The Mental Trap of Worry
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Health and Wellness

The Mental Trap of Worry

How Worry Depletes Your Life

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The Mental Trap of Worry
leah raaflaub

Years ago, while I was planning my move to Argentina, my mind was filled to the brim with questions. Where would I live? Where would I work? Could I keep my cell service? Would my bank account transfer down there?

I clearly remember explaining to my Dad how worried I was about where I would spend Christmas. Would I be alone? Would I have met people by then? Was I going to have enough money to fly back to Colorado for the holidays?

Keep in mind it was June….and I was still in Denver.

My Dad blankly stared at me…

You know what you should do about it, Leah?

I looked him in the eyes, “What? What do you think I need to do about this?

Nonchalantly, he looked right back at me… “You should worry about it…”.

I stood three, without responding for a few moments before I burst into laughter. Once again, my Dad had pulled me out of my insanity. I realized that I was, like so many other times in my life, planning 10 steps ahead, before I had even taken step one.

I’ve always been a worrier. My mind has been on overdrive since I was young, spinning endlessly, thinking about fifteen different subjects all at the very same time. I am now a 30-year-old woman, and for the first time in my life, I’m stopping to reflect on how this habit affects me. What I’m beginning to see, is that there are no benefits from this practice, in fact, it does me more harm than I even realized. I’m starting to understand that through this constant mental obsession of worrying, I gain so much heavy baggage, and lose so much beauty. Becoming aware of this in myself has made me hypersensitive to seeing it in others too, and I’ve realized that everyone engages in this, everyone worries. It comes in various shapes and sizes. People worry about different things, and although it may manifest differently or emerge differently, the bottom line is: we all worry. Even the calmest, most logical, extremely intellectual human beings I know, still get caught up in this twisted mental trap- the subject line can vary, but the practice is the same across the board. This has ignited a strong curiosity for me in the subject as to why we worry.

According to Pyschology Today “85 percent of things worriers worry about have a positive or neutral outcome.” So, 85 percent of what eats up our mind with worry ends up basically being okay….

Are the 15 percent of negative outcomes that actually do happen that awful that we burn up our remaining energy into useless worrying? This is insanity. To top it off, worrying has a multitude of nasty effects including: lack of concentration, trouble sleeping, decreased immune system, general anxiety disorder, higher susceptibility to substance abuse, depression… it makes me question why do we do this?Why do we worry?

I feel that in ancient times, worry was a response to danger, a survival mechanism, a fight or flight mode.It was a mental reaction to very logical arguments: where is my next meal going to come from? Am I going to survive this harsh winter? Will I avoid fatal illness? In these times, simply surviving life was much more difficult, and therefore the worry that consumed the average human being was based upon just that. Now that we have evolved as a species, very rarely is the flight or fight mode needed or triggered within our mind. With more time to actually enjoy life, for most people with their basic needs being met, our worrying has evolved into a useless practice.

I have recently been asking myself why I consume myself in worry so much of the time… Why do I engage in this mental depletion?Why do I worry so much?

TO AVOID

I have concluded that when I’m actively worrying, I am either in the past or in the future.I am never in the present moment when I am worrying.My mind is completely robbed from my current situation, from the now, from living. I analyze every detail of my past for a multitude of reasons.

I’m trying to avoid my now through reliving memories in my past. The mind is a crazy thing sometimes, and often, when we are in a less than perfect situation, we would rather idealize our past because it’s simply more comfortable. Another reason I get caught up worrying about the past is because I am trying to evaluate my current situation, or rather, why I am in the situation I am, and what the outcome would have been if I had done things differently. In print, this is blatantly obvious as to what a crazy waste of energy this actually is. All the mental energy in the universe cannot change the past. You are exactly where you are, and there’s no thinking your way out.

Lastly, when I’m stuck in the spinning hamster wheel re-hashing the past, it’s almost as if I am trying to rewrite it. I think that by adjusting my thoughts of the past, I can control what the future has in store. For some insane reason, my brain has been wired into incorrectly thinking mental energy poured into over analyzing my past will somehow change what’s coming.

And if you think living in the future, or worrying about it is any better, think again. When I am not engulfed in worry over my past, it’s still worry in a different form…. same monster, different mask. This type of worry lies on the opposite side of the spectrum: the future.

When I find myself worried about the future it is again, to avoid the reality of my NOW, usually through assuming a better situation is coming, a better circumstance, a better mindset.I also do this to protect myself. Yet again, my brain is incorrectly wired into thinking somehow that if I worry enough about something that I’m scared of occurring in the future that it won’t happen, or that through worrying or placing myself in this imaginary set up, I’ll be better equipped to handle it when it does happen.

I cannot stress enough how incorrect this mindset is. Worrying does not deflect anything bad that might happen to you… in any way…. whatsoever.

In fact, focusing so much on something that you are scared of having happen probably attracts it to you more than anything.It’s the whole “law of attraction” hoopla. And this “hoopla” has some validity.

Think about it, through worrying and focusing on it, all your energy is being focused in that direction. You obtain a tunnel vision, focusing in on only the bad that might occur, unable to expand your perspective and allowing positive outcomes to even play part in the picture.

As for the “protection” I often feel that it will provide me with some sort of security blanket. This also, is not true. Life is sometimes going to send you some hard blows, it’s simply a reality, and I now understand that no amount of prior worry will make it hit less hard.I ask myself, when in my life, has something bad, something unexpected come your way, to which you’ve responded: “Man, am I sure glad I worried so much about this actually happening….it really is making this situation so much easier.”I’m not sure about you, but the answer for me is clear: Never.I have never said that, ever.

When I lived in Argentina, there was a lot of uncertainty in my life, much more than I was accustomed to.I was, more often than not, preoccupied with the next step. One of my best friends Agustina would listen to me verbally spill out my worries, and time and time again she would ask me the very same thing.

“Donde estan tus pies hoy, Leah?”

Where are your feet today, Leah? I’d look at her, and respond…. “Palermo, Buenos Aires…. Argentina.”She would then follow up with another question….

“Y donde esta tu mente hoy, Leah?”

And where is your mind today, Leah?”

My mind was never where my feet were. I was disconnected from the present moment. I was depleting all my energy into the past or the future and not pouring it where it needed to be: in the now.

Don’t avoid the now in your life. Don’t get robbed of living life by living inside your head, through worrying about the past or the future.

TO COVER UP

Much of my worry stems from my emotions, or avoidance of them. The actual action itself of worrying is a band-aid that hides them. If I’m constantly spinning in my own worries, I don’t have to stop and face what I feel. If my mind is endlessly preoccupied with worrying, I don’t have to be still, to be present, ultimately… to feel anything. Except anxiety and uneasiness from worrying, which are some of the worst emotions a human can experience.

The raw truth is that many of my emotions are comprised of fear. I hate even admitting that, but truth is truth. Once I allowed myself to get outside of my own head, and actually feel what I was feeling…. I realized I am full of fear.I’m scared of so many things, and fear is the foundation that breeds worry. Fear in itself is not real, it lies to you, and one of its sneaky little lies is that you must engage in worry to overcome any struggles of yours. The mind acknowledges it is scared, and instead of facing it, it goes down the so called “easier route”, by jumping into the rat race of worry. Thinking worry will somehow formulate a solution to those fears, or protect it from them.It’s the incorrect wiring in the mind that thinks it can “think its way out of it.”

Worrying is the unnecessary added step in this process. As uncomfortable as it is sitting with these emotions, trust me, I know, sit with them. Be uncomfortable. Be with them. Even if it’s hard, I promise this will be a much more useful way to channel your energy, than worrying. Truly living is sometimes uncomfortable, but at least you will be truly living, not trapped upstairs inside of your mind.

TO CONTROL

By far, the biggest reason why I worry stems from my intense desire for control. I love thinking I have complete control over my life, it provides me with a fake sense of security.I somehow have formed the belief that if I invest enough mental energy (which comes in the form of worry) into something that is uncertain in my life, that I will grasp some form of control over it.I will understand it more, I will be able to maneuver it the way I like, I will be able to create the outcome I want. The reality is that when I live through this mindset, I have control over nothing, the obsession has control over me.

Uncertainty is not a strong point of mine. I see these ads on social media of beautiful people wandering through picturesque sunlit fields with some text in pretty font plastered over it: Let it be, or accept the unknown.

Well…. wouldn’t it be nice if we could all prance through fields witout a care in the world and completely open to every uncertain thing in our lives. I’m no statistics genius, but my guess is about two percent of the world’s population lives like these pseudo images.

I’m not trying to dog on the people that live this way, quite the opposite. I’m envious!I’m envious of people who are further along in this mental game, and have figured out that this really is the most pure way to live life, being open, and not getting caught in the mental shit storm.I just think it is much easier said than done, and it takes a lot more effort than posting up a pretty picture on Facebook. You literally have to practice these habits day in, and day out, for them to become natural.I, for one, have a lot of rewiring in my mind to undergo, lots of bad habits to break before I launch into this type of living. And I’ll do my absolute best to get there, I just know it will not come without hard work.I am undoing thirty years of how I have been accustomed to thinking, it will not happen overnight. I believe it takes practices, dedication, and repetition.

Accepting that which is not in my control is, without a doubt, one of my largest hurdles in life. When I choose not to accept whatever it is I’m fighting, which I initially do, I launch into worry.It propels me into a powerless manic stage where I am not at ease with myself or anything in my life because I am grasping at what is not mine to direct. Worry then consumes all of my energy, because I have wrongly learned that if I’m worrying about it, I’m doing something about it (which, mind you, worry is anything but actively solving an issue).Ultimately, I am not living.

Truly living is being at ease with yourself, so you can be at ease in all situations. Truly living is accepting reality, as it is, and allowing what is, be… in whatever form it takes. Owning your own personal power is being able to be fully and entirely in the present moment, free of worry, denying your mind to enter into that game that will always lose and never ever win in anything.

Accept what you cannot control.Redirect your energy from useless worrying to positive thoughts that feed into substantial action.Get out of your head, and back into your life.And make sure your mind is never too far from your feet.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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