the situation in some way, then do it. If not, what can you learn from it and move on. YOU are human. YOU are perfect in your imperfection. YOU can't always get it right. I've made loads of mistakes in my life, just like you, and I will continue to do so as I grow and take on new skills and ventures. Make a mistake, learn from it and as they say in Frozen, 'Let It Go.'
5. You worry about what other people think about what you are doing or things that you've said. It's a horrible feeling, but again it's a complete waste of time and energy. You can't make all your decisions based on the fear of what other people will think of you. When I was leading teams in a work setting it didn't take long to realise you can't please everyone. And that's ok!
(I'd add it didn't take long to realise, but did take a loooong time to accept!! LOL)
What I also realised was if you just do what everyone else needs and wants, it will only mean that you aren't being true to yourself or them and it really makes decision making a nightmare.
It's as simple as this, if you can lie in bed at night knowing you have been true to your own values, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses, that's the best you can do and it's good enough. So, stop worrying what others think.
6. Surround yourself with like minded people who will help find solutions to your worries and not just wallow in them.
You'll have some friends who will just enjoy a good bitch and moan with you about something you are worried about. Some who will be great with the shoulder to cry on and big hug. These guys are important and I'm not suggesting you ditch them, but also make sure you've got someone in your world who will help you find solutions to the problems with hair brained schemes, that might just work or a firm kick up the arse when you need it.
If you stick with the moaning and the hugging crew, (as gorgeous as they may be) you are less likely to move from worry to action.
7. Take action and do it quickly.
As soon as you've looked and listened to those first pangs of worry get a list of actions and start taking steps towards doing something about it. It really can feel miraculous, especially if you haven't allowed yourself this before. Find solutions to all of the things you are worrying about and watch the worry disappear.
You're human. It'll be back, but each time you take it on in a big karate style headlock, the less likely it is that you'll 'catastrophise' again.
Tell me what you are worried about below and what action are you going to take?