“Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.”
~ Randy Armstrong
10th January, 2018
The one thing we all do when we’re up in our heads is create a reality that hasn’t eventuated yet. You talk to yourself in your brain and convince yourself of the certainty that the thing you’re anticipating will be a particular way.
Oh, he’s going to be so hard to deal with. It’s going to be a pain in the arse to get there. Traffic will be terrible. What if they hate what I’m wearing. My hair isn’t going to be the same length by then. I’ve put on weight since I saw them last — they’re going to say something.
You create an infinite amount of imagined futures, only one of which can ever actually eventuate.
When you live in your head like this, two things happen:
- You build up stress hormones in your body, like cortisol, compounding until the event itself eventuates. More cortisol leads to more stress, more bad health, more tension, bad digestion, inflammation, and a litany of other ailments.
- You rob yourself of living in the moment, being present and enjoying what you have now. You can’t control the future. Worrying about it does nothing to change it.
It isn’t unusual. We all do it. We catastrophize a future that we fear for one reason or another. We blow it out of proportion… and guess what?
9 times out of 10, you’re wrong. The future you anticipated doesn’t eventuate. All of your worrying was for nothing. But you’ll never get that time back.
This also applies to deadlines and perfectionist tendencies. You anticipate that the finished product won’t be perfect, so you find excuses to delay getting started. But I’ll cover that in another post.
Until then, try this experiment below. This slowly helps you to stop worrying so much about imagined futures and brings you back into the present moment.
- Keep a small notepad in your pocket, or if you’d prefer, use the calendar app on your phone.
- Find an event or a deadline in the future that you’re dreading/concerned about/stressing over.
- In the ‘notes’ section of the calendar event (or in your notebook), write down what you’re worried about for this event. Be as detailed as you can. eg. ‘David’s going to be there, and I know I’m going to say the wrong thing. He’s going to be in a bad mood. I’m not going to be ready to talk to Dianne yet. People are going to be making fun of my new shoes — I don’t have any other ones to wear.’
- Go to the event. Do the thing. Live that moment.
- Afterwards, maybe the next day, sit with your notebook or calendar app and read over the fears you’d written down before the event.
Did any of them eventuate? If so, how many didn’t eventuate.
(6.) Furthermore, write down if something good happened that you didn’t anticipate.
Do this for every point in time — big or small — that you’re anticipating, or find your mind wandering to, worrying about. Odds are, all the worry is for nothing. Let the cumulative experience of this exercise build that confirmation, and watch how much your consciousness changes.
Your mind now has way more conscious space to concentrate on more important things, and may just avail itself to good habits that reinforce positive thoughts over negative ones.