Have you ever laid in bed at night with racing thoughts full of worry and anxiety, making it almost impossible to get a good night’s sleep? With seemingly never-ending to-do lists and problems that seem like you must solve ASAP, our minds are constantly thinking and worrying. We can’t sleep or concentrate because we have pessimistic thoughts going round and round in our heads, but in a way, worries make sense as they pull us into a sense of feeling in control. We’re doing something and we are in control, we are just f giving attention and energy to an unhealthy distraction. We continue to think and worry because it creates the false sense that we might be able to find a solution to a problem or allow us to be prepared for any unexpected situations. Truthfully, all this worrying will not help you find a solution or give you more control, rather what it actually does is increase anxiety and stress.
So, now that we have exacerbated anxiety and stress, how do we overcome that cycle of dread?
When it comes to any situation that creates worry and anxiety, it is crucial that we stop and ask ourselves, “Is this something where I have control?” and/or “Is there something I can do to take action?” Asking yourself these two questions will change the way you view the situation and help lead you to resolve the anxiety cycle.
First introduced by Stephen Covey, this concept explores three spheres:
– The Circle of Concern – the wide range of worries we might have about a topic
– The Circle of Influence – a narrowing of the first circle into those worries we can do something about – either directly or indirectly
– The Circle of Control – an even smaller circle, representing the things we can actually directly do something about
Human beings can choose where they focus their energy and attention. If we focus on the concerns outside our influence, we risk increasing our stress and falling into the space of accusing, blaming, and victimization.
By choosing to focus on the circle of influence – we move into a more proactive space. Rather than spending energy on things we can do nothing about, we can take steps that make a positive difference – calling on our strengths and connections. And we can also choose to let go of concerns that are not serving us well.
If the worry isn’t something you have control over and can solve, you have to do nothing and practice acceptance. You can’t control the past, you can’t control the weather, and you can’t control how others feel and act. What you can do is control the way you react to things. Finding the positives of a situation can help you feel better and give you a sense of control. Accepting that sometimes we can’t control events and we have to embrace uncertainty is the best way to be in control. Sometimes we are hurt and angry but there is nothing that can be done, but feel our emotions. You are in control. You are deciding to feel your feelings so you can eventually let them go.
On the other hand, sometimes we can solve our worries by taking action. This is called “Active Worrying”. Active worrying involves brainstorming ideas about all the possible solutions you can think of and then creating a plan that focuses on what you have the power to change. Once you create some SMART goals and implement a plan of action, you will worry less and solve the problem. If your problem involves a conflict with another person, thinking about how you can structure a conversation with them to express your concerns, listen to what they have to say, and work towards a solution can also give a sense of control. Instead of laying in bed for hours worrying about what might happen or what you can say, creating a realistic plan that you are going to follow will ease your mind and rid you of worry.