“Love looks forward, hate looks back, anxiety has eyes all over its head.”~Mignon McLaughlin, American Journalist and Author (June 6, 1913 – December 20, 1983), from The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960
It’s tough to be productive in your daily life when anxiety and worry are dominating your thoughts. The last post covered the need to be grounded in the present moment as opposed to being mired in the uncertain and negative “what ifs” of the future.
There are other ways to use your time that can help you minimize the anxiety caused by your worries. Some of them work, sometimes. Some of them may resonate with you, some may not. Here goes:
Shift your attention away from your worry
We talk to ourselves and we imagine things. If it’s not helpful we need to stop doing it. Unfortunately telling yourself to stop it doesn’t always work. It may work initially, but not for long. You can distract yourself for a moment or longer and suppress anxious thoughts but they often return. They might even get worse. “Thought stopping” can backfire as it forces you to pay extra attention to the very thought you want to avoid.
Create a “worry list”
Another way to stop anxious thoughts is to postpone them. Permit yourself to have it, but put off thinking any more about it until later. If you follow the rule “First things first”, the worry is not yet first.
Instead of dwelling on it, make a note of it on paper (or your computer) and postpone it to later in the day. Remind yourself that it has not reached the top of your priorities. There is no need to worry about it right away. Save it for later and continue to go about your day.
As you enforce the “First things first” rule and develop the ability to postpone your anxious thoughts, you’ll start to realize that you have more control over your worrying than you think.
Create a “worry period”
Choose a set time and place for worrying each day. Keep the rest of the day worry-free.
I have learned to take my problems to bed with me; as a computer programmer way back in the 60s I often found my subconscious helped me through the “bugs” I was encountering on the job. You may not want to disturb your sleep this way, so choose an earlier time.
During your worry period, reflect on the worries you wrote down during the day. You can also allow yourself to worry about whatever’s on your mind. But, if the worries don’t seem important any more, cut your worry period short and enjoy the rest of your day. You will end up simply forgetting about unimportant worries.
Shift your attention to action
If you live by the rule “First things first” you will postpone some of your worries indefinitely because they haven‘t reached the top of your priorities. If they have become “first”, shift your self-talk and your imagery to what you can do right away.
“No man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow’s burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear.”
~George MacDonald, Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister (December 10, 1824 – September 18, 1905)