What is worry? Merriam Webster describes worry as a concern about something that might happen, and worry in and of itself isn’t really the problem. But, worry can be a bit bossy, and the problem comes when worry takes control of your thinking, making you feel anxious or sick. There is some science behind worry. Let’s start with taking a look at your brain:
There are different names for the different parts of the brain. There are the actual medical names, like prefrontal cortex, limbic system, amygdala, hippocampus etc. etc. Then there are terms like upstairs brain and downstairs brain, wise brain and emotional brain, or one of my favourites, wizard brain and lizard brain. Basically, they are all saying the same thing…we have the thinking part of our brain, and the feeling part of our brain.
When worry takes control, what has happened is that the feeling part of your brain has taken over – and is over-riding – the thinking part of your brain. When worry takes control, our feeling brain, our lizard brain, doesn’t really care if the thing you are worried about is real or imagined, it just recognizes the feeling and jumps into action – whether it needs to or not!
What can you do? Well, I like to think of dealing with worry the same way you might handle a bossy friend. Worry can actually be your friend – your brain is designed to warn you if there is something truly dangerous or concerning. Then you need your lizard brain to help keep you safe. But, when worry is bossing you around, and getting all involved when it doesn’t need to, you will need to talk back to worry. You will need to tell your worry to settle down, because it’s not the boss of you! Here are some ways you can do that:
Make a worry character: Giving your worry a name, maybe even drawing a picture of your worry character, helps you learn how to talk back to it. When you say, “Oh, Mr. Worrybug is at it again! Let’s give him a talking-to!” you are externalizing your worry – making it less scary and more manageable. It might feel a bit silly, but silly is better than worried!
Be Bossy: When your worry shows up and tries to boss you around, be bossy right back! Speak truth into your worry’s lies! Worry likes to tell you that if something happens, you won’t be able to handle it! That’s one of the lies it likes to tell – actually, you can handle it! You need to be bossy and tell worry to get lost, you’ve got this!
Be Opposite: When worry tells you that you can’t sleep in your own bed because there are scary things under the bed, you play the opposite game and tell your worry character that, actually, you can sleep in your own bed! Worry wants to be the boss of you, and you need to make sure that you don’t let it!
These are 3 simple things you can do to help you win the struggle with worry. Remember, sometimes worry is necessary – but usually it’s not, and the important thing to keep in mind is that you need to be in charge! Taking control back from worry is not easy, and doesn’t always happen right away. Like anything else it will probably take practice. There are a ton more strategies and ideas that can help as well – but these three are a beginning.
Many of these ideas can be found all over the internet, but one of my favourite authors on this subject is Lynn Lyons. She works with anxious kids and families and the 3 points above are inspired from her videos and blogs. If you are looking for more inspiration, and more ideas, you can find her at https://www.lynnlyonsnh.com/about/ . As always, if you have any questions, shoot me an email! I’m here to help.