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THE WORRY TRAP

THE WORRY TRAP – GET OUT OF IT

So lets say we all have worries.  

Its the loss of control surrounding the worry that becomes an issue.  

What if you had some realistic worries and yet you were in control of them.  Now that sounds much better doesn’t it.

Worry can weigh some weight! And all your focused attention can be dedicated to your worries. This makes the rest of your view cloudy.  And then you are unable to focus on normal daily tasks properly.  This becomes exhausting.

Worries can be any size.  Worries are infact fears.  They make it so difficult to focus on anything else.  

Worries are thoughts, emotions and /or images that float around in our minds.  Often we feel the worry in our bodies too.  This all causes distress.

Lets get scientific for a moment, and I meant truly for a moment.  Its worth knowing 2 simple things about the brain: inside the brain we have the amygdala.  They control our emotions (especially fear!!!).  And the hippocampus which stores our memories about our feelings.  That’s just a small science lesson for you.

Stop and have a think about your own individual worries and what thoughts or images float around in your mind.  How do you describe what occurs in your body when you worry?  

I know for some people they breath differently, they may get a knot in their throat.  They may have stiff muscles. And so on.  Have you ever paid attention to what occurs for you?

Worries can come from all sorts of life paths.  You may worry about work, family, friends, school.  The list continues.  Infact why don’t you add to this list and let me tell you that there is no wrong answer.  What you may worry about, I may not worry about, and what I worry  about, you may not worry about.  There is no right or wrong worry.  

What worries are current for you right now?

Why don’t you do a self evaluation on yourself:

How long do you spend worrying?

Do you have faith in your ability to cope with your worries?

Say out loud (or quietly within) the strategies that you use to manage your worries.

Now I encourage you to become curious about your worries.  What can you learn from them?  This is a new way to exercise your mindset.  

How about a visualisation right now. 

Imagine your life with no worries.  This may be unrealistic of me to ask you.  But there is a benefit in being able to keep your brain open to different ways of viewing.  There is something healthy in this.

Have you ever watched a scary movie?  Ill assume you have…

Now compare the way your body feels whilst watching this scary movie to the way your body feels when you worry.  Some differences ? Some similarities? 

I like to land my interest on keeping track of worries.  When I see clients in clinic I like to ask about the pattern they run.  Its not always important to dwell for too long “why” we worry.  So once we learn the pattern that we run when worrying, we can learn more about ourselves.  And come up with solutions.

So gather some information about yourself starting with what your worry actually is.  Record the time and place that this worry occurs.  This may be important later on.  Then as explained, get to know what it does to your body.  Be a detective.  What triggered it? In other words, what was going on before you began to worry?

Now look at what happened after you noticed the worry.  What did you do?  In particular, did you do anything to lead yourself into feeling better?

I am interested in these questions as you should be because you get to learn about yourself and the way you worry.  You may realised that its at the same time each day, or its always at one or more locations?  For example, you worry at 8 pm every night in bed.  Or you worry when you are walking to the bus stop every morning.   

Now remember not to disregard how your body feels. So during the times that you worry you should also note the sensations your body experiences.  

You may wish to jot your detective work down on a note pad, and I suggest you do.  Our memories don’t always serve us, and also we may falsely remember something.  So I encourage you to write down your worry profile.  Or put it in your phone, whatever suits you.  Just keep in mind it needs to be accessible so you can keep recording.

I have often heard people say  they try to make themselves feel better but it doesn’t always work.  So why keep trying the same thing.

You must be thinking, lets rule out what works and what doesn’t? Correct.

So write down what you have done, or what you do to make yourself feel better.  If it was helpful place a tick next to it, and if it wasn’t place a cross.  Or if it deserves a comment, then go ahead and make a comment on it.

So lets agree that worry affects the entire body. May I suggest having your own bank of strategies to help calm your body.

Lets consider some now and you can think of your own too.

Breathing: be in charge of your breathing and notice it change.  This leads to a calmer body and slower heart rate.  Breath in – hold – breath out. Repeat 10 times.

Some light stretching: moving your body and using your strength, calming the body and releasing tension.  You may already know what stretches to do, or you can follow some yoga stretches.  I wonder if you like it.

Progressive muscle relaxation: here you tense and release different body parts (arms, hands, legs, feet, and be creative with this..).  I wonder how this feels for you.

Being present: notice where you are and what’s happening in the moment.  Simply ground yourself.

Ok so I hope that so far you have enjoyed that you can be in touch with yourself.  Now you can look ahead and plan that when you feel worried this week, you will pay attention to how your body feels and record it.  You can also use a strategy that helps you feel calm.  We all favour different strategies, so feel free to be unique.  Pay attention to how you feel after you use the strategy.

Then lastly decide if you will use this strategy again.

Beware, sometimes our worry thoughts cause a chain reaction.  One thought may lead to a different behaviour like crying in bed (meanwhile the thought was about a party).  So this is the warning; worries set off other feelings, leading us to react a certain way.  Isn’t that interesting.

So do your own brainstorming and consider your thoughts.  What might you feel in relation to such thoughts? And how would you behave if you have such thoughts and feelings.

Let me suggest that when you have such worrying thoughts, you CHALLENGE them.  That’s right, challenge them.  So what might change if they are challenged?  What feelings would change and what actions might differ?

What a great exercise you can do.

Spend the week getting to know yourself.

All you have to do (and it works best with your groovy pen and paper) is to document:

Thoughts – Feelings – Actions

(and repeat for each thought)

So you will learn as an observer of yourself, that when you think this, you feel that and you act like this.

Do you see the big picture now?  Thoughts affect feelings and behaviours.

Okay so we can agree now that our thoughts can muck us around.  So how about we keep an eye on our thoughts.  Put a plan in place.  For instance, look at all the facts.  When this has happened in the past, how did it turn out?  Did you expect the worst, and the worst never came?  What if you look at other causes of the situation, or what could that situation mean?

Now lets consider, what’s the best thing that can happen at this moment?  Infact look for something good in the situation.  Play with perspective, will it matter next month?

In my clinic, whether I am seeing an adult or a child, I look at language used.  

Let me explain some road blocks:

Believing other things are in our control or that we are responsible for external things.

Assuming we know what happened or what will happen.

Focusing on negative details (and ignoring the rest).

Taking it personally by thinking other peoples words or actions are about us.

Expecting the worst to occur.

When we see only 2 options for a solution, and not being flexible to see between the extremes.

Making a huge conclusion just because its happened once before, and so you think it will happen all the time.

So please don’t get trapped.  Or please at least acknowledge that these are thought traps.  

So let me remind you…

Notice the worry

Look at the facts, and the facts that are being ignored

Does the past tell you something?

Are there alternative explanations?

Check for evidence, and is there evidence to counter the worry?

So we know now, notice the worry, and then practice checking thoughts.

Explore all the facts, look at the past and what eventuated (was it as bad as you were expecting at the time), look for evidence of proof that goes against your worry, look for other explanations (what else can be true, or could there be another meaning)?  And lastly look for any good in the situation, and consider if it will really matter next week, month, year…. This is putting it in perspective.

Well I hope this read was a simple and comfortable one.  It was designed to get you to identify your own patterns and how to interrupt them.  This is my specialty.  

Feel free to come into my clinic if you wish to interrupt any patterns that you are running.

Good luck

Amanda Dounis

Psychotherapist

Positive Thinking Clinic

1/7 Magdalene Terrace

Wolli Creek, 2205

0458 850 850

amanda@positivethinkingclinic.com.au

Positive Living Skills has a great blog on focus, have a read to learn about why you can’t focus.