Most humans spend a lot of their time worrying. We worry about the future, about the past. We worry about our physical looks, our diets, our schedules, our families. We worry about serious things such as our health or loved ones. We worry about less serious things such as matching socks, or which toothpaste will make our teeth look the whitest. And society is only more than happy to help remind us that if we are not worried, we should be. Most of the time, there is no need to worry, Cupcake. In fact, unnecessary stress may impede the success or take the joy out of simply living your life.
Worry is usually caused by fear of the unknown. The brain has two basic jobs: 1) to keep us safe so that we may keep the Earth populated, and 2) to keep us as far away as possible from anything that causes pain, as the brain perceives any pain as harmful. Fear is created from a combination of brain messages from our past as our brain attempts to create a hypothetical future. This future image is not real, because our past memories come from something we may have seen, heard, read, or even imagined. So, unless we are in immediate danger (there is a piano about to fall on your head, your house is on fire and you are in it), we should just relax.
However, this is really hard to remember, let alone do, when one is right in the middle of a glorious panic attack. Here are six things you can do to help you deal with unnecessary worry.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff, Cupcake. I don’t worry about mismatched socks—hey, it’s part of my charm—and I couldn’t care less about if my dogs’ leashes match their “dog park” collars (I leave that part to my husband). I drive my husband crazy with some of the things that I handle with complete nonchalance. There are times when he may be right: one time, there were close to twenty black labs in our dog park, and all of them had red collars around their necks. We identified our dog easily because he wore a bright green collar with reflective paint on it. Point: Dave. Which is why I leave that kind of unnecessary stress and worry to him. 🙂 Just don’t talk to me about matching shoes (another post for another day).
2. Do something nice for someone for no other reason than you can. Studies show that when we show compassion or kindness, our brain waves change and we feel better almost immediately. So, get to baking, get to writing, get to doing something that will benefit you and the world.
3. Life is all about Plan B. Remember your intent. Click To Tweet My first few years of teaching, I would plan these amazing lessons. They would fail miserably in class (the kids were not on my planet; shame on them). I had to learn how to teach the same lesson in a different way. Immediately. It’s “the show must go on” mentality. I would focus on what I wanted the kids to learn, no matter what, and then I would teach it another way. My lesson: prepare. And when something goes wrong, stay focused on the goal and be creative. Your amygdala will kick in and help.
4. Ask yourself, “Is this going to matter in twenty years?” Decide if something is important to your well-being and your future. If it is, making it happen does not mean you have to give yourself a headache. Andy Shaw, creator of A Bug Free Mind, suggests that you picture yourself succeeding, then do everything possible to convince others around you that you will succeed at this. Barnet Bain (The Book of Doing and Being) suggests that you focus on one part of yourself that you think may stop you, and make it stronger so it is no longer a reason to be afraid. Christie Marie Sheldon asks two questions after you decide what is important to you: 1) What thought process is stopping you (then she guides you into “deleting” this thought), and 2) What will it take to succeed?
Do you see what all of these Masters of the Mental Game have in common? tell your ego to shut up or take a hike so you can get on with your life and achieve your goal. Click To TweetImagine yourself succeeding, and let the amygdala tell your brain all the possible ways that you can attain your dream.
5. There is no such thing as just one, Cupcake! If you feel very uncomfortable doing something alone (you don’t have enough experience, or you have no idea how to start even though you know where you want to end), ask for help! This is extremely hard for some of us. Society tells us that in order to portray ourselves as strong and independent, we need to do everything all by our little lonesomes. I ask you to read some cognitive theory, such as Lev Vygotsky, who claimed back in 1971 that “what (a person) can do in cooperation today, (she) can do alone tomorrow.” We are human. By our own DNA, we are social creatures. If you study successful people, you will find that they usually have a support system (friends, family, trusted employees) to help them stay on task, or to help them do things that seem complicated (but that someone else finds easy). It is ok to ask for help. We learn things all the time. It is not nearly as painful as it seems. Welcome to my planet. 🙂
6. Give yourself permission to take a time-out. Do something that relaxes you. Most of the time when I am working on a paper, it is the moment when I am furthest away from my assignment that all the ideas assault me. I now have notebooks and pens everywhere. Science has proven that if you can either become excited about your goal or you can relax and totally not think about it, your brain will help you solve a problem or find a path to accomplish your goal. Getting excited is easy at first; it’s when we have not reached our goal in our self-imposed time-frame that we become stressed. Go for a walk or a run. Take a warm bath. Light some candles and play great music. Drink some wine. Binge on some bad TV show. Go do something fun with friends! Allow yourself to stop worrying, and feel what happens when you do something kind for yourself.
So, what happens when a Cupcake stops worrying all together?
I have no idea. I still haven’t mastered this part of my life. If you have read my past blogs, you know that I am not perfect. Other people claim that their lives are immeasurably better. Doctors claim it lowers blood pressure and heart attacks. All I can do is offer to share my strategies that help me to get through the day with a minimum of gray hairs or hyperventilation, and sleep like a baby during the night.
So, Cupcake, what are some strategies you use to help you relax when your ego tells you that it is time to be afraid? Feel free to share, as you are sending out a karma boomerang.