The Worry Flood!
What on earth am I going on about? Worry is a part of human nature and is a shared experience. However the way everyone experiences worry is another thing…
I know this idea of a Worry Flood might sound strange, but bear with me and I think you’ll see what I mean…well, I hope so! I can only describe it in ‘technical’ terms as a weird VaVoom drop and then the rush of worry that floods you from head to toe!
More simply, this is that feeling in the pit of your stomach before your heart races! The sickening sinking feeling that joins in can last seconds or days. I imagine there aren’t many people that haven’t experienced it at least once in their lives
The extent of worrying for you and me
Unfortunately some of us (*raising hand awkwardly even though no one’s home) worry to such extent that it can cause debilitating anxiety or even panic attacks. This is when worry has gone from flood to tsunami and your techniques stop working.
You might be in a very similar situation to me, but because of all sorts of factors, you may be able to brush off that Va-voom feeling quickly. Then take a deep breath to reboot, gain your composure and can carry on with what you were doing.
However, when I forget to check myself, worry quickly swirls into a whirlwind. Guilt, doubt and fear enclose me and I get caught in the eye of the storm; in panic mode until the dust settles. This happens less and less as I’ve had help from experts.
I’m not an expert, so if you feel like this, please seek medical advice.
Worry is experienced to varying extents but everyone shares that initial adrenaline rush. That heart quickening and stomach sinking feeling, is a common experience, but there are vast differences in how you and I then react. The extent of one person’s worry is almost impossible to comprehend.
How does worry affect you? Are you a worry wort or chronically concerned? And why the heck does worry exist? First, the science geeky stuff behind what you and I feel and experience.
Why does worry exist?
Life is full of uncertainty and this is what drives solutions and new ways to look at things. You can only prepare so much for things that are going to happen, at some point. When you can prepare, you’re able to take back some control of the situation.
And that’s the key point: Control!
You only have control of what is happening to you now! You can’t control what has happened; good or bad. But you can learn from your mistakes and successes to shape your future decision making so even without full control, you forge your path.
Having a lack of control over the future is often that pivotal moment when apprehension turns into worry. You can only solve possible future problems to a certain point, before you literally can’t prepare anymore.
You might start trying to predict every eventuality; asking ‘what if’s’ and going over and over problems. All of that is going to dredge that worry monster up – I’ve been there!
How to react to feeling flooded with worry
If you’re still here then I’m guessing it’s pretty likely that you’re a worrier. Hopefully you’ve learnt how to handle worry so you can avoid destruction. It’s vital that you do build these strategies up so that Worry doesn’t stop you living your best life.
I’ll throw you some life lines a little further down the page, so stick with me a bit longer and learn the skills I’ve built for the least disturbance in my life.
But first the sciencey geeky stuff!
a) You put up barriers, like sand bags, doing all you can to avoid failure. You avoid any vulnerability, that you are never budging from that comfort zone. You’ll miss out on learning about your potential and becoming a stronger person. You stop living!
b) You’ve built defences so you don’t have to worry about anyone or anything. You see where the day takes you. Not the best long term plan, but I get it, you’re protecting yourself. You could end up living a very lonely life though.
c) You let the water freeze around you, creating a protective bubble. When you start to feel uncomfortable, you give up and take the easy option! You’ll forget what the world has to offer to you.
I’ve just described 3 examples of The Stress response: fight, flight or freeze. All primal examples of how animals respond to fear. I’ve explained The Stress Response in this blog: How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes
I also wanted to share this article by James Clear about The Evolution of Anxiety. James is an author and photographer who shares the latest scientific research about human habits and potential.
A giraffe makes immediate choices such as: “When you are hungry, you walk over and munch on a tree. When a storm rolls across the plains, you take shelter under the brush. When you spot a lion stalking you and your friends, you run away.”
“[M]ost of your choices as a giraffe (…) make an immediate impact on your life. You are constantly focused on the present or the very near future.”
Animals live in a state scientists call an immediate-return environment. However, as we’ve evolved we’ve lost that immediate reward of food, shelter or safety.
“Most of the choices you make today will not benefit you immediately. (..) [E.g.] If you save money now, you’ll have enough for retirement. (..) [The things we] worry about are problems of the future.”
Humans live in a Delayed Return Environment. “[This can] lead to chronic stress and anxiety,(…) because your brain wasn’t designed to [work in this environment]”
Why do you need to know this?
You need strategies that help you respond to today’s societal expectations. You need techniques to help you avoid stress response. Ideally these need to be so practised that they’re what you turn to in a split second, when you recognise your triggers.
This takes time and dedication, working on yourself and ideally having an expert to guide you. I’m years into this and still get tripped up sometimes. If they’re available at your fingertips, you can press pause on the Worry Flood and get back to dry land.
You build a Dam by de-watering (in this case) the habits you’ve used for years. Then you learn distractions and ways to create calm. Once you’ve done this you can use floodgates to divert the Worry Flood in to a canal, giving you more control to deal with smaller sections of the bigger problem.
Once you’ve curbed your anxieties you’ll be more equipped to counteract the Worry Flood. The less your thoughts are eroded the less you’ll struggle. You’ll be armed because use you’ve built barricades and have a safe place where to continue to grow.
How it feels to be flooded with worry!
I’ve been out of my depth many times and lately I’ve been struggling; worry that has been overwhelming at times. I’ve failed to recognise the Amber alerts and have become engulfed with anxiety and panic attacks. So I have to start rebuilding again.
I realised I’ve been stuck in this whole delayed return environment phase. Behind the scenes, I’m developing all I need to launch a better Paprika Jewellery & Accessories. But the reward is a way off yet and with the pressure I put on myself I just didn’t spot the triggers!
I’ve spent the last few years building easily accessible skills. I used them regularly so when it comes to times like this; I’d have some control to slow down the flood. When I realised it hadn’t worked, I ensured to get my routine back. Now I’ve got my sights back on my main goal of being well enough to spend time with family and friends.
So I want to share my top tips for controlling the Worry Flood, by diverting the overload into canals where I could catch smaller sections of water. This allows me to use my strategies to rebuild, dealing with smaller sections of the bigger problem.
These skills have become my go to, picked up through research, forums and work with qualified practitioners. They’re personalised for my triggers, but I’m able to share them in a way that you can developthem for your own needs. Remember, it’s not just building walls and they may need you to step outside of your comfort zone!
My Top Tips for Worry Flooding
- The 1st thing you do each day is set yourself just 1 goal that you commit to. This can be about anything. Check in with yourself a few times a day to see if you’re on track.
- At the end of the day, write a done list! it feels really good to reward yourself by knowing what you have achieved and think less about what you haven’t. I try and make this really positive and celebrate things I’m happy, proud and grateful for.
- Use a timer to focus on productivity. I do this when writing and on social media. I need to balance time spent online with energy for my family and friends. You can download a free planner here- How to Create Clarity in a Busy Mind in 15 minutes
- Plan to keep yourself on track. I love planning, but use my long term goals to keep on track as I write my planner each week. If I don’t achieve something, I rub it out and reorganise. Breaking down a problem into chunks make it easier to control.
- Block similar work together. For example, I find all photos I need in one go, instead of with each blog. This is just right now that I’ve explored what works for me.
- Use music to set the tone. I really missed music when I was really poorly. I’m bringing it back in to my life gently, but with purpose. I use an album as a timer; a playlist for productivity or ambient sounds for concentration.
- Use the notes on your phone to keep track of your ideas whenever and wherever. I use it to plan my writing or to keep track of medical notes. I know I’ll always have what I need for some control in unplanned or stressful situations.
- Recognise the little voice in your head. Don’t miss the Amber flood warning, practising your best on the spot techniques. I write stream of consciousness rants to stop me going over something that can’t be changed. It’s also helped me stop saying sorry so often and use more positive language than negative.
- Meditation is the best skills to learn if you worry. It helps you build layers of protection and grounds you. Learn when to be vulnerable and when to let go. You can learn quick centring techniques easily. I meditate every day and I’ll tell you why in this post. 5 Meditation Myths Stopping You Relieve Hidden Stress
- Learn breathing techniques. It’s especially effective when for me, when I feel that first wave of worry. Try putting a hand on your heart or stomach and take a few deep breaths to compose yourself. There are many techniques, so experiment to see what works for you. I recommend this guide: 1 minute breathing exercises
- Live in the moment. As I’ve said, now is the only time you have control of your next choice. Step outside your comfort zone and embrace life right now. Be present and live to your fullest potential. If a planning freak like me can do it, I’m sure you can.
- Develop a sleeping pattern that works for you. So 8 hours in a dark room at the same time each night, might be your thing, but let’s get real; this isn’t going to work for everyone. I sometimes get no sleep due to pain, bleurgh…. But if I sleep well, I cope with the pain better. Find things that help you relax and try setting a bedtime routine. You should be more equipped for handling worries.
- Face your fears. I’ve embraced things that scare me from my bed, so try not to get hung up on bolstering barricades. Do something that makes you uncomfortable. I think you’d be surprised by how it makes you feel and the response from others!
- Affirmations are statements you can use to manifest your potential and strengthen your self belief. They help me so much that I’ve designed a free printable available until the 31st March, if you sign up to my newsletter. Check out the link at the end of this post. Here’s a guide to use them to set yourself up for a very productive day. L
- 5 Morning Affirmations To Guarantee A Successful Day!
I hope I’ve not been too metaphor happy, so these are the key points to take away:
There’s many ways to protect yourself from too much worry, so explore and find what suits you. Build up layers of protection, whilst also being vulnerable, Step outside your comfort zone and remember the power of diversions.
Fight, flight or freeze (stress response) are reactions to perceived threat. This is a primal response, but we know experience that from stress and worry. We also have to wait for reward most of the time, which can heighten our anxiety. Develop skills and strategies that give you some control and help reduce the extent of your worry.
When planning ahead, focus on leaving room to reflect. Writing your concerns can help stop you overthinking.. You can only control right now, so practise different strategies that focus on letting go of control.
*This is based on my own experiences and is just my opinion, unless referenced. If you are struggling with stopping worry overload, please seek medical advice.
I’d love to know how you focus to cope with worry in the comments!
✋ Hey there! You could really help me out. Just one minute of your time to press that share button helps me so much! You’ll literally make me do a bed-bound happy dance. Now there’s an image for you!