Yet our brain loves to worry.
You can’t blame it; it thinks it is doing an essential job.
After all, our brain’s main job is to keep us safe and alive, and you have to give it credit that it has done a pretty good job so far.
If you are reading this, then you are most likely alive.
The problem with “worrying” is that imagining how things can go wrong repeatedly does not wash away the uncertainty of the things we cannot control.
The irony is that the only thing that we indeed do have control over is our thinking.
I wish I had learned this before my 50s, but we can train ourselves to think differently and choose thoughts on purpose!
I am not talking about forced “positive thinking” or mantras because that rarely works and can be annoying.
But sometimes, it is a subtle shift in our thinking that can help shift us out of overthinking, over worrying and into a state of possibility.
Let me explain.
Our brains are great at coming up with worst-case scenarios.
See if this cycle sounds familiar.
1. A worst-case scenario comes into your brain, and you are afraid to even think about it because indulging in that idea makes you nauseous.
2. You try to push away the worst-case scenario idea and tell yourself you are ridiculous for worrying about it. Still, you are not entirely successful at suppressing the thought.
3. Your brain goes to plan b,c, and d, which are all ways you can try to change the universe to “make sure” that the worst-case scenario never happens.
This cycle allows anxiety only to grow and rule our lives.
Not only that, but this cycle often adds a layer of internal shame that makes the cycle heavier and persistent.
There is another way.
Instead of imagining all the ways you want to change the world around you so you can stop worrying, start to learn the magical skill of accepting the world as it is.
Here are a few ways that the practice of acceptance tones down the worrying brain.
- Accept that your brain is not wrong and that things could go wrong. (pretending that all is rosey is lying and your brain won’t buy it)
- Accept that your brain wants to be anxious and allow it to be anxious for a minute before denying/resisting/distracting
- Accept that a worst-case scenario is possible, but even if it comes true, you will live/survive and figure it out.
- Accept that if disaster is possible, so is the most benign, boring outcome possible.
Acceptance is helpful because it gets us out of shame for feeling anxious.
Plus, it is impossible to feel acceptance and fear simultaneously.
Acceptance is welcoming and fear is pushing away.
But if we are willing to feel fear, if we accept it, this opens up our imagination to all sorts of possibilities, the bad, the good, and the benign.
Try it out. There is no downside to trying new ways of thinking and seeing how it feels in your body. If it feels good, then keep trying.