Worry, a form of anxiety, is a real drain on our rational thinking ability. Since it is common knowledge that most of the things we worry about never happen, why does worry take up so much of people’s time and energy? ….And what can be done about it?
Apprehension about something creates a neurological loop that steers us away from our analytical thinking ability. Worry is sustained by a ratcheting up and down of brain chemicals that can become an habitual, mind-altering pattern. Some people have shared with me that once they get into a “worry loop”, they will go round and round inside their heads until the worry recedes on its own. How exhausting!
A great way to diminish the tenacity of the worry loop is through brainstorming the problem. This approach gets our neurons to start firing in the left part of our cerebral cortex and in so doing, diverts mental attention away from the worry loop.
Brainstorming is simple and can be done solo or with others. Make a list of all possible solutions to the defined problem. Do not evaluate the options; just list them. Some of the options may even sound ridiculous at first. No matter; add them to the list. After you have listed every possible option you can think of, go back and begin to evaluate each one until you find the one you can live with moving forward.
Here’s an example. Mary was freaked out by hearing through the grapevine that her company was planning to lay off a group of employees due to the poor economy. After three sleepless nights she consulted with a coach regarding the issue. Together, they decided a brainstorm session would clear her mind. They listed a bunch of options regarding how she would handle being laid off:
- Apply for a job at a company she really liked
- Move to a new state where jobs were plentiful
- Take a world cruise
- Go back to school and get teaching certification
- Take a part-time job as a server so she could go to school or look for work during the day
- Start her own business
- Take a loan from her parents until she got back on her feet
- Volunteer for a high-profile organization to where she could network and gain visibility
Then Mary went back and evaluated her stated options. She immediately eliminated #2, #3 and #7. While she could live with all the other possibilities, she finished her brainstorm session with deciding on a combination of #1 and #5 as her best bet.
Mary slept like a log that night and never ended up being laid off. But in the event that happened, she had a plan. That plan greatly reduced her tendency to worry.
If you are in a position where people bring their worries to you for help, this is a great strategy to help them lessen their anxieties. Teach them to brainstorm. It will help them learn to control their own thinking and it will make your job much more satisfying.