Here’s a great question from a reader:
I am a constant worrier. And I particularly worry about the future. Do you have any strategies that might help me be more in the present moment — and more at peace with what is?
First I will say that I am not an expert on worry-transformation, but having been a life-long worrier warrior myself, I do have some insights on the subject that might help.
There are so many types of worry: worry about our health, worry about what other people think of us, worry about death, worry about things not being perfect, worry about being in social situations, worry about speaking in public, worry about success, worry about failure, worry about the safety of our loved ones…and the list goes on.
Here’s a first-step strategy: Write all your worries down.
Get them all out there on the page, no matter how intense or strange or embarrassing they may seem. The key is to get them out of your head so you don’t have to hold onto them. It’s heavy holding on to all those worries! Chronic worriers often have headaches, shoulder and neck pain, and feel like they have a buzzy or floaty mind. Can you relate?
It’s okay if it takes a while to get your worries onto the page. You know when you’ve hit a stopping point when you sigh, yawn, or take a deep breath in acknowledgment. Trust your body.
Now look back at your list and see if there are any themes or any words you repeat or ways in which some worries are tied to others. For instance, a worry about health, for example, might feel connected to a worry about death for you. Don’t try to analyze too much, just circle, underline, or highlight important words, phrases, and concepts, and notice any connections.
The purpose of connecting the worries and finding themes is to help with the feeling of overwhelm with so many thoughts. Finding these connections also leads to part two of the exercise.
Here’s your second step: Draw your worry groupings/themes.
Worries can feel like cyclones that we’re trying to manage. By visually representing them and grouping them, you are effectively slowing down the cyclone in your mind-body. I like to use pens or crayons for this exercise because I find that certain worry clusters call for a particular color. For instance, once when doing this exercise for myself, I drew a big red circle that had the words “panic attack worries” in it. Red felt hot like an anxiety attack and all the words and themes that came with it. Trust your gut. Don’t worry about drawing or coloring or grouping perfectly.
What do you notice now that your worries are living together in some kind of diagram or drawing? Do they look like planets? Cells? A map? A blender? A landscape of some kind? See if you can make some meaning by looking at what you created.
Does anything feel like it holds less importance to you now that you’ve written about it and put it in a drawing? Does anything in particular feel more intense, like it’s rising to the surface as “the important worry” right now? Notice without judgment. Just be with what you notice. When I did this once I burst out laughing. Respect whatever emotions emerge.
Part three of this exercise is to draw a big circle and above it write PRESENT MOMENT.
Inside this circle, write what is going right in the now. Start with the simple if you want, like you’re breathing and you have a roof over your head and expand from there. What is OK right now? If a worry creeps in, go back to your worry writing page and add it there. Keep this big circle as a sacred space for your “I am being with what is” thoughts and feelings. If it helps, you can call this your GRATITUDE CIRCLE and write things you are grateful for right now.
See what happens when you allow yourself full expression of your worries. Notice how expressing them through writing and drawing doesn’t inflate them, but actually contains them. How does your body feel now that you have a place not only for your worries, but also your words of okayness in the present moment?
with peace of mind and a soft heart,