It’s all too easy to get caught up in worry; worries about health, about relationships, about finances, work and family.
And once caught, it’s easy to feel stuck and consumed by worry. Worries are powerful—one worry can spread quickly— mounting to two, three, or four additional worries in just seconds.
Recognizing our own worry brain, or tendency to worry, is an important first step in working to combat it—turning our worrier self into our warrior self…
First, it’s important to understand that there exist two types of worry: productive worry and unproductive worry.
Productive worry can be healthy. It can keep us safe, motivated, and alert. Productive worry is actionable, meaning, you can do something about it. It’s worry you can act on.
For example, imagine you have a long road trip coming up and you’re worried about the car, directions, and getting their safely. This is productive worry because you can do something about it; you can take your car in for a tune-up, you can print directions and map out ‘pit stops’ ahead of time, and you can make sure you get a good nights sleep before you leave. This is worry that keeps you safe, motivated, and alert.
On the other hand, unproductive worry is worry that eats away at confidence, our energy and wellbeing; it’s worry that’s out of our control. And if we let it, it’s worry that begins to control us!
To mirror the example above, unproductive worry may be worrying about someone hitting you on the road. No matter how safely you drive, or how skillful you are behind the wheel, there’s always a chance for an accident. We can’t control other drivers.
Thus, when facing worries like these, while we can’t solve them, we can choose to do something about them to manage how they impact us and our lives. We can choose to refocus.
Mindfulness is a great way to refocus your attention in times of unproductive worry. It allows us to be fully aware to the present moment, without judgment. It teaches us to notice our thoughts, our worries, and our feelings, be presently aware of them, and mindfully return back to whatever we are doing; our valued action.
Mindfulness is not easy; it’s a skill that demands commitment and practice.
AND, it’s totally worth it.
It can help us to take back our lives—unleash the warrior within each of us.
To start, try practicing this simple mindfulness skill, called “Notice 5-4-3-2-1.” This skill can be used in times of unproductive worry, to help us bring our attention back to the present moment, to regain our focus on what matters and what’s present to us.
To start, find a comfortable seat. Slowly bring your awareness to the room in which you are sitting in.
Begin by noticing 5 things you can see and try to describe each thing using detail: size, color, texture, function, etc.
Now, bring your awareness to 4 things you can hear. Again, do your best to describe the sound. Is it loud? Muffled? Unique?
Next, notice 3 things you feel. For example, “I feel the tightness of my wristwatch against my skin…”
Then, bring your attention to two things you taste.
Lastly, notice 1 thing you smell…
This simple exercise heightens your awareness to the present moment. You begin to notice your surroundings differently. And, by doing this, you succeed in regaining your present moment focus. Instead of being consumed by worries about the past or future, you able to notice your thoughts, and choose to remain presently aware of the current moment.
And, this allows you to pursue your goals and values—live your life in the present.
Worries are inevitable. And, as we learned, some worries are healthy and productive. When we are aware and fully present, our inner worrier can build our outer warrior.