How to Turn Worrying into a Valuable Tool

2878520711_fbc43352c1_zI was an expert at worrying.

Many of my clients are experts at worrying too.

Which means that I really had to work on my worrying issue

Martha Beck gave me some useful insights. She describes the difference between dirty fears and clean fears.

Clean fears are real and imminent.

Like:  if you just received a call to say that your partner has been in an accident, your fear would be clean and pure and appropriate.

Clean fears come from situations that do exist – they have happened.

Dirty fears are imagined fears.

You can recognize these by noticing the thoughts that start with “What if… “.

The thing you are worrying about HAS NOT HAPPENED.

Like, “What if someone walks into my house with a gun?”

Even though I live in a place with a high crime rate, the reality is that for only 15 minutes of my entire life have I had a gun pointed at me. Let’s see… I’m 5o-ish so I’ve lived for over  3400 days, which translates to around  4 800 000 minutes. So for 0.0003% of my life lived so far have I been in true and immediate danger. Not that significant, is it? And not worth while worrying about every day and causing myself inappropriate and continuous anxiety.

And yet it’s so easy, for me, to slip into an anxiety-induced state by worrying about if the kids are high-jacked, or if my parents die or if we get robbed again, or if my husband gets ill… and on and on and on I go.

Wasted time, wasted energy and unnecessary anxiety.

There are far better ways to re-direct my energy.

How about spending that time picturing how life will be when I have achieved the goal I am working on. How about thinking about ways to make my relationship stronger. How about picturing myself relaxing on the beach at my next holiday destination.

The process is the same as worrying – it’s basically imagining.

Thinking about these kinds of scenarious results in good emotions, not anxious ones.

Worrying is spending time thinking about stuff that hasn’t happened – using your imagination.

Visualisation is  spending time thinking about stuff that hasn’t happened – using your imagination.

The only difference between worrying and visualising is the outcome.

Visualising makes you feel good. Worrying makes you feel bad.

The outcome of worrying is anxiety and fear.

The outcome of visualizing is motivation and happiness (or something similar).

The good news is – if you know how to worry then you know how to visualize!

All you have to do is to change the topic you are thinking about.

If you notice that you are imagining a situation and a pit of anxiety is developing in your stomach: Stop thinking.

Decide to think about something else, something that calms your feelings, that makes you feel good. You can start in the same way as you do when you worry – by thinking “What if ”

  • “What if I created the perfect dinner party. Hmm lets see – who will I invite ……  “
  • “What if I prepared so well for my presentation. When I walk up to the mic I am calm, ready to give my all…. “
  • “What if I was at the spa today. I’d choose a full body massage …”

As soon as you are aware that you are worrying, stop immediately, without berating yourself, and consciously change your thoughts to envisioning a brighter future.

The more you do the easier it will become.

The gift you receive from putting in the work to change what you are imagining is simple – feeing good.

“Worry never robs tomorrow
of its sorrow,
it only saps today
of its joy.”
Leo Buscaglia

Photo from Flickr/Creative Commons

About Kirsten Long

Coach. Toastmaster. Prison-worker. Wife. Mother. Friend.
This entry was posted in Feelings, Happiness, Life Mastery, Thought Patterns. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to How to Turn Worrying into a Valuable Tool

  1. Ana says:

    My husband and I have just moved to a different city and I have some time off… Which should be great but instead I catch myself worrying about what to do with work and whether I’ll be able to work in my field and my insecurities often make me feel that I may not be able to cope as I am aiming to high… But the truth is that I know I can cope, if I work one step at a time…. But how do I stick to it when I have bad days and good days??
    I am now trying visualise that my dream comes true and I am successfully working in my field and small steps will lead me there..:

    • Kirsten Long says:

      Ana, thanks for your comment. Isn’t it amazing how our brains will play games with us when we are not busy? It can take quite a lot of discipline to stop worrying and visualize seomthing (anything!) that makes you feel better. It’s almost as if sometimes we get some pleasure out the the pain we are creating – aren’t humans strange??

      Well done with your visualizing – just keep doing that everytime you notice worrying thoughts – I have found it gets easier with practice.

      Good luck!

  2. Olaf says:

    My biggest worry right now is that our freezer is too small for the groceries I brought home! Ag, shame! My visualisation consists of having a reasonable job, getting decent money and being able to move to a beautiful little seaside place not far from here, called Musselburgh. (Also getting a BMW R100 motorcycle!) 😉

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