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Coach Amanda Alexander gives some advice on how to avoid spending your life worrying.
We all know that worrying serves no purpose, but that doesn’t make it easy to stop a worry habit.
From my experience, working mums are top of the charts when it comes to being masterful worriers. We all agree that worrying serves no purpose and being top of the worry charts isn’t going to bring you fame or fortune, so here are nine techniques for worry busting:
1. Swap worrying time for thinking time. Neuroscientists have proven that worry is WORSE than useless when it comes to resolving big problems – it is counter-productive. Worry impairs our reasoning abilities. If you have a big worry, THINK about it instead. Get into problem solving mode. It helps enormously to talk to someone else when problem solving rather than trying to do so in your thoughts alone.
2. Take a dispassionate walk down memory lane of your previous worries. Can you remember what you were worried about this time last year? I bet you can’t, but if you can, which of those was “worth” the worry? Remember the old saying; “Today is the tomorrow that we worried about yesterday”.
3. Brainstorm all your worries – big and little. Now against each worry write down what you can do about it. Don’t just sit there worrying. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
4. Can’t do anything about it? Then this is a “worry” that is beyond your control. Repeat the Serenity prayer (or mantra if you’re not prayerfully inclined) after me:
Grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know the difference
5. Write your worries down and ask a friend to read each one out. As they do so, ask them to “role play” the worry. They act as if they are you and it is your job to play “Devil’s Advocate” and challenge each worry. The aim of the game is for you to have the final say as Devil’s advocate. The purpose of this is to retrain your mind into positive, solution-led thinking.
6. Play with your worry voice – part 1. Give the voice a character with a “life”.
I like to call mine Dobby (the negative little House Elf from Harry Potter) for the sake of illustration. Now try having a conversation with this little House Elf. Dobby might start off like this:
“But master, what if the Dark Lord comes tonight?” Hear Dobby’s high pitched, whining little voice, see his big ears and his wringing hands. He’s a bit ridiculous, isn’t he? How would Harry Potter respond to Dobby?
How will you respond to your Dobby equivalent? Give him a bloomin’ good kicking, that’s how. Kick that Dobby voice NOW!
7. Play with your worry voice – part 2! Now try turning the volume on the voice up and down, change the pitch of the voice, get it to sing. How about getting the worry voice to sing its worry lyrics to the tune of Kylie Minogue’s “I should be so lucky”? Once you’ve had a good old play, go back to the volume and turn it right down until you can’t hear that worry voice AT ALL!
8. When your worries become almost mechanical, with a rhythm that goes on and on (when you’re getting the same thoughts again and again), bring them to a halt by doing something physical or just plain old daft. Here are a few ideas:
a. Run up and down the stairs
b. Snap an elastic band on your wrist – ouch!
c. Sing the alphabet backwards in the style of Pavarotti
d. Try sticking your tongue on your nose, wiggle your ears, raise one eyebrow, try a handstand (best if you’re at home rather than working in a public place for this one). Just do something physical that requires some concentration. I betcha can’t worry at the same time!
The possibilities are endless; the key is to get out of your own way!
9. Carry out a worry autopsy:
a. Write down what you are worried about in a notebook. What is the worst that could happen?
b. Think about how you would handle the “worst case”
c. Where do you have control over this worry? What can you do to reduce the chances of this worry becoming a reality? Where can you TAKE ACTION?
d. Look at the worrisome thoughts that you feel you can’t take any action on. Which of these have you inflated or distorted? Which have little basis in reality?
e. Now write an opposite or an alternative to the worrisome thought.
f. Learn the alternatives off by heart. Each time you catch yourself worrying, replace the original worry thought with the new positive thought.
So, there are nine techniques to bust those working mum worries! And if all of the above fail, take your lead from Charlie Brown: “I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time”.
Amanda Alexander is mum to two fabulous boys and Founder and Director of Coaching Mums. Since 2003, Coaching Mums has helped thousands of working mums to swap guilt-ridden, stress-driven vicious circle for virtuous circles of calm, confidence and fulfilment.