When worrying becomes excessive, it can lead to anxiety, panic and even cause illness. When worried or anxious, your mind and body go into a state of ‘fight or flight’ as you constantly focus on “what could happen.”
Chronic worrying (often referred to as anxiety) can affect your daily life so much that it interferes with your work, appetite, relationships, sleep and reduces your overall quality of life.
Many people who suffer from anxiety get caught in the cycle of addiction in an unconscious attempt to control their inner turmoil.
They may over-eat, smoke, drink or take drugs in an attempt to get some relief. In extreme cases, when worrying and anxiety go untreated, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.
What Is The True Cause of Anxiety?
Often we believe that the causes of our worries – our tensions and anxieties – are from external things.
We may worry about whether we’ll have enough food on the table next week; whether we’ll be able to find a relationship so we are not alone when we get old; we may get anxious about our children, the stock market, our job security or any number of other things. We see these things as the cause of our worries.
How many times have you thought, “Oh, if only (fill in the blank) would happen, if only I had (fill in the blank), I would be happy and have no more worries!”
On closer investigation though, we can see that these external things – the relationship, children, the stock market – are not truly the cause of the negative emotional states of worry and anxiety.
Worries are caused not from the external circumstances of our lives, but the internal ‘circumstances’. It is caused by our worrying thoughts.
Recognize Worry For What It Really Is
Worry is not an externally caused condition. It is simply a particular type of thought—pattern.
A ‘worry’ or ‘anxious’ thought occurs when the mind projects itself into the future and imagines something going wrong. What is the emotion generated by these types of thoughts or mental movies? Fear.
You may use more ‘socially acceptable’ words like stress, anxiety or worry but at the core of all these is fear. Though these imagined future events are not happening in reality, you are still going through the events in your mind.
Your mind cannot tell the difference between your imaginings and reality, so the thoughts have almost the same impact on you as the actual event would!
Chronic worry generates ongoing irritability, muscle tension, concentration difficulties, indecision and agitation just as though you were actually experiencing the things you’re worried about.
It results in you being “on edge” all the time and unable to relax (1). Learn to recognize worry and anxiety for what they are. Thought patterns. By doing so they begin to lose their power to ‘take you over’.
A Way of Dealing With Worry: Label and Let Go
One technique for dealing with worry proposed by Dr. Christopher Walsh is a technique he calls the “just worrying” labeling (2). It’s a very simple technique: whenever you find yourself worrying about something, note to yourself that you’re “just worrying.”
By doing this you become present as the witness of your thoughts instead of being completely taken over by them. You now have the power to choose to let it go.
After you label it, then turn your focus to your breathing or just simply bring your attention into the present moment and what your doing. Every time you catch yourself worrying—no matter how often—you employ the technique again.
Don’t Fight the Feeling
Whatever You Fight, You Strengthen, and What You Resist, Persists – Eckhart Tolle
When using the “just worrying” technique, like any other mindfulness exercise, it is important not to fight your feelings or thoughts. There is no need to criticize yourself for feeling worries or anxiety or try to force the thoughts out of your head. In short – avoid any struggle with the thoughts. Struggling with thoughts is a bit like struggling in quicksand. It only makes you sink deeper.
Instead of struggling with the thoughts, you can simply untangle from your worry thoughts and view them objectively and calmly. By labelling it “just a worry,” you immediately step back from the thought, stop the struggle with what is happening, and recognize that the worry thoughts are simply that – just thoughts. Not reality. In that moment of realization you are no longer ‘stuck’ in your head and can bring your focus back to the present moment.
You don’t need to waste energy fighting worry and anxiety, but you also no longer need to ‘buy into it’ either. With this simple practice, you can recognize unhelpful thoughts, label them “just worrying,” and move on with your day in a state of ease and calm.
If you want to know how to overcome unhelpful thinking permanently read this post on the four keys to overcoming negative thinking for good (with free meditation audios).
Got some of your own wisdom to share on this topic? Questions? Jot them in the comments section below.
Wishing you well,