How to Stop the Endless Worry Cycle
Stress. Anxiety. Panic. Unease. Concern. Whatever word best describes that endless loop of worry, know that you are not alone in the experience of it. It’s like a bad song on repeat, and it can plague us in various aspects of life – from careers and parenting to relationships and more. In this article, we’re going to look at a few strategies to stop the endless worry cycle, and make a break for that inner peace you’ve been yearning for.
Understanding the Vicious Cycle
Step one: let’s demystify what’s happening when you’re caught up in this whirlwind of worry. Our brains are pretty darn good at cooking up stories, especially when faced with uncertainty or tricky situations. And when those situations touch on things that really matter to us – like our careers, parenting, relationships – you can bet those narratives get dialed up to eleven.
And for good reason. The thing is, this cycle of worry is born when our minds are grappling with complex emotions and situations. Without the expert warning system that our central nervous system employs (*cue chronic worry*), a threat to our wellbeing might go unnoticed. We find ourselves enveloped in trouble when instead of hearing the message these flags bring and moving through it, we end up stuck in the dreaded anxiety loop.
The Inside Scoop: Internal Family Systems Perspective
To map this out a bit more, we’re going to take a page out of the Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy playbook. This lens sees our minds as a crew of different “parts” all working to protect who you are at your core; aptly named “core self” by Richard Schwartz himself. Each part has its own quirks and ways it handles what you encounter in life, like characters reacting to a well drawn out plot in a movie. And yes, that worrying part is just one of the many characters hanging out in your head.
Here’s the kicker: those worry-wart parts aren’t your enemies. They’re extremely trustworthy and hardworking messengers trying to deliver a vital message. So vital, that when you try to muzzle them or push them away, they turn up the volume to make sure you get the memo. That’s why your worries can get seriously overwhelming and feel out of control sometimes.
Listen Up: Compassion and Curiosity are Key
So, how do you break out of this cycle? Well, first, you need to lend an ear to those worrying parts – just like you would to your best friend if they showed up in need. Instead of shushing them, give them space to talk through what they need by using clarifying questions, remaining in curiosity, and reflecting back what you’re picking up.
It’s important to note that the main focus is to hear this part of you completely, and to avoid jumping in with unsolicited advice. Because just like your friend in need might respond, your worry may also see that as an indicator that you’re not actually listening. If you’re stuck on how to dial in, try these questions out and see what comes up via journaling or meditation:
“What’s this worry really trying to say?”
“How is this worry attempting to support me or protect me right now?”
Cracking the Code: Discovering the Message
Listen close when you ask these questions, because the answer might surprise you. You might uncover hidden agendas aimed to shield you from potential harm, hurt, or pain. In most cases, anxiety is an activating sensation we employ to ensure our attention and action is focused on fixing, fleeing from, or fighting off a threat to our survival and/or livelihood.
Once you’ve decoded the message, you’ll gain precious insights into what truly matters and what needs your attention. That information? That’s the secret sauce for escaping the worry cycle. Armed with this understanding, you can take practical steps to address your concerns in ways that are actually applicable to your life. Depending on the information you receive, you can build out responses that address the concern, rather than skirting around it with ill-fitting coping skills. (Ever tried to just breathe through financial or budget anxiety?!)
Pressing Forward with Confidence
Breaking free from the anxiety loop of dread doesn’t mean wiping worry out of existence – it’s about transforming it into a source of clarity and motivation. When you embrace all parts that make up who you are (and yes that includes your worrying parts!) and heed their messages, you can take purposeful actions that align with your values and goals.
This means that we’re not answering worry that crops up around budgeting/money with yoga classes and taking a few belly breaths. It means that we’re addressing it through examining the beliefs, feelings, and goals associated, and tackling a to-do list associated with the pitfalls that worry highlighted for us.
Worry-Be-Gone In a Nutshell
The worry/anxiety of doom cycle is an all-too-human experience, but it doesn’t have to be your life’s soundtrack. By listening to your worrying parts with compassion and curiosity, you can break free and use your worries as guiding lights toward a more fulfilling and balanced life.
The next time you find yourself in that whirlwind of worry, remember – it’s an invitation to listen, learn, and grow. Embrace your worrying parts, and you might just discover they hold the keys to your inner peace and well-being. So long, worry – hello, serenity!
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