There is an interesting proverb that pertains to anxiety and worries; Níl aon ghá le heagla roimh neart na gaoithe má tá do chuid choca féir ceangailte síos – There’s no need to fear an ill wind if your haystacks are tied down. It reminds us that there is no need to fret if we are prepared. It is a call to get organized, be proficient, trust the competency of our skills – apply some skill. Tie the haystack down and with it secure yourself from bothersome thoughts and fears.
The thing is, uncertainty fuels anxiety, certainty fuels composure. By all means check the ropes twice, but once you have verified that all is in order there is no need to start pondering disorder. Have some faith in the knotwork. Put aside unnecessary worry.
The other thing is that there are two types of worry – real and hypothetical. Real are those that are affecting you in real time or are imminent; that bill, this social pressure, that dangerous road, this exam etc. Hypothetical are the ones that are not unfolding now or are not about to occur very soon, but are those that your assumptions or opinions are theorising may happen – may happen at some future point or maybe not even at all – the ‘what ifs’ not the ‘what now’. What if I lose my job, what if I fail my next exam, what if I get mugged, what if it all goes terribly wrong, what if the sky falls in.
The great thing about real problems is that they can be addressed or overcome, you can solve the problem or endure and get past it. Real worries can be tackled in real time. Imagined worries are more difficult to grasp. There are all up in the air. So, it is all about setting some perspective – discerning the real and thus flaggable as ‘action required’, from the predictive and not truly of immediate concern. Taking the time to sort what’s a real problem and what am I just dreaming up is a way to not only time manage your concerns but gain your life back.
Sure there are scary ‘what ifs’ that could occur but most of them turn out to be no shows – why waste so much energy on them. Keep your strength to tie down immediate concerns. And yes, there may be Christmas coming and you are worried about affording it, or having to attend an office party or even a family reunion and you may have to give it some consideration, but that’s considerate thought not sheer panic and consternation. Also, maybe Easter is not the time to start giving it consideration.
Perspective means appropriate consideration, no need to over tax your attention – especially if it’s a ‘what if’, if it is so far down the line that it may never happen at all. Especially if the threat is negated by judicious action. A well tied haystack won’t succumb to a momentary ill wind.
Exercise. Worry postponement
Worry can be all consuming, it is easy for your thoughts and fear to get out of control. The way to tie it down is to take control, reframe it from time consuming to a time constrained event. Setting aside a time of day or evening to focus on your worries, gives you manageability over the rest of your life. You are not ignoring or avoiding your woes during the rest of your day, you are simply postponing them to a more appropriate time to be reasoned, rationed or clove-hitched.
By setting yourself a ‘Worry time’ you can confine panic or pressure to a short period of your day rather than all through it and then you can have in this dedicated period, total focus on tackling or understanding your worries. Time to explore where they came from, if they need urgent attention or are hypothetical. You can make to do lists or journal feelings. You can make plans of action or see where no further action is required. You can track your progress and spy repeat patterns – both the successes and the failures – all will help you learn your nature and the nature of what is bothering you.
Worry time is not berserker time, it is not a time to indulge the act of worrying and run wild with it, it is a time to give to your worries in order to order them and take control. You may notice that these worries that arose earlier seem less significant or pressing now – that’s good. You may discover that the time elapsed has taken the sting or kneejerk tension out of them, postponement and patience has paid off here, we didn’t need to go there after all. Then with those that still bite even hours later, they can be noted as urgent and you can start to workout solutions or strategies. We have the time now to go there with appropriate responses and rational and not brutal reactivity or overwhelming distress.
Decide when best to have a worry time and how long it will be for. It might be every evening at 7.30, for 15mins or even an hour. Any worry that arise in the day outside of this time zone can be parked until that allotted period. Common sense applies – if it’s an immediate concern such as burst pipe or a real-life threat then tackle there and then, dial the plumber or the police, don’t be stilted or resort to overthinking, you can address the feelings and repercussions, the what if and why me, later in the worry time.
In order to postpone thinking about a problem until worry time you can simply see it for what it is, label it – I am concerned about my health, I worry about what’s happening in the news, my mode of transport badly needs a service, that comment disturbed me, etc. This way you have acknowledged that it has arisen and tabled it for tonight’s agenda. If it is sticking or arising persistently, you can actually table it in a worry notebook, acknowledge that you will address it later and then redirect your attention to the present realities – use your breath control or your senses to find the now. Get on with your day.