Have you ever thought about this? That there is unproductive and productive worry?
Productive worry looks like someone who is thinking about what needs to be done, how to manage their time, plan their life. This could also be thinking about a close loved one or friend. To me, productive worry is a lot like brainstorming and planning.
Unproductive worry is where a storyline emerges. There is a huge component of “what if”. This storyline is negative and is almost always completely way out in left field in terms of its probability and likelihood of actually happening.
Remember my blog post about habits? Well, there is such a thing as bad habits in terms of brain function and the “what if” worrying is a bad habit. This becomes a pattern that your brain automatically turns to.
Did you know that you can break that pattern? There is something called neuroplasticity.
I’ll explain neuroplasticity… think of your brain as your thigh. When you are eating lots of unhealthy food, not exercising and therefore under-using that muscle, you will begin to develop cellulite, your thigh will become flabby and the muscle will not be as strong. Well, your brain is the exact same way. If you feed your brain healthy food, positive self-talk and stimulate different parts of your brain (exercise it) herein lies the power of neuroplasticity!
If you are an unproductive worrier then your brain will automatically jump to the unproductive worry; this is a habit for you and it is unconscious. Well, there is good news! You already know that you can change your habits! This isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers; it will take a lot of work but I know that you can do it because I am living proof that it is possible! Let’s break the unproductive worry pattern that we have developed!!
Here is how you can do it:
- Be mindful. Oh yes, this again! If you take the time to stop and pay attention to what you are paying attention to then you are the one that becomes in charge!
Let me give you an example: I am in the process of being mindful as to how I am talking to myself. I am constantly asking “why”, “what if” and “what will happen”. This is becoming super unhealthy for me because this leads to constant worry! I am working on being mindful and changing my thought process.
- Pause. My schooling has taught me this and I am a HUGE fan. So this is the part where you have already realized that you are unhealthy worrying but now you need to dissect it.
How do you dissect it? Ask some questions:
- What am I worrying about?
(write it down, get it out of your brain. It really helps to see things clearly when it is on paper. Some people don’t enjoy writing and may be verbal processors. This is where someone to talk to comes in handy. If you don’t have anyone to talk to or that you feel comfortable with then you could also record yourself and listen to what you have said!).
- Is this something that I need to deal with immediately? Can I put it in my planner to think about another time?
I really like to tell myself: “this thought it taking up a lot of my energy and it doesn’t need to be. I would rather be spending my energy on something else”.
(This could be hard to do alone, so if you have a friend or a family member that could help you with this, it might be best! If not, you might want to conside asking a coach for help! I am a coach, you can reach out to me! If I don’t float your boat, I can also help you to find someone who can!)
- What am I worrying about?
- Change the movie reel. This is another gem from my school. We all have this movie that we play in our heads. Other people create this movie and we create our own. Basically it is usually a movie that we create based on past experiences. “This is what has happened in the past, so this is what is going to happen in the future.” Well, guess what! You are in charge! You can decide what your movie reel is going to look like for your future, get your head out of the past!
- I am not going to let this worry take up my energy anymore. I am going to write it down, talk about it, get it out of my brain any way that I can. If it is important, I will deal with it at another time.
- If a visual is easier for you to understand: Your movie reel about your job interview tomorrow is looking like this: “I am going to walk in and trip and fall flat on my face.” Well, you can switch up that movie reel to look like this:
“I walk in, trip, do a somersault and gracefully stand back up” — this is a dramatic exaggeration. By doing this you are almost making fun of how ridiculous your initial movie reel was.
“I walk in, side step what I had tripped over in my initial movie reel, shake my interviewers hand and gracefully sit in my chair”
The options for your movie reels are endless! My point is that you can make them to be whatever you would like. Why spend your time thinking about all the negative things that can happen when you could be focusing on the good and the amazing!
Finally, this is not a part of the steps but it could be really helpful to add in there somewhere, especially if the above steps don’t really work for you. Ask yourself this:
Can I really know what will happen?
This is SO CRUCIAL because unless you have some magical powers (you should really let me in on them if you do!) then you will never know what will happen in the future. Why waste your precious energy on worrying about what will happen?! WHAT A TOTAL WASTE. Use your energy doing something interesting and fun!
This productive vs. unproductive worry post was, again, inspired by Tamara Levitt on the calm app. I really love starting my day with her daily meditation. She really makes me think and gets me grounded to start my day! Here is a nice quote that she had mentioned at the end of the meditation:
p.s. If you have every considered doing the calm app and haven’t because it is too expensive… I just put it into perspective for myself. It costs me .19 per day. Totally worth it if you ask me 😉 They even have a free trial to see if it is actually something that you would be interested in!
I would love to know if you meditate or use the calm app. Also, give me a shout if you end up trying this unproductive worrying buster! Let me know if you would love to try and aren’t sure where to start. I love brainstorming and my door is always open! Have a great day <3