Look, I get it. I worry with the best of them. In fact, I come from a long line of “worriers”. Things like Don’t push the trash down with your hand or you will get cut. Or If you go snow skiing, you will probably fly off the mountain. Recently it was A shark might eat you if you swim in the ocean and if that doesn’t happen a rip tide will get you.
I actually love swimming in the ocean and taught my daughters to jump waves as well as my niece with my brother…while the worrier was watching. We all came back in one piece. So what does this type of habitual practice do to your brain? Well, I probably should have been in therapy, in fact I tried it once, but she just there listening to me saying “umm hmm” so that made me wonder what was going on in her head and that was worse to be honest.
Anyway, I discovered yoga years ago, but I didn’t actually “get it” at first. I love this article on it because it was like this. I started to think if a freaking neuroscientist thought just like me at first, then perhaps I am not the only one noticing that some people do go to “yoga” and in fact are not doing yoga at all.
So what did I start teaching that was different in my own yoga classes (and in real life, including my HHH Club)? I started teaching yoga-like thoughts and being aware of the absence of thought, even if it’s just a minute. Now, what if you worry about all of the above mentioned things, plus many others that never ever come to pass? Here are a few tips for you.
Overthinking 101 notes:
- Postpone worry. On your calendar, write out a time that you worry. I know, it’s crazy. But seriously. As you are working, if worry starts to come into your head while you are busy doing something else, just stop, write worry at 5p.m. today, and keep going. If it gets really bad, set a timer as well so you can worry about the sky falling for exactly 15 minutes and if you start to think about it longer, you are reminded you devoted enough time to that thought, now it’s up. Like an appointment. Meet back there in your head tomorrow at a different time if it still lingers, but don’t think about it anymore. This actually allows you that slight bit of control that we need.
- Obsessive thoughts can be faced. So imagine for a minute you are Sheldon Cooper. What happens if he doesn’t knock the third time? Can he go a whole day without that? So if you don’t get this, Sheldon is a character I love on a T.V. show. He has to knock three times and say his neighbor’s name. But let’s put this in perspective again. My dad uses antibacterial squirty stuff like it’s going out of style. What if a germ actually gets on him? To test this theory and face not using the anti-bac, he would have to touch something and then not use it. See if he can last after being in public. Each time maybe go a bit longer. Again, you get the drift here. Each time try to go a little bit longer without feeling like you have to do the obsessive behavior and see what happens. Are you okay? Can you make it from one task to another without reaching for the anti-bac or knocking on the door a third time?
- Use a mantra to relax. As you begin to feel stressed, say “I am in control of my thoughts.” Then breathe in and hold at the top of a breath just a sec and focus on that feeling, then release and breathe out. Keep breathing in and out for a full round of three. Start to notice the tension in your body releasing. Notice the set of your jaw, and unclench the teeth. Let the shoulders relax, and just be aware of being in your body. Notice how you control the rise and fall of your chest by breathing deeper, not shallow, short breaths, but deep, controlled breaths. You are in control. You are able to breathe deeply and focus on the now.
As I have been working on my practice of teaching others how to control their thoughts, I am reminded again and again that just like anything we do, the power of now must be practiced. We mindlessly go through our days sometimes and that is really not healthy. Flex that muscle and learn to practice the power of now through tiny activities like washing the dishes, going on a walk, gardening, yoga and meditation. Each of your tasks can be a mini-meditation in itself. Like riding a bike, but just practice staying present.
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