Monday thought #19: Why I don't worry - even in times which are anxiety-inducing

This week I had a phone call with my best friend in the US. We talked about the usual topics…kids, our own challenges and joys (like my new puppy) and finally about the currently biggest and most threatening topic: the war in Europe. 

At the end of the conversation she asked: "Are you worried?" (my definition of worry = a chain of negative thoughts about bad things that might happen in the future), and I answered: 

"No, I'm not."

Not because it's not threatening or my personal beliefs about if this will escalate or not. I feel for all the people suffering and I'm very sad that this can happen in this day and age. 

I'm not worried though because it does not help. 

Not me. 

Not anybody else in my life or among those who are directly affected. 

And it definitely does not change the situation. 

In fact, it makes my days worse if I do."

Am I indifferent to this awful situation? Or cold like a fish?

Neither. 

I used to worry a lot. 

Worry kept me up at night as a single mum and a demanding job. Financial worries and fear about all sorts or thoughts about all the awful things that could happen. To me when the kids were young. To the kids when they were older. 

So I know. 

And eventually I stopped that. As worries made my life miserable. And hard. 

I surrendered to what is and turned towards building resilience.

Resilience in difficult times

Resilience.

Incredibly helpful in a situation like this where feelings of fear, worry and helplessness and loss of control can easily come up. And the longer it takes, the stronger those emotions might become. 

Total disclosure: of course, I have moments when thoughts creep in that normally start with the words "what if…." and end with ideas and worst-case-scenarios which are anything else than enjoyable. 

I've learned though to catch myself, deal with unwanted or suffocating emotions and re-align - coming back to my inner peace. 

Why, What and How

As usual - the big question is: HOW to get there?

But before diving into that a short look at WHY is it important to be resilient.

Well, for me the reason is easy: Life will keep throwing adversities in our way…so I'm better prepared to deal with it as I don't enjoy feeling fearful. 

AND as fear/anxiety equals stress which means our brains don't work effectively anymore, my resilience (= being calmer and feeling better) also benefits others, as I'm still able to think clearly, act and offer support. 

When talking about big words I always like to present a definition - so WHAT it is...so we talk about the same thing.

Let me start with what it's NOT: It's NOT armour, becoming hard or emotionless. Or being logical and pragmatic all the time.

RATHER: being able to deal with adversities of all sorts - big or small. 

Actively dealing with what's in front of me, knowing that I'm powerful enough to deal with and determine my own feelings in this situation. 

So that I'm still able to act and that I'm not falling into a dark hole or becoming paralyzed. 

WHY is it important to be resilient

Well, for me the reason is easy: Life will keep throwing adversities in our way…so I'm better prepared to deal with it as I don't enjoy feeling fearful. AND as fear equals stress which means our brains don't work effectively anymore, my resilience (= being calmer and feeling better) also benefits others, as I'm still able to think clearly, act and offer support.

So here is how I manage to increase and (mostly) stay resilient:

1. The power of response - THE superpower.

There is nothing you or I can do about the actual situation. Well, except maybe donating money or goods that help the ones who suffer the most or going on the streets to demonstrate. 

The circumstances are horrific, no doubt. If I allow the circumstances to dictate how I feel though it means giving my power away. Resulting in feeling helpless, maybe even desperate with a complete lack of control. When I realised that I'm response-able for how I deal with the situation - think and feel - it immediately made me feel more powerful.

2. Controlling my self-talk and thoughts

Very related to point one. I have a choice of either going into whatever kind of horrible scenarios in the future and triggering all sorts of fears about the future. OR I can stay in the present and take one step/day at a time (Today it's sunny, I had a good night's sleep and food on the table). 

Sometimes it can help to ask me this kind of question: Is my life or my business or my (and our)future under any threat TODAY and NOW? 

The answer typically is NO.  It might be tomorrow - but RIGHT NOW things are o.k. here. In case it is going to change, I can deal with it (and go back to point 1). And instead of thinking about things I can't do or influence, I choose to think about those I can shift or control. That immediately makes me feel safer. 

3. Connecting with others and process together

Sharing with others always helps. We might be able to give compassion to each other, and expressing our worries and emotions makes it easier to overcome them. Provided this is a person or community that does not perpetuate your fears but can offer an open ear and a different perspective. 

Just this week, I spoke with someone worried about having made a mistake changing the job just before the war started. She shared, we discussed other perspectives - and after the conversation, her fears had diminished considerably.

4. Managing (and dealing with) my emotions.

Not suppress - manage. Huge difference. Accepting that these unwanted emotions have a tendency to pop up when I feel unsafe or under threat is a great first step. And allowing the emotions to be there - without wallowing in them. I learned that looking at them and accepting their existence, in fact, feeling them and THEN letting them go works rather well. Requires some practice…but then it's bliss! 

5. Focus on the good stuff. 

What you focus on gets bigger. When you only listen to negative news the world seems rather dark. When you start shifting towards everything enjoyable and good your reality literally starts shifting. So in moments when I'm really frustrated, exhausted or worried which of course happens to me as well if something hits me unexpectedly - I start my morning (or end the evening before falling asleep) thinking about what I'm grateful for and feel into it. The good stuff in my life.

My warm bed.

A great cup of coffee.

A lovely client.

The (nice) roof over my head.

Two puppies who love me unconditionally. 

My job. 

And the moment I focus on the good thing elements and experiences I feel the gratitude, and my sense of inner peace increases immediately. Sometimes even makes me tear up...yes, I can be soppy like that. 

And last but not least...the easiest and always available "tool" when you're feeling anxious: BREATHING.

We can't remind ourselves often enough of this powerful possibility! Full breaths into your belly, slow and deep in and out - perfect for calming stress and anxiety right away. And it enables you to apply those 5 suggestions much easier. 

I guess we can all use some more resilience in a world that doesn't let us breathe and throws us from one crisis into the next. 

Life's good anyway. While we have it and when we give ourselves permission to see it as such. Even with everything going on.  

 

PS: Some people have challenged me on the topic of resilience how I see it - particularly the power of response. Saying that I would not claim that if I was in such a horrific situation such as war. I had my fair share of traumatic situations but - true, I have not experienced a war in my life. So - no, I don't know how it feels to sit in a subway tunnel and hear explosions and worse. The power of response I've learned from a man called Viktor Frankl  - a holocaust survivor who wrote the book "Man's search for meaning - a tribute to hope". A Viennese psychiatrist before the war, he observed that everything can be taken away from us except the ability to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances. If he could in that situation I told myself that I definitely can do so too. And I firmly believe it's true for everyone if we connect with our true power which is so much more than most people know.  An inspiring and thought-provoking book in case you'd like to dive deeper into this topic! 

 

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