When Worry Takes Over, 3 Ways to Regain Calm and Control
We’re living in stressful times. A life coach offers simple ways to quickly shift from panic to peace.
It’s the week before a major speaking event. I look at myself in the mirror and convincingly say, “The speech will be epic!” Sounds good, right? Yet, I wake up every morning in this weird state of uneasiness and worry. You know the feeling. Your pulse races, there’s a tension in your gut and your mind’s running wild with apprehension. These anxious feelings quickly wreak havoc on my confidence and calm.
My best friend, Sandye, helped me realize I could do something about my anxious moments. One day I confessed to incessantly worrying about my coaching and speaking career, wondering, What if they think I'm not good enough? What if no one shows up to the event? What if my book doesn't sell? My girlfriend asked, “Why would you give power to things you can't do anything about?” That set me on a journey to develop strategies to control my "what if" responses. Now I'm not a fully recovered worrywart, but panic shows up less often, and many of my worries never came to pass.
Did you know that worrying can paralyze your mind and harm your overall well-being? We are all guilty of worrying, but the consequences can be severe if distress starts consuming your life. According to WebMD, “chronic worrying can affect your everyday life so much that it may interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep and job performance.”
Consider these three tips to help you get calm and control back.
Organize Your Thoughts and Feelings
Journaling is food for the mind. The fabulous Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Journaling gives voice to your thoughts and feelings. It can also help you to problem-solve. Ask yourself, “What worries me about this?” Write the answer. Next, breathe and sit with it. Try to understand better what creates the worry, so you know what the real problem is. For instance, if you peel back the layers, anxiety about your last child leaving home may actually mean you’re fearful about your days being a bit empty.
Next, identify one action you can take right now to help address the problem and write that down. Then do it! Revisit your journal to capture what you learned. Don't forget to pen a note of congratulations to yourself for being one step closer to getting worry out of your space. Repeat the exercise and take another action, if needed.
Honor Your Inner Child
I love this quote by best selling author Amy Leigh Mercree, "Within us, all is a radiant inner child bathed in joy." Just reading those words brings me peace, delight and smiles. Close your eyes and remember what brought you joy and laughter as a child. Was it riding a bike, playing hopscotch or having good times with your friends? According to psychologist Diana Raab, "Being in touch with the joys of childhood can be an excellent way of dealing with challenging times." So, let's all become kids again. Embrace carefree feelings that empower you and eliminate worry. Watch cartoons, pick up that coloring book and laugh heartily. The Mayo Clinic reports that laughter is a stress buster and "... just what the doctor ordered."
Schedule a "Panic Pause"
We schedule all sorts of activities on our calendars. Why not add a "panic pause" to your schedule? Whenever you feel anxious, give yourself a block of time (20 minutes) to rid yourself of any worries or fears. For this activity, I love to reference author and business journalist Suzy Welch's rule of 10-10-10 but add my spin on it. Ask yourself: What are the consequences if the thing I’m worried about happens in the next 10 minutes? In the next 10 months? In 10 years?
Stop and think about this. In 10 minutes, the thing you can't control will likely still be uncontrollable, and therefore, not worth your headspace. You can also use that 10 minutes to ask yourself, “What if things go well?” In 10 months or 10 years will your present worry matter to you in the same way? And, if the worry you lost sleep over happened, it probably wasn’t as bad as you imagined. We often let unchecked "what ifs" control our thinking and forget that those "what ifs" are just scenarios we create. Using this exercise allows you to think differently about your worry and shift your nervous mindset to a more peaceful one.
What if you start to notice the signs of panic and worry before they escalate? What if you begin to make a conscious decision to voice your thoughts and write them down? What if you embrace your inner child? What if you use the "panic pause" to its full potential? You could well be on your way to more worry-free moments. Gaining control of stress-producing thoughts and taking action to solve problems will work wonders for your mental health and overall happiness. Let's start making a shift today from panic to peace.