First I explained the neuroscience of worry. I told her worrying is natural. We are literally hard-wired to worry due to a part of our brain called the Default Mode Network. We all do it. Thousands of years ago worrying a lot protected our ancestors from saber-toothed tigers, hostile tribes and famine, things that today we don’t even think about. Even though we’re not worrying about having enough to eat or being eaten, our brains constantly scan the environment for danger, which is why we tend to worry. Knowing this was a relief.
Worry is usually based on one fear: That we will not be able to handle our lives and cope. So the perfect affirmation to ease worry is something like: “I can cope with anything and everything” or “I have the ability to handle whatever life brings my way.”
Along with positive affirmations another powerful technique to overcome worry is Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT for short). Basically, the way CBT works is that when you find yourself ruminating, worrying and engaging in negative self-talk, you stop and question your thought or belief. For example, if you are going to the doctor and have the thought: “What if I have cancer?” you can overcome your negative self-talk by creating a positive counter statement such as “All is well. I feel good and can handle this appointment.” Or you’re on the way to a job interview and you think: “I’m not worthy, no one is ever going to hire me.” You turn that around by telling yourself: “I’m smart, a hard worker and have fantastic skills. This company would be lucky to have me.”
Frequently beneath the negative self-talk and worry are a whole set of negative core beliefs about our selves and the world. For example, “The word is a dangerous place” “I’m not loved” or “I am powerless to create a life I love.” When we feel this way we’re constantly scanning our environment for what could go wrong and the very things that are worrying us. (Again, blame neuroscience.) So yes, we see and may even attract negative consequences and generate buckets of stress that can trigger dis-ease in the process. That negative mind-set can also make the positive affirmations we’re using feel like a lie, which is why it’s so important to examine and change these deep seated beliefs. Conversely, when we feel powerful and believe the world is a safe place we tend to see and attract positive opportunities and create good in our lives. That’s basically the idea behind the Law of Attraction.
Along with positive affirmations, cognitive behavior therapy and examining her core beliefs, I also worked with my client on making lifestyle changes to reduce anxiety and elevate calm. As part of our work together she reduced her consumption of caffeine from three cups a day to one. Instead of scanning the news obsessively, she only reads the news twice a day for 15 minutes. She’s also working on sleeping 7-8 hours per night, eating more fruits and veggies and having more fun all of which are boosting her levels of wellbeing and reducing her stress and anxiety. Next on her list is working on mindfulness as research shows that one of the best ways to deactivate the Default Mode Network is to be more mindful.
So if you, like my client, have been feeling worried or anxious check your thoughts. Put positive affirmations that resonate with you and make you feel powerful rather than powerless around your home and office. Examine your core beliefs. Increase self-care. Turn off the news. Take a walk in the woods and look at life from a different perspective. And let the worry go… As Leo Buscaglia puts it, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
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