10 Ways To Attack Obsessive Worry
Do you ruminate obsessively?
Says Therese J. Borchard: “Stuck thoughts [are] the brick walls that form a prison around your mind. The harder you try to get rid of them, the more powerful they become.”
Are “stuck” thoughts something you enjoy? I doubt it.
If you’re an over thinker, if you regularly soak in a bath of contemplation frenzy, if you’re always worrying ten years ahead, I suspect you have a wee problem.
I do understand.
This society and a crazed media is enamoured with ‘planning,’ making sure we worry sick about ‘the future,’ reminding us endlessly about the consequences of making mistakes.
However, Big Picture Thinking (“BPT”) is exhausting. It’s the devil on your shoulder, riling up negative emotions, spewing nonsense. If you engage in this regularly, your brain rarely gets a break. It’s your wild imagination at high volume, taking you on a spectacular mental journey that is mere speculation.
Don’t accept this treatment from your brain.
Here’s how to address BPT and give yourself a much needed break:
1) Admit that you have a problem.
You need help if you’re an obsessive thinker. Excessive rumination is often a symptom of low self-worth, depression, or a side effect of trauma. Depressed or traumatized people falsely believe that worrying is productive because when not obsessing, they may not solve problems (and over thinkers are a little hysterical about “problems.”) But have you ever heard anyone say: “After six hours of obsessive thinking I’ve found all the answers!” Not likely, and if so, at a great a cost to well-being. There are many tools that can prevent rumination drain. You may also wish to talk about your BPT tendencies with a counsellor or therapist.
2) Keep in mind that your brain is naturally set to “Danger Mode.”
Human brains are hardwired to be on the lookout for danger, to identify with the negative, instead of the positive. A group of research scientists (who published their research findings in Frontiers in Evolutionary Neurological Science in 2012) found that worry is “a beneficial trait that evolved in humans along with intelligence to make them more adept at avoiding danger.” But we are not cave people. We don’t need to be on high alert, all the time.
3) Stop Holding Your Breath.
If you’re in the middle of a serious ruminating session right now, notice how you’re breathing. Chances are your breath is rapid and shallow. Start breathing deeply right now, right from the belly, and continue for a good ten minutes, slowly in, slowly out. Notice what a difference this makes.
4) Write it Down.
Write down your thoughts instead of storing them in your brain or repetitively ruminating about them. Start a journal. Anxious perceptions are clarified and put into perspective when you can see them on paper, and read them back to yourself. You may even find yourself chuckling at some of them. And that is healthy.
5) Move Your Body; Do Something.
Physical activity, no matter what kind, consumes the mind. It’s hard to ruminate when you’re active. Enjoyable activities that engage the brain will also help. Partake of activities you love – whether it be knitting, solving puzzles or dog walking, when an obsessive rumination pattern sets in.
6) Try to Concentrate On “Right Now.”
If you’re regularly obsessing about the years to come, or ruminating about current problems, it’s impossible to enjoy your life right now. If you need a primer on this, meditate. Through meditation you learn to address ruminations in favour of deeper breathing and calmer thoughts. Meditation can be particularly effective in the middle of the night, if you find yourself ruminating and not being able to sleep. Put on a meditation tape of the longest duration you can find, and let go. Just listen. Just take it in. Repeat what is being said. You may fall asleep well before the meditation ends. That’s good. Learn more, here.
7) Have Some Faith. Surrender.
When you hear yourself saying “Everything will be ok” or, “It will all work out” it may sound like utter nonsense and a force feeding of good vibes. But when talking positively to yourself, you free your mind. You offer your brain a gift – the permission to stop obsessing, by replacing ruminations with healthy thoughts.
8) You are What you Think.
If you put loads of energy into negative, self-defeating ideas, you give those thoughts power and life. You are what you think, so it’s time to seriously consider what you think about. If you are consumed with toxic negativity, it may become a self fulfilling prophecy. Don’t give your imagination that kind of power.
9) Give Yourself Some “Worry Time.” No. don’t do this. Some advocate for setting up a timer, and worrying yourself into a “controlled” state of frenzy for a set period. I don’t agree. Worry doesn’t wait. Instead, address your pattern of worry and be proactive about it when it occurs.
10) What Do You Worry About? Worry and negative thinking comes from the perception of a threat. What are you threatened by? Why are you threatened by this? Other than ruminating, what proactive steps can you take to address this problem?
And then get on with it.
“Time spent worrying is time spent not living.” – Royale Scuderi