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I am the type of person that tends to want to figure everything out all at once. A challenge comes along and before I put myself out there to face it, I spend an agonizing amount of time assessing, planning and worrying about the outcomes that may or may not come to pass.
My husband Manny will often look at me and ask why on earth I am thinking so far ahead or considering options that are totally out of my control.
We should back up a bit and say that this habit has been paralyzing for me in the past. It has affected my confidence, well-being and productivity. Even sharing this here is scary and leaves me feeling quite vulnerable; however, every week I receive emails and notes about the aspects of your life that you have changed after reading my musings about living a more peaceful, balanced and happy life, so it is worth sharing.
Over the past few years there have been a number of valuable tools I have come across that have helped me to take control of my future-worrying-past-dwelling tendencies.
Healing myself from a Type A, perfectionist existence to a more relaxed, go with the flow, stop and smell the roses person is still a huge work in progress, but here are some of the life changing mindset shifts I have made to choose happiness.
At the end of the day, your experience in life affects one person the most – YOU. Creating drama, overwhelm and negative mental chatter only worsens the chances of you enjoying life and its many joys. I think I spent so many years very locked in my own head worrying about what other people thought about me and what sort of disaster was around the corner that I grew exhausted of living this way.
As Dr. Natasha Turner says, everything we say, think and feel affects our body chemistry. It is no wonder I had challenges losing weight when my thought patterns were littered with worry.
The ability to leave the past behind you and to avoid planning out every aspect of your future is tough! What can be so paralyzing about the past is the meaning we place on the events in our life. We can make a divorce mean failure, and an embarrassing event can mean were are incapable. Instead of letting your past dictate your future, leave it where it belongs and move forward with a clean slate.
When we work on staying present in the current moment we not only let go of expectation, we also help to balance our brain chemistry. By focusing on one thought at a time, we increase the amount of serotonin (our happy neurotransmitter) released by our brain compared to when we try to multi-task.
The best ways to stay present include focusing on the experiences provided by our senses. Focusing on what we hear, see, smell or simply the sensation of our breath helps to block out mulling over the past or stressing about the future.
This powerful tool works for everything from managing impulsive cravings for sweets to dealing with emotional outbursts. In her book The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal describes this tool as the ability for our body to use the self-control centre of the brain to our advantage. “By keeping you from immediately following your impulses, the pause-and-plan response gives you more flexible, thoughtful action.”
You can use this any time you feel triggered by your environment. Spend a second becoming aware of the cookies in the office kitchen or the hurtful words from a family member and choose not to act. This is not about suppressing emotion, it is about experiencing it and then making a different choice of action rather than following impulses.
When we have more tools to deal with food and mental challenges, we build our confidence to excel in these often anxiety-inducing situations.
This past January I attended a fitness retreat in Santa Monica, California with a group of 30 women just like me, fitness professionals passionate about learning and creating a fulfilling life experience. It was called the Radiance Retreat.
On the first day of the retreat, we learned the ins and outs of creating an online presence and fitness business. My coach Jill Coleman was leading a session in which she said “If you want to create an online presence, be prepared to take massive action and create more content than you ever have.”
To this day, no matter what – staying in action is the best tool I have to improve my confidence and prevent worry. Fear halts action and perpetuates worry. For me, getting up and doing one thing whether it is a challenging workout, a vulnerable blog post (!) or simply showing up authentically gives me the power to stay positive.
If you tend to worry and feel like this habit keeps you stuck, try practicing some of the tools from above. Remember, change is often two steps forward and one step back so keep progress not perfection as your goal.