Last time you determined your level of worry. In today’s post, you’ll find 4 ways to separate your worry from who you are as a person.
Why Analyze Your Worry?
Analysis is simply digging in and looking for the who, what, when, where, how and why.
If you’re reading this, you’ve tried to get rid of your worry, control it or otherwise stop obsessing over it. Like Dr. Phil asks, ‘hows that working for you?’
Yet, I’m willing to bet you haven’t done the counter-intuitive and deep dive into your worry? Have you given worry its own voice, outside your head, separate from your definition of who you are as a person? Have you ever interviewed it or just let it stand?
These are just a few of the techniques to help you dig into your worries.
Yet, how do you bring yourself to do any of those things when worry gets you trapped in the vicious circle of your inner voice?
Before you read any further …
DO NOT PRACTICE THESE EXERCISES if you’re currently suffering from bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, other personality disorders or having suicidal thoughts. If this is the case, please seek qualified help through a licensed psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor or therapist and/or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org or call 1-800-273-8255 if you’re in the US.
I mean it. STOP reading if you’re dealing with any of the above. You’ve been told.
Gathering Your Worry Data
Because you’re a well-practiced worrier, your brain sees the danger, the negative potential and easily misinterprets neutral information.
When these worries remain only in your mind, your highly active and vivid imagination looks to do something with them.
Of course, your imagination latches onto these worries and misuses them, making you worry even more.
Unless you’re an author, 99% of what you’re imagining doesn’t have any real bearing on or in your life.
If you’re an author, you’re using that vivid imagination to tell compelling stories right?
For the rest of you, it’s time you practiced breaking the cycle without focusing on the worry itself.
It’s time to gather data on the worries that plague you and below you’ll find four different ways.
Write It D.O.W.N.
Time: 20 minutes to several hours
Describe the worry in great detail, with all honesty, using crayon, colored marker, pencil or pen on paper.
Write down your answer, in great detail to the question, ‘What is the worst that can happen if this worry comes true?’
Why any writing utensil and paper? There are 2 reasons.
- Because it involves more and different senses than typing on the computer or your phone.
- You’ve been using some sort of writing/drawing utensil and paper since you were a toddler. You don’t have to give any thought about how to access or use them.
Own the worry as part of your imagination. This is the worst possible outcome your imagination has come up with. Owning it doesn’t mean it will happen. It means that you’re,
Witnessing your imagination. Acknowledge and thank your imagination for providing you with such vivid details.
Negate the worry by finding and doing the smallest healthy thing possible which offers you relief.
Keep telling yourself – “My imagination came up with that. It’s not happening right now.”
In fact, your worst thing, is no more likely to come true than a blue moon is to fall on your birthday this year. It’s always possible, just so highly unlikely.
If you find that the worst possible outcome creates another worry, repeat the Write it D.O.W.N. steps for this new worry. Continue to repeat this for as long as necessary until there are no more worries showing up in this session.
This process creates space in your mind for clarity, to think more clearly and feel whatever you’re feeling.
Much of the time, worry takes over your thinking and your attempts to avoid or ignore it, is what creates the worry loop. Doing the smallest thing possible to improve your odds, alleviates the worry completely or puts it into perspective.
Of course, there are worries which aren’t practical. There are worries you can’t control and where you don’t own any of the parts yourself. For those types of worries, this next technique may prove more beneficial.
The Check In Technique
Time: 10 minutes each day for 14 to 30 days
First pull up a current or recent worry. Now thinking about that worry …
Is there a recurring thought or visual around this worry? Is there a word, group of words, group of sentences, picture, images or mini-movie that shows up in your mind? Do they recur no matter what worry you’re focusing on?
Is there a sensation in or on your body? Where? Is it like a stone in your belly, heavy heart, does your body feel slow, is your body jittery, skin prickly?
Is there an emotion or feeling? Do you feel profound anguish, dread, sadness, anger, frustration, or irritation or something else?
Which do you notice more, the thoughts, the sensations or the emotions? Does one last longer or is it more insistent than the others?
Do you notice them as a sequence? Which one comes first? How long does it take the others to follow?
Practice noticing what your imagination does for the next 14 days or longer. For the first 7 days, practice noticing these things by recalling a worry you’ve had, but are not currently experiencing.
During the next 7 days, see if you can practice noticing your thoughts, sensations, and emotions while you are actually in a cycle of worry.
Take a few minutes now and start your initial 7 days. You can always write them down using pen and paper. Or you can make notes in a password protected journal app like Worry Watch, for iPhone or Worry Box, for Android.
Once you get the hang of the Check In Technique, you’ll be able to it in just moments.
The Interview Technique
Time: 20 to 30 minutes
Many times a worry you have isn’t really about the worry directly. It’s indirectly related to something else you may not have identified or noticed.
Interviewing your worry helps you get to the true root of the problem. Once you know the root, you can act accordingly.
Here are some interview questions to ask your worry. Take the first answers that come to mind and again record them in a password protected journal. You’ll return to this interview later.
- [State the worry], why do you want my attention to badly?
- Are you relevant to something or someone important to me?
- Is it a realistic concern or imagined concern?
- Are you exaggerating the outcome to convince me to make a change in some part of my life? If so where?
- Will the change affect me right now, this minute?
- Are you trying to help me avoid something I imagine may happen?
- Do you think I’ll be helpless or unprepared to deal with what you have me worrying about?
- Has [state the worry] happened before?
- Have I been helpless or unprepared to deal with it before?
- What do you think is the benefit of [state the worry]?
- Is there anything else you’d like me to do besides worry?
- Any other questions that come up during the interview.
Just remember you’re talking to your worry as though it were beside you or in front of you. Be prepared to receive odd or even nonsense answers. Worry doesn’t follow logic.
You can do an interview of each worry that shows up or for each category of worry that shows up.
Understanding your worry and placing it outside of you helps you to separate from it and see it for whatever it is.
5 by 5 or the Start and Stand Technique
Time: 6 minutes
“Happy the person, and happy alone,
Who can call today their own:
Who, secure within, can say:
“Worry, do thy worst, for I am living today.”
(Amended by me from the Roman Poet Horace)
This is my favorite way to embrace and analyze worry, because I know in 6 minutes I can move on to whatever I want to do more than I want to worry.
Worry intensifies when you try and control it. So refuse to try and control your worry. You may already be catastrophizing this idea. Which is a good place to start.
Grab your smartphone. Set the timer for 5 minutes and give yourself full permission to worry for the entire 5 minutes. Tell yourself to worry full on.
Firmly tell worry that, it has 5 minutes to do it’s worst and when those 5 minutes are up, you’ll be moving on with living your day in a calm, caring and compassionate manner.
Follow the lines of where your worry takes you for those 5 minutes.
When you do this, remember the part of you that is worried has been triggered by something – a thought, a feeling, a sound, a sentence, a sentiment, a look, a smell or a combination of stimuli you may not have noticed.
It has triggered and then hijacked your natural worry ability and your imagination is running wild and free with it.
When the 5 minutes are up, take 5 deep cleansing belly breaths and move on with your day as you promised.
Take a look at this to make sure you’re taking deep cleansing belly breaths.
The first few times, worry will linger. After doing this each time a worry crops up, you’ll find that the worry disappears. Maybe only for a few minutes, then for longer and longer.
If you choose to do so, write down anything you found interesting in your journal while giving worry this 5.
And now you’re off living AND enjoying your day without worry interrupting as much.
You Are Not Your Worry
Each of the techniques mentioned brings your awareness outside of the worry cycle, even though the worry cycle may continue. You can now gain some distance, see the details of the worry better, and see the worry for what it is.
It is possible to step outside of the worry cycle, without fighting the worry cycle. So instead embrace your worry. Learn as much as you can about it.
Eventually, you’ll begin to notice what your mind, body, and emotions do during a particular worry cycle.
You’ll begin to see the beliefs which feed your worry cycle.
Having this information gives you the knowledge of where and when to interrupt, address and change, if necessary, those aspects of your worry, without stopping your natural worry ability.
If you are alone or in a place where you can talk out loud, record what you’re finding on your phone.
You aren’t just talking to yourself. You are giving a voice to your worry instead of keeping it in your head.
Sometimes hearing a thing outside of your head, you’re able to hear the core of an issue, which you can then do something about, if necessary.
Now that you’ve learned more about your worry and gathered some data, it’s time to start tracking your progress. That’s coming next time. Until then keep practicing any and all of the techniques above. I’m sure what you find will suprise you.