We can often get caught up in worrying about what might happen in the future, especially during uncertain times. We can also get caught up in ruminating over what has happened in the past and wishing that things were different somehow.
When we’re preoccupied with worrying or ruminating, we often end up missing out on what’s happening in the here and now. What’s right in front of us. This is called being in “auto pilot” mode. We can’t change what has happened in the past. Nor can we predict or control what will happen to
us in the future. All we’ve really got control over is the here and now.
Being in the here and now
If we’re paying attention to our worries, this will only make us worry more. Therefore it’s a very useful skill to be able to recognise when we’re starting to worry so that we can re-direct our attention back to the here and now.
We can use our emotions as a cue to help us to do this. For instance, if we’re feeling anxious then that suggests we’re worrying about something. If we’re feeling down, the chances are that we’re ruminating over something that’s happened in the past.
What can you do about worry?
When you notice that you’re feeling that way, try asking yourself this question “Can I do something about this?” If the answer is yes, by all means try to come up with an action plan to try to resolve that problem. After all once it’s been dealt with, it’s no longer a problem so we can let that worry go.
If the answer is no, that suggests it’s something that’s not within our control. It also suggests it’s something that’s either been and gone or it hasn’t actually happened yet. That tells us it’s a hypothetical situation and there’s nothing we can do about it now. In those circumstances, no amount of worrying about it will affect the outcome of it. Therefore it would be more beneficial for us if we could learn to let those worries go.
Top tips for letting go of worry
Try these tips to help you to learn to let go of hypothetical worries so that you can live more mindfully in the present moment:
- Use your senses (what you can see, hear, smell, taste and feel) to focus on what you’re doing in the present moment. You can try this with things such as when you’re preparing a meal, taking a shower or going for a walk. Or you can try more formal mindfulness exercises such as meditation.
- It doesn’t matter what activities you choose to practice mindfulness. The key is to find something that you enjoy and that works for you.
- When you notice your mind has wandered during those exercises (which it will…!) don’t get frustrated with yourself. This is just what the mind wants to do.
- The trick is as soon as you’ve noticed it’s wandered off to gently bring your attention back to what you were doing.
- It doesn’t matter how many times your mind has wandered off. Just notice when it’s happened and each time just gently returning your focus back to the present moment again.
The more you practice this, the better you will become at noticing when you’re mind has started to wander. So when you start to get preoccupied with worrying or ruminating, you’ll be able to bring your attention back to the present moment instead and break the cycle.
About the author
Stephanie Stuart is a cognitive behavioural therapist and an accredited member of the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) Her aim is to equip clients with the right knowledge and life-long skills so that they can feel confident in managing their own mental health and well-being by the end of their sessions with her.