I am a non-worrier, anti-fretter, don’t-get-worked-up about it girl. Apparently, I am a bit of an anomaly. Most people find themselves on the worry, fret, worked-up unending train ride. Surprisingly in the past month, I have been consumed by fret, worry, and anxiety. Every day I’m desperate to unplug from the incessant agonizing, but I can’t seem to find the release valve. It’s shocking to me what a downward spiral this ride can become.
As I forced myself to turn and look this crazy train square in the face, I discovered uncertainty was triggering my panic. According to researchers, uncertainty increases our anxiety more than certainty of a negative outcome. What? I’d rather know it’s going to turn out badly than not know if it will turn out to be good? How outrageous! Uncertainty leaves us feeling vulnerable. Vulnerability is something we avoid like the plague. I was in the middle of monstrous uncertainty.
Acknowledge you Bought a Ticket on this Ride
My first best step: stop fighting it. I had to admit this appalling uncertainty and terrible ambiguity had me overwhelmed with anxiety. Acknowledging and confessing the triggers and emotions made it feel more tangible, less unclear. This was a start to releasing a little bit of space in my brain — space previously consumed by all the worry. This tiny opening of brain space means a little sliver of sunlight made it into the dark, damp, scary place bringing me new capacity to think. With this sliver of brain bandwidth, shifting my focus became my new focus. Easier said, than done. This required two intentional actions on my part. First, identify my hope, desire, goal; second, reframe how I experience uncertainty.
Remind yourself of the Final Destination
First, what is my hope, desire, goal. This thing that feels all-consuming at it’s core, what do I really want out of it? Digging to the deeper purpose gets me in touch with the significant outcome I’m expecting. In my case, seeing the impact, the changed lives, the empowerment resulting from this specific event took my eyes off the difficult logistics of the event. I was absolutely certain of the mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, community benefits but uncertain about the financial impact. The finances had twisted me into a worried frenzy but when I put my focus on the transcendent results, the financial worry quieted enough for me to find creative solutions. Remind yourself of the final destination in order to find the brain space to think beyond the uncertainty.
Reframe the Uncertainty of the Journey
Second, while reminding myself of the final destination — the true benefit of where I was headed — was a game changer, it didn’t fully eradicate my worries. I still found my mind wondering back to the uncertainties. Uncertainty was the trigger setting my run-away train in motion. Do I really need certainty? Isn’t most of life lived in uncertainty? When we walk across the street, drive down the road, eat at the neighborhood bistro, there is always some level of uncertainty. Perhaps it’s time to challenge the notion I need certainty. What are the advantages of certainty? What are the disadvantages? If I accept uncertainty as the adventurous part of the journey, would I experience it differently?
I was using worry as a tool — a tool to shape the future and avoid nasty surprises. Worry makes us think we have some kind of control. Maybe if I agonize long enough I’ll be able to affect the outcome. It’s laughable when we see it in print. But it’s truly the mindset behind our worry. Obviously, worry has not given us some magical control but it has robbed us of many things — joy, energy, sleep.
Today is a great day to unplug from worry. What steps will you take to unplug?