I want to share a technique that will help to reduce the amount of time you spend worrying and help provide support to those that suffer from anxiety.
Think back to this time last year.
What were you working on? What personal goals did you have? What was keeping you awake at night?
It’s hard to remember, right? I’ve just spent a few minutes trying to work out exactly what I would have been doing at the time. I know there will have been the usual mix of laughter, success and failure.
I will have spent some nights struggling to sleep, chewing over ideas and the decisions I would make. On what was keeping me up at night, I can’t remember. It can’t have been that important, right?
So why was I worrying?
I often ask ‘Will this matter in a year’s time?’ to help friends and colleagues realise it is not as bad as it seems at the time.
Studies show that a high percentage of worries (over 80%) do not amount to anything – yet, they can play such a huge part in our life.
The above question is one way in which you can help control how you are feeling, but are there other ways to kill worry?
What Happens When You Worry
When you worry several things happen to your mental and physical well being
- Loss of appetite (or increase in eating if you are a stress eater like me!)
- Impact on relationships
- Loss of sleep
- Rapid breathing
- Impact on job performance
- Seeking solution through drugs and/or alcohol
Everyone will have had one or more of these feelings in the last few months, even if on a small scale.
Worrying focuses on ‘what might happen.’
At the far end of the worry spectrum (chronic) you are likely to feel an impending doom, seeing everyone and everything as a threat.
Worrying does not make sense, but it becomes your reality and can be incredibly difficult to deal with.
If you do not kill your worry the stress can result in anxiety, leading to more serious health issues, including short term memory loss and heart issues.
Control the Gremlins
Over the years I have coached many people on what is worrying them.
Time and time again I come back to one thesis.
To understand what is concerning them versus what they can influence.
The coaching model, made famous by the late Stephen Covey, formed part of his famous book ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.’
The way it works is pretty simple.
You draw two circles, one inside the other. The outer circle much larger than the smaller one – think donut (the American type with the hole in the middle).
In the larger outer circle you list all the things that are concerning you right now. It could be anything. Work, relationships, money – it will be unique to you.
Spend as much time as you need to get everything down. Once you have done this take some time to look at all the issues in the outer circle.
The items in the outer circle are worrying you right now and are of concern, otherwise they would not be written down.
Which of the worries can you influence or control in some way?
A Real Life Example
Take, for example, a difficult conversation you need to have with someone.
Putting it off is not going to solve the problem.
Preparing, practising and having the difficult conversation is the way to control the issue, right?
The difficult conversation may be of concern, but you have identified ways in which to influence the situation and take control.
Finding a way to control the concern, means you can move the concern into the smaller inner circle. This is because you will influence it in some way. This influence is going to kill worry and make you feel more confident as a result.
You then carry out the same exercise with all concerns, in the outer circle. What else can be moved into the smaller inner circle? What can you do that will directly influence your concerns and kill your worries?
By moving the issue to the smaller inner circle you have control and can influence the outcome positively.
At the end of the exercise you will have several issues that were of concern. You now have a plan to influence and control them.
If you have anything left in the outer circle you are confirming it can not be influenced or controlled.
If this is 100% correct, you have to let the issue go. If you can not influence or control it, there is zero point in worrying about it.
I know this may feel uncomfortable but if it can’t be influenced your time and energy should not be directed towards it.
This moment is key to killing your worry and focusing on where you can add value.
Taking a Step Back
Feels good to gain a little perspective, right?
How great do you feel, realising your energy does not have to be wasted. You don’t have to worry, you can focus on prioritising and taking action.
Sometimes it can be difficult to understand which issue to tack first. If this happens then ask yourself this question.
‘If I tackled one opportunity right now, which would have the biggest impact to my well being?’
Don’t hesitate and answer immediately – your brain will be honest (even if it is the answer you don’t want).
This gives you your starting point, prevents any further procrastination and is the first step to squashing the anxiety.
Focus on what you can control, not what is of concern.
Believe and take action.