When it concerns our thoughts, there exists a realm beyond our control. We lack the ability to select the thoughts that were instilled in us during childhood. Nor can we dictate the persistence of mental repetitions akin to well-worn soundtracks.
The emergence of thoughts within the next moments remains beyond our influence, resembling uninvited pop-up windows on our digital screens. Our thoughts, much like self-propelled entities, populate the internal screens of our minds without invitation, resembling the arrival of unexpected digital pop-ups.
However, we retain agency over the frequency with which we recognize the essence of our thoughts and how we react upon realizing that some of them are detrimental, unkind, or false.
Our worried minds operate as continuous players of their own soundtracks, looping throughout the day, and sometimes even through the night. Certain individuals possess more pleasing and immediate recordings. Their thinking patterns tend to lean towards the optimistic or realistic spectrum. Conversely, others may not share this privilege.
Numerous individuals find themselves besieged by troubling thoughts that contribute to perpetual stress, anxiety, depression, or pessimism. This is where the importance of empathetic awareness and regular enhancements becomes evident.
While the composition of our minds, whether stemming from birth or life experiences, might not be within our purview, the ability to sustain consciousness of our thoughts and invoke the functions of pause, erase, or rewrite is well within our reach.
Upon recognizing that a trance of distressing thoughts has ensnared us, celebrating the escape from this trance is in order, followed by the exploration of these tools for soothing the worried mind.
Our ability to halt our worried mind is limited, yet we wield the power to redirect our attention towards the current moment, tranquility, or pragmatic actions.
Engage your senses
Although you might not have the capacity to halt the flow of your thoughts, you do possess the power to shift your focus toward tangible, verifiable reality: the sensation of your breath, the texture of the surface beneath you while sitting, standing, or lying down, any hues or forms in your visual field, and the sounds reaching your ears. Despite its apparent simplicity, transitioning into a state of heightened sensory awareness serves as an effective technique to redirect an overly active and worried mind.
Observe the observer
Once you recognize that your mind has been immersed in an unsettling, frightening, or stressful mental narrative, you now identify two distinct internal components: your thoughts and the facet of yourself that observes these thoughts. These are not synonymous. Your awareness resembles an expansive, open sky, whereas your thoughts are akin to drifting clouds. Attempt to tune into this boundless awareness.
Pose the question to yourself: Who or what is observing my thoughts? Explore the sensations that arise from this inquiry. Sometimes, it may feel as though we are indistinguishable from our thoughts, yet if this were accurate, we would cease to exist as our thoughts dissipate. Our thoughts ebb and flow, yet this expansive awareness remains constant, and we can improve our ability to access it and prolong our time within it.
Ventilate your worried mind
Visualize an imaginary window or doorway situated above, behind, or at the sides of your head. Then, imagine yourself opening these windows or doors and allowing a stream of fresh air to circulate through your worried mind, similar to how you would ventilate a room.
Inhale the essence of the tropics
Engage in a series of unhurried, deep breaths, and conjure the imagery of your breath akin to a tranquil tropical breeze sweeping through your entire being.
Anxieties within our worried mind strive to equip us for potential scenarios, avert issues, or devise plans, yet they frequently achieve none of these aims.
Identify a singular part of your body that exudes either a state of neutrality or serenity. (Even the tiniest tip of a toe will suffice!) Direct your focus towards that feeling of equilibrium or tranquility, and envision it diffusing harmoniously throughout your entire physical form.
Envision your worried mind by taking on the persona of a frightened child, while your sagacious intellect and empathetic heart forge a compassionate connection with this child-like apprehension. You have the freedom to enact this exercise through written expression, spoken words, or within the realm of your imagination.
Express gratitude to worry
Although it may appear paradoxical, showing gratitude towards worry holds merit. The reality is that our worries are merely attempting to be of assistance. They strive to prepare, strategize, or avert potential issues. The glitch in this system, however, lies in the fact that, in most instances, worry does not genuinely offer assistance.
Instead, it triggers our nervous systems to believe that the subject of our worry is already unfolding. Expressing gratitude to worry for its well-intentioned efforts, as opposed to succumbing to its control or criticizing oneself for worrying, can facilitate a gentle shift away from the confines of chronic worrisome patterns.
Offer reassurance to your worried mind
When we find ourselves in situations that feel unsafe or perilous, worry doesn’t typically dominate our thoughts. We either take decisive action or address the circumstances as best we can. A worried mind typically surfaces when we anticipate potential safety or well-being concerns for ourselves or others in the future.
Endeavor to reassure yourself that, in this very moment, you are secure. You might even repeat the affirmation to yourself: “In this moment, I am secure”. Then, take note of whether, how, or where within your body or environment this affirmation resonates as true.
Evaluate your reactions
Reflect on your internal dialogue when worries arise. Does the inner narrative of your worried mind tend to be harsh and critical, or is it characterized by kindness and empathy? Even if you recognize that you’ve been subjecting yourself to self-criticism, you still possess the capacity to extend kindness toward yourself in those moments. Every opportunity to release internal criticism and embrace inner kindness is valuable.
Worry extends its assistance with good intentions, yet its impact often merely creates a sensation of current worry within our bodies.
Frequently, anxiety-driven thoughts assume the guise of ‘What if…’ scenarios. What if something dreadful occurs? What if the desired outcome remains elusive? Ideally, our focus should be grounded in the present moment, rather than fixating on speculative ‘What if’ scenarios about the future.
However, if the thoughts of your worried mind are entangled in a distressing cycle of such possibilities, consider embarking on a ‘What if’ upgrade: What if everything unfolds remarkably well? What if my test results yield positive outcomes?
Catalog of concerns
Look back and reflect upon the instances in which you’ve been consumed by worry in the past. Chances are, a significant portion of the worries you harbored never materialized. In some cases, they might have transpired, and yet here you stand on the other side of those challenges.
In either scenario, it’s important to recognize that it’s not our worries that guide us through difficult times; rather, it’s the combination of necessary actions, the passage of time, support, and acceptance that provide solace.
Plan of action assessment
If your mind is entangled in a web of worries, inquire whether any actionable steps can or should be taken. Should such steps exist, jot down your plan of action, thus freeing your worried mind from the cycle. If no concrete actions are viable, communicate this to your well-intentioned mind, then redirect your focus toward something serene, uplifting, current, or pragmatic.
Strategies for quelling concerns encompass empathetic inner conversations, expressing gratitude to a worried mind, and placing confidence in our forthcoming selves.
Place faith in your future self
Frequently, when concerns arise regarding future events, we lack the information and instinct that will become available (and present) should those apprehensions materialize. The reality is, we cannot predict our future needs because we have yet to reach that juncture.
Certainly, should you experience an intuitive inkling about how to navigate a forthcoming situation, it’s important to acknowledge and heed it. However, if the thoughts of your worried mind are ensnared in a cycle of worry and the present offers no actionable recourse, consider entrusting your future self.
Converse with yourself: “Should that situation arise, I will confront it at that juncture. By then, I will possess insights and intuition that elude me now, as it remains beyond the present realm”.
Subsequently, recenter your focus on the immediate, tangible present moment, and exert your utmost effort in self-care. This will pave the way for fortitude and lucidity, equipping you to confront whatever may unfold in the days ahead.