Worry, it’s something that we all experience through all walks of life. Whether it’s a fleeting doubt, such as “did I lock the front door?” or a persistent anxious thought that keeps you awake night after night; worry is rarely a feeling that we appreciate. But why is it that we find ourselves worrying over problems that we may have no control over, or are perhaps not even based in reality? The answer is far more biological than one may think.
- D Psychologist and Neuroscientist Mark Richard Leary introduces the concept of Immediate Return Environments vs. Delayed Return Environments. In early human society, we lived in an Immediate Return Environment. If you were hungry, your brain would send you a worry, almost like a reminder message saying “hey, it’s time to find food,” you would do so, and then the worry would go away. The same situation applied to most human threats; water, shelter, a large animal prowling nearby, etc. However today, we live in a mostly Delayed Return Environment, where our needs are far more complex than simply eating and drinking. We worry about making the right career choices, securing our financial future, the long-term well-being of our loved ones. Unfortunately, these needs are not usually satisfied with one single action.
How does this information help your day to day worrying? Here are a few tips that may put your mind at some ease.
- Be mindful. Recognize that worries are simply a reminder message from a brain that has not yet come to terms with our evolved pace of life. Although some messages may be helpful, like “Hey, look out for cars before crossing the road,” messages that do not help you in the moment, such as “I wonder if my child is going to get into a good college,” may be worth putting on “snooze” until the appropriate time to think about them (like after you get a good night’s rest).
- Focus on what you can do now. If you worry about having a longer, healthier life, focus on going for a walk today, or choosing a healthier meal. Applying your energy towards the steps, instead of worrying about the possible outcomes, will help ensure that you spend more time working towards your goals and ultimately making them a reality.
- Face your unsubstantiated fears head on. If you find yourself worrying about things that are likely not going to happen, take the time to say or think it “out loud.” Tell yourself, “I have no solid reason to believe that the thing I am worrying about will become a reality, and it is therefore not a threat to me.”
It is only human nature for us to worry, and some worries can be helpful messages! However, if a worry is affecting your ability to focus on your business, or is taking away from the important activities in your life, it may be best to see past it in order to focus your energy on actions that will truly help you to reach your long-term goals.
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