From the resurgence of COVID to the unrest in the world, there’s a lot to worry about right now. The truth is, however, that worrying does nothing to change the outcome. It just keeps you stuck in a feeling of helplessness and stress. But negative thoughts are part of our biology and while you may not be able to stop them from happening, you can adapt solutions that help you deal with them, says Matthew Ferry, author Quiet Mind, Epic Life.
“People often think you need a mindset shift to deal with worry and anxiety,” he says. “What you need is to shift the context to deal with the fear in another way. It’s recontextualization, which is the skill of describing a condition and circumstances in a way that gives you an empowering reality.”
Ferry shares these two three-minute exercises you can use the next time you feel worried.
Define the Worst-Case Scenario
Worry can happen when you’re trying something new, and the stakes feel big. In this case, Ferry says fear is running the show. But the way to get back to positivity is through extreme negativity.
“Most of us have been taught the modern positivity movement,” says Ferry. “But positivity is unreliable. Instead, what to do is to implement an aspect of realism and deal with things sensibly. It’s more empowering and so simple.”
Ferry calls the negative voice in your head your “drunk monkey” mind. “It thinks it’s psychic and can predict the future,” he explains. “Turns out, the drunk monkey only predicts negative futures.”
Bust the drunk monkey by writing out the negative future you’re afraid of. Then create a plan of what to do if worst happens. “Most people write out [the scenario] and then make a plan to avoid it,” says Ferry. “But this keeps the down cycle in place. Instead, be completely negative and make a plan for the worst. You’ll create a newfound neutrality and sense of peace, and if the worst happens, you’ll know what do. This takes the drunk monkey out of consideration and opens your mental real estate.”
Identify and Release Your Attachments
The second exercise is to address your attachments, which Ferry describes as exaggerated fears of losing imaginary benefits.
“We get addicted to futures that aren’t real,” says Ferry. “It’s the opposite of the worst case. When we’re feeling attachment, we’re imaging a positive benefit in future, and we’re afraid we’re going to lose it. Attachment makes you modify your behavior.”
For example, you may feel frozen and unable to act, or you may become annoyed with yourself or others. The method for dealing with this fear is rapid enlightenment.
“Identify what are you afraid of losing in the future,” says Ferry. “Clarify how the fear of losing this benefit is an exaggeration. Then ask yourself how losing the benefit would actually impact you, this time without exaggeration. Then make peace with that loss.”
Practice acceptance of a situation or of yourself. Saying it out loud changes your mental framework. If you do lose that benefit, use the opportunity to prepare for the next time. Ask yourself what you could learn from the experience. What questions will you ask next time to be prepared? What new information do you need to start again with more intelligence.
“This exercise is powerful and can be done on the fly,” says Ferry. “It’s a cornerstone practice in rapid enlightenment. Almost instantly you can practice total and complete acceptance of all situations. What it does is helps you get neutral, so you can decide what is the best way forward.”
A neutral state removes the feeling of scarcity, lack, or fear, and helps you tap into what you want to do. “What I resist will persist and what I accept will transform,” says Ferry. “The world is changing at all times. It’s always in a state of decay. When you’re stuck and holding a negative place in your mind, you’re become out of balance with reality. This is an instinct survival, but we’re no longer in survival situations. Using survival psychology creates malfunctions. Commit to thriving, which is being joyful, kind, inspired, and empowered.”