Most people worry from time to time and often not without reason. But it helps if you can see your worrying as ‘just worrying’.
It’s very possible that you have a real issue about which you worry. If this is so then you probably would find it very annoying to be told ‘don’t worry’ or ‘everything will be fine’, particularly by someone who doesn’t understand the issue.
Mindfulness can help you to relieve your worrying. It does not say not to worry and it does not promise to solve the problem that lies at the heart of the worry. Neither does it say to avoid whatever may the source of the worry.
You may be new to mindfulness. If so, have a look at this post which provides an introduction to mindfulness.
Mindfulness will help you to control your worry while you find a solution. This involves seeing that worrying is just that – it’s just worrying, nothing more.
The “Just Worrying” Labelling Technique
Even if you are new to mindfulness you can use this technique. Before starting, you may find it helpful to see the difference between worrying and constructive problem solving.
Worrying involves repetitive circular thinking, which is associated with anxiety and produces no useful results or solutions.
In contrast, problem solving involves applying logical and/or creative processes to move you closer to a solution.
This ‘labelling’ technique simply involves you labelling worry as “just worrying” and then bringing your attention back to your breath or some other learned technique that will help you to change the subject of your thinking.
Notice an important issue: the aim is not to avoid worrying but to make space for you to focus your mind on actually finding a solution by breaking the circular thinking associated with worrying.
It’s not going to work immediately. However, every time you catch yourself worrying just label it again for what it is and change the subject. It doesn’t matter if you do it 10 times in one minute or if you only realize you have been worrying after a long period of time and then apply the technique.
This is not Avoidance
The important thing is that you apply the technique when you realize you are worrying. As with other aspects of mindfulness, this involves no self-criticism or internal struggle, just simple non-judgemental labelling.
You are not saying ‘worrying is bad so I don’t do it’. This means it is important that you do not change the label you apply from “just worrying” to “don’t worry”. You are not trying to force yourself not to worry but to enable your mind to manage whatever the source of the problem may be. After all, you may have a serious issue about which you are worried and that needs your attention.
Just worrying builds on the underlying problem to multiply its consequences for your peace of mind while preventing you from finding the peace and space of mind the start to constrict a solution. This is what we ant to change.
Many people find that this technique is a surprising powerful way to manage worry. Indeed, many find that their worrying thoughts dissipate almost totally within a few days.
If this happens, you may find yourself back worrying again a week or so later. This will be because you have simply forgotten about the technique through lack of need to use it. When that happens you need to repeat the exercise.
With practice you will find that a reminder of the technique will be enough to bring the worry under your control.
Using this technique is significantly different to avoidance. You are not running away from problems. You are not even avoiding worrying.
Quite the opposite. You are deliberately recognizing worrying and bringing it to the forefront of your mind in order to see it for what it is.
It is not running away from reality. Rather this is non-judgemental labelling which is encapsulated in the word “just”. You will see worrying as just worrying.