Andi Davison LVT
PLEASE tell me that some of you remember the adorable song from the late 80’s “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. I remember 10-year-old me dancing around the living room to the upbeat chorus trying to recreate the acapella sounds of Bobby McFerrin. It was a great song, with a great message, right? We were being told that if we had any troubles the answer was simple…don’t worry, be happy.
If only it were that simple, Mr. McFerrin.
The truth is worry is not only a common occurrence for us humans, it is a necessary one.
Worry is a coping mechanism, a survival tactic that is hardwired into our brains.
Research shows our brains can’t tell the difference between what it sees and what it thinks. It doesn’t realize that Freddy Kruger isn’t actually standing right in front of you. So, our brains believe that what we worry about is real and the more we try not to worry, the more our brain tells us we should!
Think about it, if there was an actual murderous monster after us it wouldn’t benefit us to just “stop worrying”. The brain wants to protect us above all else. It reacts to perceived threats accordingly.
The more we try to stop our brain’s well-intentioned worry, the more it worries. Eventually, chronic worry sets in. Further research has determined that chronic worry is correlated with poor emotional regulation. Which can cause us to make quick emotional decisions as opposed to rational ones. Furthermore, chronic worry has a negative effect on our physical health by increasing stress and risk of cardiovascular disease.
Too much worry can be unhealthy, overwhelming and unproductive.
If you are like me, you worry.
You can't help it.
Neither can I.
But we can worry in a healthier, more productive way. I’d like to show you two science backed methods that may help you acknowledge and work through your worry to come out bright on the other side.
The first method was coined by American psychologist Dr. Susan Jeffers. Dr. Jeffers explains that while we are justified in our worry, our track record for working through it is 100%! The fact that you are here reading this article right now proves her theory. You have faced challenges in the past and lived to tell the tale. You’ve “handled it”. Every time. So, chances are good that you will be able to handle it again. The control and confidence that this re-frame provides is key to talking back to worry.
It’s Wednesday afternoon at 3pm. You are finally done with your morning surgeries and after taking a moment to shove a snack into your mouth, you wander up front to check in with the CSR crew. Jodi informs you that on top of your scheduled afternoon appointments, there is a ‘hit by car’ on the way. Amber, your lead tech that day, has left early due to a migraine headache. You worry. Will you be able to manage these patients efficiently? With Amber gone, the HBC workup may not go as quickly as possible, this could cause further problems…what if another emergency presents itself…These are all legitimate concerns!
I know that you have all been there.
But that’s exactly it…you have encountered a variety of challenges in the past.
This isn’t the first time full moon fever has hit your clinic and you’ve handled it before. You will handle it again!
This next tool can also stop your catastrophizing brain in its tracks. As our mind chatter gains momentum within our worried thoughts, we begin to fear the worst. Worrying can snowball. I have another phrase that you can use to re-frame these thoughts.
“That’s not true because…”
Just as you walk in to get started on your next appointment, the HBC arrives. You quickly excuse yourself and follow the patient to the back to begin the exam. As you wait for the technicians to finish placing the IVC you worry about the client you left waiting in the exam room. You left without an explanation. Will they be upset? Will they become outraged and walk out, thinking that you are not compassionate towards Molly and Bella? As this worry starts to gain momentum in your brain, re-frame it by reminding yourself “that's not true because…Jodi would have stepped in to explain the situation and Ms. Jenkins is a kind pet owner that will completely understand the gravity of what is going on”.
Finding holes in your worry logic will not only weaken it, but it will also empower your process and promote resilience.
These re-framing tools are quick, in the moment responses that you can use to combat worry.
Worrying without action or setting worry aside to simply “be happy” isn't as productive as utilizing our strengths to stand with our worry, work through it to come out “happier” on the other side.
We all worry, and these steps can help us to engage in a better conversation with ourselves so we can follow Mr. McFerrin’s advice and ‘Be Happy’, even in the face of worrying.
AND the next time I hear that fun little song during “The Retro Rewind”, I think I may add a lyric of my own…
“Ooohhh oh oh oooh oh oooh…Don't worry, Re-frame it, Be Happy now….
oooh oh oh ohhh ohhhh…”