I have a lousy clothes dryer. When I load it with wet towels, they tumble around for hours and hours, but nothing especially useful happens. The anxious mind works like this. Worrisome thoughts spin round and round, round and round, but they never really get “dry.” More thinking is rarely the answer.
Anxious thoughts seem to demand your urgent attention. They invite you to get lost forever further down the rabbit hole, chasing after this or that seemingly crucial detail. But when you finally manage to grab hold of whatever detail, it usually turns out to be nothing but a wet towel. When you notice yourself obsessing, the key is to take a step back. Most people worry about the same things, or the same kinds of things, over and over. What are your go-to worry categories? Health, money, relationships?
When you catch yourself worrying, notice which big category your worries fall into. Try to put some space between you and your anxious thoughts. Say to yourself, There he goes worrying about money again. If you need to take some specific concrete action in that moment, take it–but recognize when you’re simply spinning and tumbling. Ask yourself how things usually turn out when you worry about this same familiar topic.
Accepting Emotional Weather
Imagine floating in outer space, looking down on your tiny earthly self from high above the planet. From this distant vantage point, watch your mental wheels spinning. There she goes worrying about her health again. Notice the other people scurrying around the face of the earth, worrying about their own things. Consider that all this mental activity is simply life energy expressing itself, the fizz on a soda. It’s neither good nor bad, not necessarily a problem to be solved.
Anxiety is like emotional weather. “Worry storms” come and go, come and go. But eventually they always clear, dissolving back into wide open blue skies.