Most of us know the parables about looking back on a long life. An elderly person or someone on their deathbed is asked about regrets. Invariably, each person wishes they had worried less and lived less burdened.
Yet, when the story’s done, we keep worrying.
It’s even become cliché to talk about how few of our worries ever come true. Ironically, this cycle may promote more worry. We worry. Nothing happens. Our brain may wire itself to believe that worrying prevented the crisis.
We may tell ourselves that worrying keeps us prepared or shows others that we care. Some of us may see it as a form of motivation. There are plenty of worry stories but we tend to ignore the ones about worry making us sick. Too much worry can cause:
- Physical issues like ulcers, poor digestion, hives, high blood pressure, and more.
- Emotional issues like anxiety, depression, etc.
But since worry is inevitable, we’re left in a bind. We must find healthy ways to channel it or it will overwhelm us.
It’s time to rewire your brain
Our brains evolved to keep us safe and alive. Thus, it’s no surprise that worry comes naturally. Healthy worry, of course, is not the issue. But try telling that to your brain. It evolved in the Stone Age. Now, we’re navigating the Space Age. This means attempts to “rewire” your brain are tricky. Tricky, but definitely not impossible.
With diligence and focus and maybe a little guidance, you can change our emotional default setting.
5 Ways You Can “Rewire” Your Brain to a Healthy Default Setting
1. Learn acceptance
We are wired to worry. Therefore, we will worry. Step one is acceptance of this fact. A good start is to wire your brain to not automatically fear worry. In addition, try to accept that perfection is not the goal. A healthy default setting must involve less perfectionism and more acceptance.
2. Find balance
Embrace worry when it’s needed. Stave it off when it’s not. Easier said than done, but again, it’s not about being perfect. Worry can save your life. Worry can hurt your life. The balance you strike makes all the difference in the world.
3. Practice mindfulness
Worry rarely involves the present moment. Being mindful changes our mindset. It detaches us from past regrets. It removes the focus on future concerns. Inevitably, this means less worry and more in-the-moment focus. The more we practice mindfulness, the healthier our default setting will be.
4. Recognize patterns
There’s a rhythm to all this. It may feel like worry just sneaks up on us. In reality, we can train ourselves recognize its approach. It may be physical signs like sweating, shaky voice, or a nervous stomach. The signs might be more mental, e.g. edginess, agitation, or loss of concentration. If we learn the early symptoms, we can put the brakes on a full-blown anxiety or panic.
5. Solve problems
If you have situations that cause you to worry, address those situations. If you have a problem that can be solved, make it happen. This will have a doubly positive effect. You have fewer problems. You have less worry.
We may joke about worrying, but it’s no laughing matter. Often, it’s a matter that requires guidance. Have you’ve tried all or many of the suggestions above? If so, and if you don’t see change, your best option may involve counseling. Your therapist is trained to guide you and manage your worries. One-on-one sessions could provide with the tools to rewire your brain. Creating a healthy default setting will leave you with fewer regrets about time and energy lost to worrying.