The affectionate term I give to the incessant traffic of
crystal ball thinking
that often rattles around inside the head like a game of ping pong! It’s almost as if they have undiagnosed ADHD where they are on the go, all of the time, and don’t seem to be able to rest and relax therefore giving our own brain a bit of respite. In this read, I’ll look at how we can still aim to quieten these little monkeys so that there is at least a little bit of calmness inside our minds.
What strategies do worrywarts use?
You know the first thing to do though is to work out what is a worrywart and what are loads of ideas jumping around in your head. There can be a fine line between the two and these little suckers have a great way of being a chameleon and trying to trick you into thinking that you really need them running around in there; that they are not just a good idea but a great idea... mmmm.
Their second strategy is to bring out the big guns: fear and trepidation. It’s as if they are saying:
“If they won’t accept that we are needed by pretending to be great ideas, then we’ll put the fear into the situation so they will feel they can’t live without us and that they need us!”
And THEN they have this innate ability to not need to sleep – ever! 2-3-4am = will you PLEASE let me go to sleep and I PROMISE I’ll think it all through in the morning (said to self as the lack of sleep slightly sends you demented).
Nor is there the slightest bit of logic to any of these little devils. It’s probably at this stage that we should be grateful that it isn’t a ‘thing’ to stick a cable in your left ear that projects all your images out onto your bedroom wall – I tell you if that was the case, I would probably have been carted off years ago!
So, what strategies can we use against them?
Left to go wild, these worries grow and get uglier by the day. They become stifling and suffocating and squeeze out any space that used to have rationale living there.
We can try to:
evict them (exhausting)
shut them up (impossible), or
become allies with them; acknowledge why they are with us, hear them out but terms and conditions agreed on mean they don’t get to run the show. (I was going to say ‘befriend them’ but that would be a stretch too far!)
Great! – So, how exactly can we do that?
Well, the above gung-ho mentality of the first two options (although completely understandable) is part of the problem. There isn’t a logistical checklist to follow the way of ‘ruling’ these guys, even though they are living in our headspace. What would be helpful is to consider ways that are feasible, realistic and flexible, pick those that sit with you and be open to the fact that you may need to change your tactics - often - in order to keep ahead of the game.
This may feel exhausting reading it (probably because you already are) but picking just one or two for now and starting, will give you the space you need to recoup and regroup and feel more in control again. And ultimately that’s all your looking for – is to feel more in control of what’s going on inside your head.
So, here are some ideas to get you going. Remember these are not the only options and trust yourself if you amend one of these or come up with a new idea. Believe me, you still have some genuinely great ideas going on in that brilliant mind of yours.
1. Write it out
My first suggestion is to grab a piece of paper and pen – yes, old-style – not typing it up or using your notes app on your phone but actually getting paper and a writing implement. This is known to help with moving things from inside the brain and physically putting them down on paper and your brain seeing and feeling you do this. On the left, write all the things that are worrying you, bothering you, annoying you – whatever terminology or label you want to use – I want you to write all the things that won’t lie quiet and list them down; no order of priority, regardless of when the last time you thought it, just whatever pops in your head... so probably get a big piece of paper, yeah?! Once you’ve done this, I want you to then – on the right-hand side of the paper – start writing down ideas that are popping in your head. These may be relevant to the annoying things or they may not. There is no need to justify them; whatever pops in your head write it down – doesn’t even matter if it feels completely unrealistic, simply write them down. Whilst you are doing this you may still get the odd annoying or troublesome thought muscling in and that’s ok, just say:
“thanks for reminding me”
and write that down over on the left-hand side of the paper. Patience is a virtue here. Please give yourself time to go through this – don’t race to do it while you’re waiting 10mins for your bus! You may even find that you feel you’re done but then something else pops in your head – fine; keep your piece of paper with you for the day and pull it out, writing down your thought on the left or right-hand side depending on where it needs to sit. This way you can separate good idea suggestions from worrywarts and see them in their own light.
This exercise, in and of itself, is so helpful. To actually see what is rattling inside your head put down on paper in front of you gives it form. It helps to objectify it and so something that is all-consuming and huge inside your head may look just a little thing down on the paper. This allows you to keep the perception of the situation more real and so the fear and trepidation strategy that the worrywarts rely on will have less power.
2. Talk to yourself
Yes, you read that right! Might want to be mindful of where you do this but there is nothing at all wrong with having a chat with yourself – honest. You can either simply talk where you are or talk to your reflection in the mirror. The purpose of this is to again get the thoughts from bouncing in your head to the outside of it. Speak to all your thoughts regardless of whether good ideas or worrywarts. Keep the fair and balanced game happening; that way worry warts won’t get all sulky thinking you’re ignoring them and therefore start ramping up the ante. Now when I say talk to yourself/your thoughts, what I’m really getting at is acknowledging them:
“Thanks for the suggestion that the roof could collapse in on me right now even though it’s only a little windy outside at 3am in the morning. I hear ya.”
“Thanks for the thought that I ‘should’ get in touch with Matthew in the morning because I haven’t seen him in ages. I’ll see if that’s something I can fit into my schedule when I get up in the morning.”
Trying to ignore any thoughts only serves to give them more fuel to keep bothering you.
3. Give time
Consider ‘allowing’ yourself 30 minutes every day to worry. I know, this sounds counter-productive but giving it a designated space and time can help to quieten such thoughts down at other times. This way, you get to choose when that time will be (therefore still feeling you are holding some control) yet allowing the space for those worries to play out. You may even like the notion of following up after the allocated time period with a small meditation, playing your favourite music, chatting to a friend that makes you laugh or doing a puzzle; something that will take your mind away and distract you from that zone after the allocated time period.
4. Find a “Worry Buddy”
This could be someone you know and trust and that is happy to let you vent out your worries or someone you don’t know that you can call upon when needed so that you can do the same. Usually, you will create an expectation and understanding of a time limit or a number of worries and that if your Buddy calls time or calls you out because you are getting distressed, then the deal is you will respect that. This can help limit outbursts and can help with reeling back in your thoughts when they seem to take on a mind of their own.
5. Create ‘Walk and Talk’ times
This ticks quite a few things: it gets in a bit of daily exercise, allows your worries to have their time, gets fresh air into your lungs, and allows the brain to do something else (walking) instead of wholly focussing on your worrywarts. It also brings in an element of allocated special time and space for your worries. Sometimes you may not even remember where you have been walking because you will be caught up with your thoughts but that’s ok – the subconscious movement is soothing and helps to balance out the angst that you are feeling through your worries.
Your worries are a part of your life. It is important that we don’t try to eliminate them from our psyche altogether because there are times when being careful and mindful of some negative connotations is really important – it helps with our resilience building. What we are looking to do is to recalibrate the natural balance between the negative and out of control concerns with considerate and realistic ones.
Trying to get your mind back on track can be overwhelming in and of itself – and hard. Try some of these to see if any of them help you. Alternatively, if you’re fed up with feeling stressed about it all and you are keen and committed to rolling up your sleeves and finding a better way, then call on me. Let’s see if we make a great team working together to help you find your way of getting back in control.
And just in case your worrywarts are starting to feast on this prospect... get it written down on the right-hand side of your piece of paper as a great idea!
© YMR Coaching & Development
Yvonne has qualifications in Coaching, Positive Psychology, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and believes in continual personal development. She is currently based in the UK and also has life and work experience in Ireland, New Zealand and Australia. She helps with mindset wellbeing and change which includes significant relocations. She is contactable for client availability, public speaking events and media enquiries here: https://www.ymrcoaching.com/helpful-links