Working With Worry

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I am a worrier. Yes, I can be a serious hand-wringer when something happens and uncertainty ensues or unexpected change is in the works. I consider myself an expert at worrying. I have often thought if there were a way to advertise, “Let me worry for you”, I would be a millionaire twice over! I am good at imagining the worst-case scenarios just to be sure my worry is worthwhile. I used to think that considering the worst that could happen was somehow preparing me for what was coming and if I could live with the worst, then all would be okay.

I was also taught that “God never gives us more than we can handle.” On some deep level, I think I still believe that along with flushing out worst-case scenarios even though both leave too much room for worry…

I am in a worry session now which has had me struggling about how to write a positive blog post (honestly, my blog is called ‘Happy, Healthy, and The Prepared Mind,’ implying positivity). My truth right now is worry over happy… I have numerous tools to use that could ease my angst and I find my mind a blank slate for even one practice that could pull me in an upward trajectory. Meditation, positivity practices like gratitude or kindness, even permission to be human (all my go to practices) aren’t helping. My other practices that usually work — yoga and nature walks — seem only to open space for more worry.

Ever have one of those days? or a string of those days? I hear myself asking, “What can I do?” or “What’s a solution?” And then I continue worrying because I have no immediate or helpful answer, no immediate (or positive) solutions.

Even in this current state I continue my routine practices and hope that my mind will move to calmness when ready. During my meditations my mind often finds calm from worry and clarity arrives if only in a momentary glimpse. I continue to hope.

Then, I arise from meditation with the question, “What can I do?” Answer: What I always do. Take action. Immediate action.

For today, I picked up my knitting as my action to keep my hands and mind busy. Do I need another scarf, pillow, or blanket? It doesn’t really matter — just knit. I knit or, more accurately, I create. Keeping my hands, mind, and body busy with creative action always helps me focus. I need action that is engaging to my senses — creating something does just that, engages more of my senses, provides a sense of purpose (even if for a brief while), and I appreciate the respite from my worry.

As I settle into knitting my shoulders relax as my hands are busy with the process of knit/purl, my mind is engaged with counting stitches to track my design, my senses are further engaged with the steady sound of the knitting needles, and I am taking action, moving forward.

Is this action toward a solution to my worry? Yes and no. There is not a direct solution to the topic of my worry, however, there is forward motion engaging in something I love to do. I hear my mind repeating my personal mantra adapted from Dory in “Finding Nemo”, ‘just keep knitting, just keep knitting.’ I continue to be absorbed in the task of knit and purl and, as I do, I notice a gradual redirect from my angst and fresh ideas begin to pop into my thoughts between stitches.

Staying with it, my mind and body move into a flow state where there is only the action at hand while all else fades into the background. Much research on flow has been done by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi where he presents the importance of flow states for wellbeing and a sense of purpose. Once I emerge from my flow states, I feel calmer, full of ideas, and I am aware of more space in and around me. This open space allows more positivity, relief, and room to explore solutions to the topic of my worry. I feel a glimmer of upward motion and a deep breath into the space that is so much more than my angst.

Action that leads me into a flow state is my recipe for changing my trajectory to a more positive and meaningful direction. Some people clean, organize, and throw things away as their focus action. I know many who create something, anything. Through action, any focused creation, appropriate action and solutions can present themselves. I trust that.

Being human means navigating change, unexpected as well as planned change. For me, worry has been and continues to be my default setting. What’s yours? Worry, though oh so familiar, always circles the drain downward. Taking action helps me spiral upward into a more resourceful state where solutions reside.

I do give space to my worry, angst, fear, and anger. I try to embrace the feelings that are painfully present. In other words, I give myself space to allow the feelings to be as they are without trying to make them go away. I also set a time limit on my wallowing or ruminating time so I don’t get sucked into too much darkness and despair.

Mindfulness is another practice in positive psychology as well as in many spiritual practices. Ellen Langer, a leading positive psychologist, refers to mindfulness as being actively aware. Through mindfulness I learn about myself so that I can change if and when necessary. Being mindful of my worry, listening to my minds story about a situation, and drawing on past practices of what I know works to change direction or course, I can begin to return to my upward spiral.

After my allotted two days of commendable worrying (I do give 110% to that time) and action through knitting (and some cleaning), I woke this morning with renewed energy. The world is more colorful again and a song is in my heart and mind. I am grateful for my worry, for my action, flow states, mindfulness, and trust in my process.

On a final note, taking action doesn’t necessarily mean action related to the topic of concern. My actions were focused in three tracks: 1. knitting to enter my flow state; 2. cleaning and accomplishing three things at home to clear space; and 3. wrote in my journal by telling the story that held me in angst in as much detail as possible. After several writing sessions listening to the running inner dialogue, I began a more meaningful conversation with myself, began a more positive story, and discovered solutions in a hopeful direction. All these actions quelled my concerns and helped me refocus on what is positive.

I am, once again, grateful to be on an upward spiral of goodness, positivity, and meaning.img_1437

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