Okay. What’s on my schedule? Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong today. My day is gonna suck. I know I’ll be stuck in traffic. My dentist appointment will reveal a whole new set of issues and costs, and oh, ya, that meeting with my boss. No doubt she’ll ream me a new one. Can’t let my guard down for a second.
That was me. We all worry some, but I was spending more time in that place than I wanted or had to be. I was convinced that the worse case scenarios in my head were the way things truly were. I assumed that everything that could go wrong, would go wrong.
That assumption, unchecked, led to my living in a perpetual state of flight or fright. My body was unable to differentiate between something that was a real danger and something that wasn’t a threat. Instead of understanding that the fear was fueled by my assumption, I believed that I had to keep my “periscope” up, looking for all the worrisome things I had to fight off that I knew were heading my way. It was as if worrying about them could somehow help ward them off.
I finally learned that even though my body was screaming that message at me, volume does not equal truth. I had to remember that no matter how strong the feeling was, it didn’t reflect reality, it reflected an assumption. An assumption filled with errors in logic, like stretching the truth by using the word “everything”, and assuming I knew the future and could really predict that everything would for sure go wrong.
Our assumptions lead quickly and automatically to our feelings. In order to explore our assumptions, it’s helpful to first pay attention to our bodies to acknowledge those feelings. We can look for signs of stress in our bodies, such as muscle tightness, stomach issues, headaches and faster breathing. We can then explore what we might have been assuming prior to these feelings, and change the assumption to align more with the facts.
We can edit the assumption by moving from all or nothing thinking to being able to see shades of gray. We can edit assumptions like “everything that can go wrong will go wrong”, changing “everything” to a more realistic “some” things, and “will” to “might”. Starting with a belief that some things might go wrong leaves more room for other possibilities, such as some things going fine or even wonderfully.
It is helpful if we remind ourselves of this new belief on a regular basis in order to counteract a previous assumption that has become wired in as a habit. I start the day listening to “Three Little Birds”, otherwise known as “Don’t Worry about a Thing”. It is helpful to pause and remind ourselves of this before being involved in situations that used to lead to stress.
It’s also helpful to mindfully notice we were worrying about something in the middle of doing so, pause and remind ourselves of the facts, and release the concern. There are tools that support this, such as taking a slow breath by using a full count of four, and exhaling on a full count of four. We can add imagery, such as imagining we are breathing in calm and breathing out worry. It is also helpful to pay attention to and gather evidence of all the times we have worried about a worse-case scenario that didn’t happen, fighting illogic with logic.