When we are anxious or stressed, our whole system ramps up its alert mode, and we find it difficult if not impossible to relax. We respond by being busy and distracting ourselves, which is fine until we want to go to sleep, when, as soon as we put our head on the pillow – or when we wake up in the middle of the night – all the things we have tried to avoid thinking about come back to us in full force, and we don’t have the energy to stop them.
We think that if we stop being busy we will instead be faced with the things we are worrying about.
Two things here:
- It is certainly not good to ruminate on the things that are worrying – letting them go round and round in our heads without getting anywhere. This can increase our worry and make us feel even more stressed because we now have something we can’t solve but we can’t stop trying to solve either – that’s hard work!
- It is not actually helpful to ignore the worry either, because it’s like a bubble in wallpaper – it will only come back somewhere else.
But how do you deal with it without it becoming overwhelming?
You can tackle the worries head on, and rationally. But you’ve already tried that, I guess. Here are two good ways out of the worry trap that are a bit more gentle:
- Instead of concentrating on the thing you are worried about, look at the part of you inside that is doing the worrying: what does that look like? Not the worry, frustration, anger, anxiety – but the part that gets triggered into those things. Maybe a tight, tangled ball, or maybe a small worried child. Ann Wieser Cornell suggests you could try saying Hello to that part of you that is worried. If you say Hello to someone, even if you don’t know them, they will probably look back at you. If you say hello to the something in you that is worried (not to the worry but the part of you that holds it) you may find it feels better: suddenly, it’s not alone.
- Find the silence. You may be wary of silence, because you think it creates a space to let in all the things you worry about. But the silence is like deep-sea diving. The surface of the sea can be choppy, with crashing waves and floating debris, but beneath the surface, you are in calm water. You can learn to go through the place in you where you worry about various things, and into a different, deeper place where it is much more calm.
As with anything worthwhile, both of these take practice. If you think I can help, call me on
and book a session (with no further obligation) to see what you think.