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.
A Way of Dealing With Worry: Label and Let Go
One mindfulness based 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, you simply mentally note to yourself that you’re “just worrying.”
By doing this you step back from being caught up in the thoughts and so they no longer get taken over by them. You can see that they are simply thoughts in the mind and you don’t have to buy into them,
After you label the thoughts, then you can simply let them go and put your focus on something more nourishing and uplifting. or just bring your attention into the present moment and what you are 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 or judge yourself for feeling worried or anxious. There is also no need to 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 patterns you might enjoy this post on the four keys to overcoming negative thinking for good (with a free meditation audio).