Everyone in New England (and other parts of the world) experienced hurricane Irene…and everyone experienced it differently. I’m not just talking about how the hurricane hit each town (as some were more affected than others). I’m also talking about how each person perceived the storm. Some people were on a fearful high alert, some were clueless and carefree, and others were somewhere in between.
I would say one of my daughters was on the fearful side. Even before the storm hit she was thinking of impossible scenarios. Our imaginations can sometimes be our downfall. In my daughter’s case, storm or no storm, she often creates what our family now calls “What If” questions. “What if this happens?” or “What if that happens?” with detailed, imaginative scenarios.
Her question before the storm was “What if a tree fell on my bedroom?”. Interesting enough the idea of self-harm didn’t occur to her, just that her room and the stuff in it would be ruined. She was able to describe the image she saw in her head of opening her door and seeing a tree in her room. Just thinking about it made her upset and on the verge of tears.
Now, as a mom, I can relate to imagining negative scenarios or as I put them, having “worry thoughts”. Sometimes, moms and worries are often synonmous. But I know that in the long run worries, if left unchecked, can be unnecessary and somtimes harmful. So when I realize I am getting stuck in a worry I try to do something about it.
I have tried to share with my daughters some of the things I do to help myself:
1) I ask myself, “Is this worry really possible”? Sometimes it’s just my over active imagination creating something which has a slim chance of happening. So I need to let it go.
2) If it could happen, what could I do to help improve the situation? I usually feel better if I have a plan.
3) Better yet, what could I do to prevent that situation? For example, if it’s something like a fear that the kids will get hit by car while playing outside, I can do something such as make sure they play away from the road and get one of those yellow ‘kids playing’ signs for the road.
4) After doing my planning, I can then let it go. Of course this is sometimes easier said than done, though. Here are some tricks I do to let it go:
– I blow the image away. Yes, one thing that makes us emotional about ideas is that we get attached to them. So I imagine the image moving away from me.
– If you are still having trouble detaching, here’s a trick from a neuropsychologist called Neuro Linguistic Programing. It’s a study in how to manage our brain for peak performance. If you’ve heard of Tony Robbins you might know some of the techniques. One technique is to play with the image. If the image is bright make it dull. If it’s colorful make it black and white. If it’s scary, change it to make it silly. The fear images we create in our head aren’t real. They are a story we create in our head. We therefore have the ability to change them. If you were listening to a song on the radio that you hated would you keep listening or change the station? If you are drawing a picture you don’t like, can’t you change it or start drawing a new one? We can do the same things with the images in our heads.
– You can also “Give it up to God” as some people say. Often we don’t have control over life and need to accept that. Prayer can be a way of feeling supported and feel that there is something greater than ourselves. You can also use a particular prayer called The Serenity Prayer which is used in AA, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
– Another way of letting go is humor. Humor helps us detach from a situation and see it in a different way. When my ideas didn’t work to sooth my daughter regarding the hurricane (or actually help her soothe herself) I took another approach. I simply observed to her that the image she was thinking about hadn’t happened and look how upset she was. She replied, “It could happen”. So I replied, “We could also win the lottery. Should I dance around like we won the lottery because I can imagine winning?” (insert very silly dance and a celebration as if we won the lottery)” This brought some giggles.
While my silliness helped my daughter, my own response made me think. How often do we put ourselves in a bad or sad mood over worries about things that haven’t even happened (and often never happen)? What if we used that energy to imagine positive things that could happen? Imagine our different mindset and feelings if every day we imagined the wonderful things that could happen to us and our kids. We could also just use gratitude to appreciate the wonderful things, big and small, that DO happen every day. It’s your choice what you focus on.
Yes, it’s good to be prepared. But let’s not waste our lives thinking only of worries and missing out on the joy in life.
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” ~Leo Buscaglia