Get out of the stew!
One of the greatest honors I receive is when I am asked to hold private workshops for groups of friends or families. My appreciation stems from the fact that individuals are entrusting me with their most valuable, non-renewable resource – time! And just as with an investor or financial advisor, they have confidence that I have the skills to spend it wisely. Perhaps they are seeking knowledge, or a solution, or are hoping to uncover how they keep themselves smaller than they were created to be. Regardless, when a few of the 24 precious hours in a day are allotted to be spent with me I am honored.
Today was no exception. I was invited to do a workshop about connecting with authentic passion and purpose with 5 exceptional women at a private residence. I prepared the framework for our time carefully, selecting activities and themes that might serve them well in their self-discovery. And as so often happens, right out of the gate, the presenting theme that was revealed wasn’t about passion and purpose. The core theme for each of the participants was about “worrying”.
With perfect timing the Universe served up what I too most need to explore. Worrying is a big topic in my life. I consider myself a recovering worrier from a long line of expert worriers. Worrying was highly valued in my family of origin. My father was a die-hard worrier. He called it “stewing” which probably originates from the phrase “stewing in your own juices”. I love that when I think about it now, because worrying is quite literally taking a deep dive into one’s own juices of fear, angst and future tripping. And like a good stew, it is a long, slow simmer. Worrying is about using your imagination to create scenarios that haven’t happened yet, and quite possibly never will, and turn them over and over in your brain. In my family worrying appeared to be very important work. As a child I learned that the more I worried, the more positive reinforcement I received. I gained a reputation for “caring” so much through worry; I’d bring on a headache.
One of the women in the workshop said something that really struck home for me. She said that she really wanted to stop worrying because she was teaching her children to be worriers. I remember when my daughters were young and their dad would say to them, “You know your mother. She is such a worrier”. In preparation for what should have been a fun event, such as a family party or outing, I would be all worked up about the craziest things. “What if we don’t find parking?” What if we’re late?” “What if we run out of food?” What if…..?”My worry was fixated on things beyond my control that had a low probability of actually occurring. Yet I’d worry religiously, as if the act of worrying would change the outcome. And yes, I passed that trait onto at least one daughter – just like my parents passed it on to me.
The workshop became focused on how to let go of worrying. Not how to stop it, because what we resist persists, but how to begin to see worrying as having no real value. Together we explored how spending time worrying is forfeiting our presence in this moment, which is time we never regain. Worry is a thief that steals our full participation in life that is happening now, and robs those who matter most – family, friends, partners, pets – of our love and attention.
I know from their reflections at the end of the workshop that each woman left with some new beliefs and insight around how worrying does or does not serve her. Our time together was short so my hope is that they had their curiosity peaked about taking steps to reduce worry. A few years ago my awareness of the detriments of chronic worrying inspired me to take action to change my pattern.
Here is how I made the change:
- I worked with a coach who spotlighted the unproductive behavior and challenged my thinking errors around the value of worrying. She helped me to see how much time I spent in the “stew”.
- I renamed worrying “future tripping” (a term I heard from a friend), which resonated with me. Future tripping is intentionally taking a trip out of this present moment.
- I learned techniques for anchoring myself in the present, including meditation, and affirming that in this moment I am safe, I have what I need and I’m surrounded by love.
- I began to understand brain-based research and that my mind can’t possibly worry and be in gratitude simultaneously – so when I feel myself start to worry I say “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you” and the worries exit stage right because there is no place for them to live.
- I breathe (didn’t see that coming did you?) Oxygen calms me, resets my balance, and mitigates the physical symptoms caused by my triggers (fast heart rate, sweaty palms, light headedness).
And, one of the most important things I’ve done is share with my daughters my regret for modeling chronic worry. I didn’t know better and I didn’t understand that worrying is a choice. And choosing not to worry is also a choice. I choose not to worry. It doesn’t mean that I don’t slip into it sometimes, but I go back to my strategies and let go of spending time on things that probably won’t even happen. Instead I remember to be present for what is happening now.
Here’s to hoping you find your way out of the stew. The present moments we are allotted are far too valuable and beautiful to spend anywhere else than right here, right now!
To learn more about booking a private session, call me at 978-614-5405 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.