Before we discuss tools for turning off the hair-trigger Avoid system in your brain, I want to talk about the habit of worry! It’s counter-productive to put effort into learning to calm down if you just upset and trigger your avoid system 5 minutes later by worrying.
Many of us are our own worst enemies and consistently turn on our own Avoid systems by manufacturing danger that is not real, i.e. worrying. The people with the fairly constant danger signaling are people who struggle with worry. Have you noticed how tight and miserable your body gets when you worry? Thoughts are very powerful. You have an “immaterial worrying thought” enter your mind, but it leaves a material trace which impacts your brain, and changes your body. This process is very important to understand. When clients grasp this information, it signs the death warrant to their habit of worrying.
Worriers, almost always, focus on imagined worst-case scenarios. Many clients tell me this habit makes them feel more prepared in case of danger. However, being tense and braced does not produce quick reaction times, or allow us to go with the flow of events. A stiff tree cracks in a big storm, while a flexible one will just whip back and forth with the wind. Sometimes surrendering to the present moment is less traumatic than fighting against it.
When people are stuck in obsessive thinking, or worrying about worst-case scenarios, their Cerebral Cortex and five senses will attempt to send the message that life looks ok. But because their avoid system is on high alert, their body experiences the physiological consequences of too much adrenaline and cortisol racing through it, like a NASCAR driver. So, to make sense of the body sensations of high anxiety, the worrier focuses on the next bad event she is sure is around the corner. She will often find one, because, we do see what we are looking for a majority of the time. Or, in a marriage, the worrier will often project the problem onto the spouse, more about that in another blog.
The good news is that worry is just another bad habit, and if you learned how to do it, you can unlearn how to worry. Of course, calming down the body and the mind will help put you in an atmosphere that will make it easier to fight off the worry. You can’t control every thought that hits your brain, but you get to choose to give each one attention, or to ignore it and let it pass on without having it stick. Another helpful tool is to talk back to the ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts), to stop worrying. Use your grown-up logical brain to refute the imagined horror that is just a figment of your imagination. Your body and brain will thank you, and so will your bank account. People who live in consistent stress and worry have 147% higher health care costs.
1.What do you worry about? Especially, is there a consistent worry about something that never happens, but the fear of it stays stuck in your mind?
2.What are your ANTS? Write down a statement that refutes each one of your ANTS to use when the worry hits.
To learn how to evict the anxiety in your life, join one of my 3-wk anxiety reduction workshops. Go to www.sdtraumatherapy.com for more information. Mention this blog when you sign up and receive a 10% discount! Happy Loving.