For years I could see that worrying wasn't helping anything, but I didn't know how to stop! In this post I'll share the simple mindfulness practice that made a huge difference for me in overcoming worry!
How to Stop Being A "Worry Wart"
If you'd rather watch a video, I share this content in a video here:
I have a vivid memory from grade 8 when my teacher called me a worry wart. I remember the tone of her voice and the way she pronounced the words. I remember feeling taken back by being called something that sounded so unattractive to me- who wants to be called any kind of a wart?!
I don’t know if that teacher was very perceptive and saw something in me- a worrier- or if I took that comment to heart and subconsciously took on that label and believed it enough to continually find proof for it throughout my life- and perhaps even create proof of it. Whatever the case, I have never forgotten that moment and I have identified as a worrier for much of life, often thinking back on that moment, and always feeling like it was something I didn’t seem to have any control over.
Eckhart Tolle on Worry
Let's skip forward about 20 years to a time when I was worrying a lot. Things hadn’t been going the way we had planned and I didn’t know how to think about the future without worrying because I had no assurance that things wouldn’t continue to be out of my control and “go wrong”.
Every time I would think about the future, I would have tense feelings of anxiety, worry and fear about the uncertainty of it all.
As I mentioned in my other video, I had been listening to The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and in the book, he talked about how the only time we ACTUALLY have is right now. We don’t have the past anymore and we don’t have the future yet. We only have the present. So if we’re sad about something that already happened, or we’re worried about something that hasn’t happened yet, we’re putting our minds into that past or future, and are therefore not experiencing the present moment.
Peace in the Present Moment
There’s a quote by Lao Tzu that says “if you’re depressed, you’re living in the past and if you’re anxious, you’re living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
So I started to experiment with this. Every time I would notice that I had started to feel anxious or worried, I would pause and ask myself,
- Are you in pain? (usually I wasn’t)
- If I was experiencing pain, I would ask, are you okay? Can you handle this pain right now? (and always, I was okay)
- Is anything bad happening to you right now, in this moment? (the answer was pretty much always no)
Then I would think about those 5 senses again. I would scan through each of them and think about what I could feel, hear, see, smell, taste.
These would help me to realize that in that present moment, I was okay.
This reminded me of something I noticed that I used to do when my girls were tiny babies. When they would cry, I would do whatever I could do comfort them physically (rock them, feed them, change them, hold them) and I would say, “You’re okay. You’re okay.”
Trying this exercise where I would go through my physical experience to make sure I was okay was like taking care of my baby’s needs. Then paying attention to each of my senses to notice what I was experiencing in that moment was another way to sort of take inventory of the present moment and, in a sense, say to myself, “You’re okay. You’re okay.”
I don’t have as many of those anxious moments in my daily life lately, but when I start to feel that way, I will sometimes think of this little exercise and go through it to stop myself from worrying.
5 Senses Grounding
You may have already noticed that worrying wasn’t helping anything, but if you’re like I was, and you have a hard time figuring out HOW to not worry, I challenge you to pause next time you notice that worry or anxiety coming on. Notice that the feelings you’re having are probably brought on by thoughts about the past or the future. You can quickly bring yourself back to living in the present by focusing your attention on what you are experiencing right then, with your 5 senses and thereby showing yourself that you’re okay!
And about those worries, you might be interested to know that research shows that 90% of the things we worry about never happen!
See if you can try that little anti-worry exercise this week and let me know how it went in the comments if you do it.