Worry is a weight that wears on most of us. Some of us wake up to the constriction in our chest, spend the day with our mind racing and have trouble falling asleep at night. All because we’re being slowly crushed by the weight of worry.
Worry feels like an inevitable, inescapable part of life, but did you ever wonder why you worry?
I don’t mean listing off all the things that could go wrong. I’m sure between us we could generate a mountain of a list of things that we are, or could be worried about. Those things are the what of worry, they don't answer the why.
If you think that we spend all this time and energy worrying, there must be something to it. A golden outcome, a reason that all this worrying is worth our while.
I had this conversation with myself recently (yes, I talk to myself, don’t judge), and discovered that I believe that worrying keeps myself and my loved ones safe.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m an advocate for worrying and that I think it has inherent benefits. I know that worry can cause a whole host of both physical and mental health problems.
But, knowing that on a cognitive level doesn’t erase the deeper belief that I hold about my worry.
I have to start from where I’m really at, not where I think I should be, or where I feel like it would make sense to be.
Deep down, I believe that worrying keeps me safe.
There are a lot of reasons that I developed this idea. It’s easy for me to look back to early life and honour the roots of this belief.
Being hyper vigilant, always on high alert was necessary to my survival and the resilience I built when I was a child. I was often very under supervised and responsible for my younger sister. Worry was a tool that helped me survive.
But, I don’t need it anymore.
Now I don’t have to just survive. I would instead like to thrive and for this I will need new tools.
Maybe, I can be thankful for the role that worrying has played in building me into who I am today. Maybe, I can acknowledge it and then slowly start to let it go.
The next question is, what can I do instead of worrying?
The reality is I can’t just let go of worrying. If I did, there would be this giant, empty, gaping space where the worry used to be. I’ve spent nearly five decades perfecting the art of anxiety that means that I have a super highway in my brain that leads straight to worry.
So, I have started construction on a new road. Now, I know that it will take a long time to divert my synapses from that super highway. Change is hard, but it has to start somewhere.
My new road is going to lead me into my body.
You might be thinking that unless I am some kind of blogging spirit, I probably already live in my body.
But, you’d be wrong.
I’ve spent most of my life so far living in my mind. If you’re an avid worrier, you may find that this is also where you have your primary residence.
I had my first experience of being really conscious of being in my body only a few months ago (through the Wim Hof method, which will definitely get a blog or two sometime in the future.) It was kind of a shock to realize that being in my body felt like a foreign land. I wasn’t even sure that I knew the local language.
So far, the construction of my new road consists of me gently asking myself to feel and directing my attention to my hands and feet each time I’m aware of being worried (yeah so, almost all the time…). Then, I ask myself what it would feel like to be carefree.
Carefree. Can you imagine? It’s a bit of a delicious idea.
The trick is not to ‘think about’ being carefree, but ask yourself what it would feel like to be carefree.
It’s not a test. You don’t need to find an answer. Slowly, as you build a little side road, your body might show you the answer. That’s what I’m hoping for, even if it’s just in glimpses and magic little moments.
I’m happy to travel any path that helps me to shed a few pounds from the weight of my worry.