By Tracy Bove-Dias
That story. The darn story that keeps building in your head. It started as a gut feeling or a comment. And continued to grow into a huge issue. You can’t stop thinking about it. Your mind races incessantly – with the same thoughts swirling around. Especially at night, as you lay in bed trying to sleep. And then, magically, a day, week or months later, you uncover that “issue” was never real. It was a story, that your mind created, not based on facts, but on a small notion. You wasted countless hours, sleepless nights, with your heart racing and disastrous scenarios playing out in your mind. Only to realize, none of it was plausible. Not one bit.
This is a common scenario for many of us – as parents, husbands, wives, professionals, friends. I’m sure you’ve looked back plenty of times and asked yourself – why did I worry so much? Why did I allow my precious time spent worrying, when I could have been doing something fun, positive, productive? Then – the vicious cycle happens again.
Well – it’s human nature. We worry. We are the creators of our own “fake news”. We take something minor and build it up to be the most monumentally destructive scenario. Our minds work that way. It’s “safe” to assume the worst. It’s driven by fear. We are not built to automatically leap to assume the best. Fight or flight. You can thank our cavemen ancestors.
So what can you do? No one wants to spend hours, days, months in this cycle of worry. Not only is it a time waster, the damage you do to your health (physically and mentally) is simply not worth it.
While I still find myself falling into this trap, I’m far better at how I handle it now, than I was 5 years ago.
Here’s what I do:
1)Recognize it. Let’s be honest – you know when you’re in that spiral. When you obsess over a thought. As soon as you see it happening, stop, call it out. “Hey, I’m doing that thing when I obsess”.
2)What are the facts? Lay out every single fact driving those thoughts. This gives you time to slow down your mind. And – it helps you truly see if there’s any basis for your spiral.
3)Reverse it. Seriously. Play it out in your mind in the most positive way. Unwind the negativity. Your “what if’s” should be based on this story ending positively. And every time the negative spiral happens, catch it, and replay it positively.
There’s a lot of science behind why our mind does this to us. Our minds are powerful. But there’s also a lot of truth to us being able to control our minds – if we are intentional about wanting to take back control.