Worry is something us mums are used to - the kids future, their schooling, how our work affects their home life, their behaviour, money, health, our mental wellbeing... the list really does go on and on.
But things just got a little bit crazier - ok, well maybe a lot crazier - with the Covid-19 pandemic, the school closures, the social distancing advice, the potential 'lock-downs' on the horizon - and the world has catapulted us into a swirling vortex of yet more worry and uncertainty.
But why do we worry?
- What's the point of all these negative thoughts?
- How can we learn to look at things differently?
- And how do we use 'worry' to our advantage to focus, recalibrate and move forward with a clearer plan, a closer family and a vision for the future we're excited to wake up to?
First, let's look at why we worry...
"Worry is a cycle of inefficient thoughts whirling around a center of fear." Corrie Ten Boom
Throughout evolution we developed the need for fear, fight or flight, emotions and worry. We needed these to identify threats and navigate through the risks of the world, finding our own solutions and developing robust emotional coping mechanisms to overcome whatever was thrown at us AND KEEP OURSELVES SAFE.
But over time, we lost touch with the process, the end-to-end productive mechanism of this learned behaviour and things got out of balance. We started living in safe houses, working in safe jobs for money, so we no longer needed to battle with nature to eat. We eliminated a lot of life's risks and stopped needing to use the fight or flight instinct and emotional resilience we had relied upon for so long.
Sounds great right? But there is a down side.
Like a muscle that's not been used for a while, it loses it's form, it's 'muscle memory' and when we all of a sudden need it again, it's not on peak form!
It's the same with our emotional tool-kit. We now worry about the small things, we don't have the variety of worries we used to have - so all our little ones seem bigger - and we are unsure how to use the whole process, from end-to-end, to get to a solution.
So now, in the world of pandemic health risks, routines thrown out the window and the uncertainty of where our food/money/support/routine will take us next, our minds are kicking in big time with their own worry monsters, without the practice we once had to turn worries into challenges to overcome.
Throughout our lives, most of us have been told to just 'not think about it' or simply 'stop worrying', but instead, let's start actually listening to our emotions and respecting them for what they are - messages from ourselves to tell us where we need to focus and what we need to change!
Here is my 3 step guide to managing worry to focus, recalibrate and plan for a better future...
Step 1 - Create a Worry List
First we need to actually catch ourselves and try to understand the worry. Instead of letting it overtake our thoughts - or worse still trying not to think of it at all because it's unpleasant - we need to actually acknowledge our thoughts, cut ourselves some slack and try understand what our mind is trying to tell us.
We need to get our worries out of our head and onto paper - in some kind of 'worry list'. To do this, we could:
- Dedicate a specific time every day to sit and 'worry' - writing down our worries and try to understand why these are particular bad for us at the present time and where specifically our lives have changed which is causing us anxiety.
- Share our worries with those closest to us on a regular basis which writing down our main worries - having to say our worries out loud can sometimes help to process them within our own minds and actually sharing them with others may help to come up with solutions and get support to find a way forward.
- Make sure we take time to be kind to ourselves, creating quality time for us is important, but even more so in these uncertain times. Even if this is just 10 minutes away from the kids to sit and breath. When there is so much to organise and so many things to adjust to fit within the new restrictions on our lives having this time helps us to gain perspective and properly think through our worries without any external interruptions.
Now we have got our list of worries out of our heads and down on paper, we can look at them as challenges to find solutions for and we can move onto Step 2
Step 2 - Prioritise your Worry List
Look at your worry list - with your loved ones if possible - and pick out the top 3 things which need your attention right away.
Once you have your top 3, see if there are any baby steps you can take towards finding a solution - and write these down too.
Even if a solutions is not possible to see right now, it is often possible to find small things you can do to educate yourself on how to find out more about the problem and research potential support groups or possible solutions.
It is important to record your progress towards finding solutions to your worries so you can feel a sense of achievement and momentum towards an eventual solution.
Without tracking your progress, life can seem helpless, stagnant and impossible. But by giving yourself mini-goals to focus on, a way forward can gradually develop and you can test the path by taking small actions to give yourself purpose and direction.
Step 3 - Develop a Plan
Now you have an understanding of your most important worries, and you've set yourself some small tasks to test the way forward, you can start to develop a plan to really push on and overcome your worry by finding a solution.
**Having a plan is NOT about having all the answers, it's about having a set of steps which you can work towards to help you learn as you move forward. **
Plans should be flexible and be updated regularly in order to make the most progress and should also be shared with others so the whole network of colleagues / family members / friends know what you are collectively working towards.
For example: If your worry is about how you're going to home school your kids while still running your own business from home during the Covid-19 outbreak, you need to set a daily routine with the family, where everyone knows what's expected of them. Clear boundaries and staying consistent is important and giving the time and opportunity for everyone to have a say is also key in setting a new routine and a plan which everyone is happy with moving forward.
In this example, a family calendar on the wall outlining everyones tasks/chores/working times and downtime could be a great idea to ensure your plan is visible and easy to refer to as you go through the first few days/weeks.
So to summarise, the way to manage your worries and move forward in times of uncertainty is to listen to your emotions, get your worries out of your head, start to take baby steps forward in order to test the path to finding a solution and then create a plan to continue on your journey to find a solution.
If you'd like to know more about 'Managing Worry in Times of Uncertainty', is it our current topic in my Private Facebook Community 'More to Me than Mum'. The community is for Mums In Business who want to find balance, rediscovery their confidence and design a better future for themselves and their family.
See you inside x