When we worry, we create drama in our minds: obsessing about the past, or predicting what might happen in the future. I'm no stranger to worry and the stress it causes in our bodies and minds. In fact, I used to feel trapped by my own self-created 'reality' of worry, until I realized there was a better way.
Through practicing some simple strategies, I learned to free myself of worrying thoughts and restore a natural sense of inner calm. Here are my five favorite ways to do this:
1. Honor what we are experiencing. Our worries can lose their grip on us when we honor their existence instead of feeding them with fear. I honor my own experiences by regularly observing my thoughts and feelings in a kind, non-judgmental way. Allowing them to flow through me, rather than resisting their presence. I've also found it's useful to ask ourselves, gently and honestly, if what we're worrying about is actually true: if we know for certain that our thoughts will turn into reality.
2. Bring our awareness to the present. We can become present by putting awareness on our breathing, our feelings, and the physicality of our being. We can pause and take a look around the room or place we're in, reminding ourselves of where we are, and feeling our connection to the physical world. When we do this, we notice that in this moment, we are actually okay. I find that when I practice awareness in this way, I feel reconnected to who I am and what is real in my life.
3. Shift the focus of our energy. Rather than spending our energy on worrying, we can use that energy to take positive action. So we become the catalyst for change instead of being at the mercy of circumstance. When I find myself caught up in worry, I identify one small step that I can take immediately, that moves me towards the outcome I desire. Just by taking a small action, we move from a passive state to a proactive one, shifting our focus and creating momentum.
4. Cultivate appreciation. Appreciation helps us change our thoughts and creates a flow of good feelings in our body, which will instantly transform our mood. I make a habit in my own life to think about what I deeply appreciate, and cultivate the feeling of appreciation as fully as possible. In doing this, we can change our physical state: allowing ourselves to experience a natural joy, openness and expansion in our body, rather than the physical or emotional contractions caused by stress.
5. Let go of control. Letting go of control is something that took me most of my life to learn, though when I did, things became much easier. It's important for us to acknowledge that we can only ever control our own thoughts, words, actions, and responses in any situation. When we fully accept this, we can stop trying to control things that are external to us. We can take complete responsibility for the part we play in life, and surrender the rest to the world. When we stop clinging to the outcome, we release tension from our bodies and minds, and let ourselves follow the natural flow of life.