Years ago, someone suggested to me that research shows:
Forty per cent of what we worry about never happens;
Thirty per cent has already happened;
Twelve per cent focuses on opinions or situations that we cannot change;
Ten per cent centres on our health (which only worsens it).
That means 92 per cent of our worries are pointless and only eight per cent concerns real problems we can influence.
Logically, I think most of us recognize that much of what we worry about, usually, is a waste of our time and energy and becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. Emotionally, though, its not always easy to stop worrying, especially when something unpredictable and out of our control occurs.
When we receive unexpected bad news, or experience a negative, unforeseen event, it can seriously challenge our ability to let go of worry. When we worry, we tend to vividly use our imagination in a destructive and systemic way, conjuring up all kinds of negative images, thoughts, feelings and dialogue, in our head, that can make whatever we are worrying about feel very real (and sometimes scary).Worry can overwhelm us. It can distort reality and absorb our energy. We can stress ourselves out worrying about the 92 per cent and, as we know, stress is a threat to our health and general well-being.
The key is to remember that this activity of worrying is occurring in our head. These thoughts only exist in our head and, if we are able to change our thoughts, shift our focus, we can change how we feel and how we deal with the news or event.
Often when we worry, we do not have all the answers. We lack important information, which is why our minds go to work at second-guessing, filling in the blanks and, often, imagining the worst possible outcomes or scenarios. If we can learn to use our imagination in a more selective and organized way, this can help us to keep worry at bay and enable us to get through the challenging or uncertain time. For example:
Project strong, positive, constructive thoughts that you can cope /are coping with the situation you face, or can manage whatever the challenge is, even if you dont know how to at the time.
Use a mantra, or construct an affirmation, that will enable you to build some positive belief and self-confidence that you can deal with, or bounce back from, the situation.
Create positive pictures and images in your mind of what you want, rather than what you do not want. Remember, what you focus on, you attract more of into your life. Seeing is believing.
Distract your mind choosing to think about, or do, something else that makes you feel good, even for a minute, can help you to shift out of a negative state of mind.
Changing your focus from negative thoughts and self-talk to something more constructive i.e. taking control to manage what is going on in your head can generate more helpful feelings and put you in a better mood so that you can be more resourceful when dealing with the problem. While the problem will not go away, some of the worry will, and that will keep you moving forward, even with small steps.
Hazel Morley is principal of Think Smart: Training and Coaching with Change in Mind. She can be contacted at email@example.com.