Worrying is a vicious circle. Once I step into that circle I start worrying that I am not worrying about everything that I “should” worry about. What am I forgetting? What am I missing? I worry that I am not doing enough, that I should be doing something that I don’t even know that I should be doing. But then I can’t figure out what it is that I should be doing. So that spirals me into more worry. It never ends.
Then I take a deep breath, tell myself to “chill out,” and take a personal inventory – what is it that I am really worried about? What is at the root of my worry? And is there anything that I can practically do about it now? Or, is this something that takes time to resolve, and I am going to have to accept not knowing for the time being?
More often than not, there is nothing I can practically do in the moment, and I have to learn to accept the uncertainty of a situation. I hate not knowing things. Uncertainty is so uncomfortable.
I don’t know if anyone would claim they love uncertainty. I could see where having some things unscripted could be exhilarating and freeing, but mostly, I think uncertainty is nerve-wracking. I am certain that I don’t like uncertainty. And I am also certain, that uncertainty will always be a part of life.
I am not going to list tips about how to stop worrying. A quick google search will produce thousands of results. What I will mention is acceptance. Accepting myself for worrying. Accepting myself for getting caught in vicious cycles of worry in spite of my years of psychological training. Accepting myself for getting caught up in the angst of uncertainty, despite knowing that life is full of uncertainties. Acceptance is what gets me through the worrying days.
Don’t get me wrong, despite writing about acceptance, I still get caught in anxious circles and don’t accept myself for worrying. But, some days, I can catch myself before the anxious circle leads me into an unproductive state. But even if that happens, I am learning to accept myself for being in that unproductive state.
I definitely judge and berate myself for worrying about things I know I have no control over. But judging and berating myself does nothing for me, except to make me feel more awful. And when I am worrying, the last thing I need is to feel more awful. Judging and berating myself for worrying is a reflex. It is hard to stop that reflex, breathe, and be compassionate towards myself for having thoughts that I know are not helpful. But this is a part of being a human being in process.
Acceptance of this part of myself is difficult. Honestly, I don’t like that I worry. But it is learning to accept this part of me that allowed me to transform this day, which started off in a cloud of worry into a blog post. I can guarantee that there will be more worry days, and more self-berating days. And I am also sure that there will be days that I will judge myself for judging myself. But today, I take a slow inhale and give myself permission to be wherever I am at, even if that means being in a puddle of worry.
Gratitude is a pretty popular topic in psychological and mental health circles. Gratitude experts have found striking benefits of practicing gratitude. An article posted on psychologytoday.com sites 7 benefits of gratitude: (1) Open door to more relationships, (2) Improved physical health, (3), Improved psychological health, (3) Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression, (5) better sleep, (6) Improved self-esteem, and (7) Increased mental strength. You can read the article here.
All those benefits are great. Who wouldn’t want those gains? But how do I get to the point where those benefits are noticeable or how long will it take? As I take time to write and muse about gratitude, I find myself wanting to not only “do” or list things I am grateful for to acquire the benefits of gratitude, but rather cultivate a lifestyle and spirit of gratitude first, and have the benefits be a secondary gain.
Today I am grateful for friends, opportunity, and hope. What are you grateful for?
I am not talking about the kind of dare that ends with Anne of Green Gables falling off of a ledge and twisting her ankle (If you do not know what I am referring to, you might want to watch the BBC version of Anne of Green Gables). I am talking about the kind of dare that puts you just outside of your comfort zone and forces you to expand your wingspan of life.
I have been on a journey to create my life and dare to ask of life things that I have otherwise been too shy to speak into existence. It is scary to hope and try without any guarantees about the outcome. It is way easier to be passive and let life happen, rather than take action and make life happen. I am learning to be more active and create things in my life that I dare to want.
As I have been reflecting on risks and dares, Sara Bareilles’ new song “If I Dare” came out and it fits beautifully into my reflections. It will be my new theme song for awhile. I have listened to the song over a hundred times by now, and I yearn to hold onto the boldness with which the lyrics speak.
However, as I lean into daring, I find darker parts emerging – fear, fearing that things are not possible, telling myself to stop dreaming, stop wanting, stop hoping. As I lean into risks, dares, and hope, I find fear and hopelessness standing nearby, beckoning me to keep my feet planted on the floor.
Growth and resistance. These concepts go hand in hand. As I grow, shift, and change, there is another part that resists – resists change, resists growth, thinks that wherever I am is fine just the way it is. And maybe it is fine the way it is. But I am not aiming for fine. I am aiming for more than fine, maybe even great.
So not only do I dare for growth and change, I dare to lean into growth that will inevitably dispense some resistance with it. But there is no growth without pain – it is called growing pains after all. But I refuse to let growing pains stop me from living the life I want.
Risk is scary. No, actually it is terrifying. For example, writing blog posts is risky. Will the post speak to people? Will it be helpful? Will anyone read it? Well, what is the worse thing that could happen?
I don’t know about you, but even the word “risk” elevates my anxiety. The word ‘risk,’ unassociated with any action, elevates my heart rate and leads me to take shallow breaths. Risk is terrifying.
Merriam-Webster defines risk as “the possibility of loss or injury.” No one wants to lose things or get injured. Loss and injury hurt. So it makes sense that I have a tendency to avoid risks.
But here is the thing I am slowly learning, there is another side to risk that is not often discussed - the possibility of gain.
What if, on the other side of risk is not only the possibility for loss, but the possibility of gain?
It is definitely a different way of thinking and for me, brings forth a level of excitement. But excitement and anxiety feel similarly in my body, so even thinking about the possibility of gain my breath is still shallow, and my heart is beating fast. Even though my body is reacting similarly, thinking about the possible gains of risk makes risk a little less terrifying, and even the tiniest bit more palatable. It makes the things that I want in life seem possible, and I don't know about you, but I could always use a little more hope.
It is not my default to consider that risk can result in gain. My default is to believe that risk will result in loss. I am so focused on the potential hurt, and avoiding potential hurt that I have missed out on opportunities. And as I walk into my current stage of life, I am longing for opportunities - opportunities to create the life I want. And that is going to involve risk. This might very well come with loss, or even a lot of loss, but, it also might come with gain, or even a lot of gain. No one can predict the amount of loss or gain - you, and I, just have to jump.
"What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
The present moment often fades quickly, and with an added layer of depression and/or anxiety the present moment fades all the more quickly.
A quote from Lao Tzu continues to resonate with me:
Being in the present is a difficult practice. It requires intentionality and self-compassion. Each moment is a choice, a choice to get lost in the past and/or future, to beat yourself up for getting lost in the past and/or future, or choosing to breathe into the present moment.
My hope is to get you thinking about your relationship with the present moment, and introduce one simple tool to help you be in the present moment - mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness is defined as:
Practicing mindfulness meditation has helped me decrease self-judgment for when I get lost in my past and/or future and mindfulness directs me back to the present. Even if I can only be mindful for one minute, that is one more minute in the present.
My hope for both you and me is that when we do get lost in the past and/or future (because we will) that we learn to be aware and present to the fact that we are getting lost. It is better to know we are getting lost, than to get lost while getting lost.
So check out the Resources page for links to different websites and free phone apps to get started on mindfulness meditation. Stop.Breathe.Think is one of my favorites. It has both quick and longer meditations that I can easily fit into my day.
Also, below is a short video about finding calm in the present moment. Best of luck on our respective journeys with the present moment.