We've all been there. A little worry thought pops in your head and takes root, setting off a spiral of anxious thoughts where we over think, over analysis and then think of more and more things to worry about. Taking control back from the Worry Autopilot and taking some intentional action is a great way to take back control and stop that worry spiral from dragging you down. Here are five simple questions you can ask yourself to get back in control:
1. What's the worst thing that could happen? We often have worries that exist as intangible and unnamed feelings of dread about what "may" happen. Putting the worry into context of what the worse possible extent of what could happen starts to give it a form you can examine closer. It may feel uncomfortable to think about a worse case scenario, but it will start to give you some control back and scale it down from "world ending" to something more manageable.
2. How likely is it to happen? Once you have got your worse case scenario, it's time to consider how likely is it to come true? We tell ourselves stories about things ALWAYS happening to us or NEVER going right - but is that true? Do you have evidence that supports that belief? If you look back over when you have been in similar situations, are they really as black and white as always and never? Strip away the story, take away the absolutes and rationally consider the likelihood of your worry coming true. You now have more context to your worry and are beginning to get control of it, rather than the other way round.
3. What control do I have over the situation? Now you have the size and shape of your worry - it's time to really get the upper hand by considering how much control you have to take action. Worrying about things is a passive way of using up a lot of energy and getting no where. Once you set your mind to taking control, and then taking action - you are actively doing something to either reduce the impact of your worry; reduce the likelihood of it happening or maybe even stop if from happening in the first place. When you take back control of a situation, you stop that worry cycle in its tracks and instead move yourself into action. You are no longer frozen by fear, but instead you have motivation to move forwards positively.
4. Build your resilience. Sometimes, the things we worry about are genuinely out of our control, or you have got to the point where you have taken every action possible - for example, what is the sense of worrying about a test result after the test? It wont change the result. In that situation, the best you can do is surrender to the process and let it play out. Build your resilience to be able to better cope with any fallout; look after your self care and protect your energy. Look to others to support you and hold space for your feelings, there are few worries we need to carry alone and sharing the load is a way to ease your worries.
5. Is it going to matter in a week, a month, a year, 10 years? In the heat of a worry coming to fruition, it can feel like the world is ending and it's that dread that makes us anxious and worried in the first place - facing the consequence of the worry coming true. But in the big scheme of things - is it really going to matter? Some events are ripples in our lives, few are the big waves that really make a lasting impact so are you worrying about a ripple or a wave? In fear of getting Frozen songs stuck in your head - sometimes it really is just a case of letting it go. Whether its a stubbed toe or bruised ego, you just need to walk it off, learn a lesson and move on. So, if that's going to be the extend of the impact on your life - why waste energy worrying about it in the first place?
Big or small, few or many, it's hard to let go completely of worry but it certainly is possible to take back a bit of control and keep your Worry Autopilot in check.