Are you stuck on the Worry Train?
It’s an illusive mental locomotive that takes many of us on a captive ride during waking hours. We long to disembark, but the wheels of the Worry Train spin faster and faster – powered by an endless supply of what if fuel:
What if I lose my job?
What if I have a wreck?
What if I look foolish or stupid?
Worry pulls us out of the present moment.
What ifs are like dust balls in our minds: the longer they roll around, the more inflated they become. As mental fuel is added and the Worry Train picks up momentum, we see no way to safely step off. No way to stop worry in its tracks. Why? Likely because the Worry Train holds our focus, our attention, captive on the calamity ahead. Worry pulls us out of the present moment and whisks us away to an uncertain and unsafe place in the future. Troubling future scenarios play like movies in our minds, but we respond with varying degrees of fear, anxiety, and distress in the present. When we’re stuck on the Worry Train, our perception is narrowed and all we see are problems.
Research indicates that the Worry Train is over-inflated.
How many people have told you that you worry too much? Usually proficient worriers have relatives or close friends who tell them to “chill out” and stop worrying so much. But the advice rings hollow, because the worry seems so real. It turns out that our friends and relatives may be on to something. According to Don Joseph Goewey, 85% of what we worry about never happens! He cites research demonstrating that 79% of us handle the 15% that does happen with a surprising ability to turn things around. So clearly, worrying over-inflates potential realities. But how do we stop?
Stop the Worry Train in its tracks, or at least slow it down.
Maybe worry is your default mental pattern, and your brain is primed to worry. The good news is that you can retrain your brain and calm your worried mind. It won’t happen overnight, but you can begin the process of stepping off the Worry Train this very day. If worry takes you out of the present moment, then refocusing your attention may be your ticket into the present reality.
Here are some ideas to try to break the cycle of worry:
- Try The Clear Button exercise described by Goewey. Use your left hand and mindful breathing to interrupt the Worry Train before it builds up steam.
- Visit the Worry Depository. Write your worries in the box, click “tell”, and watch a Worry Doll absorb them. It’s an amusing way to practice letting go of worries.
- Ask yourself 3 questions: (1) What’s the worst that could happen? (2) What’s the best that could happen? (3) What’s most likely to happen? Odds are you can handle the most-likely-to-happen scenario.
To stop worry in its tracks, begin the process of taming the Worry Train. It’s a mental locomotive, and you can change your mental habits. Let your what ifs and your personal language of worry prompt a mindful response that anchors you to the present reality.
If you need more help to step off the Worry Train, counseling can help. Please contact me.