Change your mind

Five ways you can banish anx­ious think­ing

The Observer - - LIFE HEALTHY LIVING - MUFFY CHURCHES

WHY do we spend such a crazy amount of time wor­ry­ing about things? Small things, big things, imag­ined things, any­thing? If our anx­i­ety paid div­i­dends, fine, but in most cases it only serves to heighten stress lev­els, and di­lute our con­fi­dence, courage and per­for­mance qual­ity.

Some worry of course, is re­al­is­tic and use­ful, but the ma­jor­ity of our anx­ious thoughts cre­ate wasted ner­vous en­ergy that’s based on long honed habits of neg­a­tive think­ing – on hy­po­thet­i­cal, un­re­al­is­tic what­ifs, and they can nip away at our ‘joie de vivre’ on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Is it pos­si­ble to tame such deeply pro­grammed thought pat­terns? Yes, ab­so­lutely! Our wish is our brain’s com­mand.

Grey mat­ter has the ca­pac­ity to learn and adapt to change so if we cre­ate a fresh way to think, and per­sist at re­peat­ing this new mind­set over time, fresh neu­ral path­ways will be built and the old will fall away from dis­use.

With in­ten­tion and per­seve- rance we can, lit­er­ally, change our mind.

Here are five ef­fec­tive ways to trans­form your ap­pre­hen­sion, whether re­al­is­tic or not, into per­sonal em­pow­er­ment, ac­tion, and pos­i­tiv­ity.

1. Know the dif­fer­ence

Worry is worry, and never feels good, but let’s sep­a­rate it into two buck­ets to pre­pare for two dif­fer­ent so­lu­tions: 1) Anx­i­ety that is re­al­is­tic. “I’m so stressed. I have a big job in­ter­view today”, and 2) Anx­i­ety that is un­re­al­is­tic or we could say ‘con­di­tioned’. “They won’t pick me for this job – why would I be any bet­ter than any of the other ap­pli­cants?”

2. Iden­tify and sep­a­rate

Sift through your world of thought pat­terns and scan your week for per­sonal or pro­fes­sional mo­ments that are less than com­fort­able. What is caus­ing you stress and cre­at­ing wor­ri­some think­ing? Try not to fil­ter what you no­tice by judg­ing it as em­bar­rass­ing, petty or silly. All our wor­ries are in­di­vid­ual vari­a­tions on com­mon themes, and are to­tally nor­mal. Make a list and la­bel each one as ei­ther ‘re­al­is­tic’ or ‘con­di­tioned’.

3. Strate­gi­cally man­age the ‘re­al­is­tic’ ones

It’s nat­u­ral for us to feel anx­ious when an out­come is im­por­tant. “I’m so stressed, I have a big job in­ter­view today”. This thought is def­i­nitely ‘re­al­is­tic’, but ex­presses worry as op­posed to con­fi­dence, so let’s re­for­mat the thought pat­tern and ex­tended be­hav­iour to cre­ate a more pos­i­tive, prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence.

Lever­age your stress and use the en­ergy in­stead to pre­pare for the very thing you’re con­cerned about, get­ting the job. Get busy do­ing things that will in­crease your chances of suc­ceed­ing at the in­ter­view. For ex­am­ple, ex­plore your strengths and why you’d be an as­set to the role, check the ad­dress and trans­port sched­ule and research the or­gan­i­sa­tion so you walk into the in­ter­view in­formed.

Al­ter your think­ing from anx­ious­ness, to pos­i­tiv­ity and ex­cite­ment. “I can’t wait to get to the job in­ter­view today. I re­ally feel that I’m the right per­son for the job and I’m look­ing for­ward to bring­ing my ex­pe­ri­ence to the role.” Es­sen­tially change your anx­i­ety to en­thu­si­asm. Re­peat the new pro­duc­tive thoughts over and over to over­ride the old, strongly pro­grammed, fear­ful in­ner voice. Fak­ing it till you make it not only counts, it works!

4. Shift the ‘con­di­tioned’ ones

“They won’t pick me for this job, why would I be any bet­ter than any of the other ap­pli­cants?” This mind­set ex­presses un­re­al­is­tic feel­ings of con­cern about be­ing un­wor­thy and un­de­serv­ing even though, of course, it’s not true.

Shift the thought to some­thing pos­i­tive, con­struc­tive, and re­al­is­tic. “I’m bright, ca­pa­ble and ex­tremely ex­pe­ri­enced. With my back­ground I’m a great can­di­date for this role. If by chance I’m not their fi­nal choice it’s not the end of the world.”

Re­peat your new think­ing like a bro­ken record. You’ll need to undo long-term con­di­tion­ing and the rep­e­ti­tion works to build new neu­ral path­ways in the brain. It takes time and per­se­ver­ance but it will work.

5. Stay on pa­trol

Con­sider this to be a long-term project. Our anx­ious thoughts are em­bed­ded in the strangest places, unique to each one of us. Shift­ing away from old pro­grammed wor­ries and to­ward a new con­fi­dent and em­pow­ered mind­set takes com­mit­ment and de­ter­mi­na­tion but will def­i­nitely open the door to more emo­tional free­dom and fun … you’ll be laugh­ing.

Muffy Churches is the au­thor of Coach Your­self, and is an in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned in­te­gra­tive suc­cess coach. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.muffy­churches.com.

PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

NO WOR­RIES: Shift­ing away from old pro­grammed wor­ries and to­ward a new con­fi­dent and em­pow­ered mind­set takes com­mit­ment and de­ter­mi­na­tion.

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