I'm Worrying Again
Motivating Action or Overwhelming Fear
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | May 1, 2018 (edited 2-15-2022)
We must manage worry, allowing worry to push action without overwhelming.
Somewhere between carefree living and ceaseless worry we discover thoughtful preparation. Through properly directed planning, we create better futures. The gift of thought, although essential to weave our way through complexity, is packaged with curses. Thoughts sometimes haunt the present, cajoling needless pasts and entertaining disastrous futures. The ability to plan easily slips from productive precautions to bothersome worry, hindering rather than helping.
We can tame disrupting worry but never dispose of it. Some thought directed towards the future motivates necessary preparations. I discovered success through focused attention to underlying thought processes. Simple awareness to our thoughts provides space—a separation between action and disrupting thoughts.
We can tame disrupting worry but never dispose of it.
Instead of being dragged into an emotional storm, we observe the internal process as a third person, curiously watching the flow of thought through a biological organ—the brain. By stepping away from burdensome thoughts—even just briefly—we loosen the emotional pull. This space allows for curiosity. We observe with compassion, exploring the human mind at work.
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Redirecting thoughts from a reactionary state to a curious investigation eases the impacting force, interrupting the chain, and allowing for gentle redirections.
When we interpret feelings with softer words, such as "Hmmmm, I am worrying again. How interesting that my mind does this. I wonder what started this bout of worrying," our words create a manageable experience.
"We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing. We worry too much. We don't allow our bodies to heal, and we don't allow our minds and hearts to heal."
Thich Nhat Hanh
By creating space, we shift attention from the object of worry to an examination of the thought process contributing to worry. The emotions settle, and we rebalance.
Cognitive Reappraisal to Calm Worry
Cognitive Reappraisal is a proven emotional regulation strategy. Our thoughts, feelings and behaviors are intertwined into a constant feedback loop, each playing off the energy of the other. We must break the circuit, infusing more manageable elements.
See Three Emotional Regulation Techniques for more on this topic
We habitually get pulled in, placing pressure on our sources of strength. The cognitive load of excruciating exhausts our system, and we collapse to the pressure, allowing the habitual reactionary flow to continue. Creating space rests the mind—just for a moment. We can work with the momentary break to restore the beginnings of balance and re-insert more constructive thinking and planning to the cycle.