Do you ever find yourself worrying, re-thinking, re-stating, then worrying some more about one particular issue – perhaps even arguing with someone on the topic? All this is done loudly inside your own mind. Crying may also be involved. Internal escalation of the matter is a given to the point of worst-case, apocalyptic outcomes.
This is “Hamster-Wheel Worrying” and it is very uncomfortable for me. Even if I win part of an argument with myself, I don’t usually come out on top.
In recent years, I’ve developed or learned some techniques that really help me stop this in its tracks. Maybe one or all of them can also work for you.
In a nutshell:
- What if this is not a problem?
- Is this my problem? *
- What about this situation is perfect for me right now? **
- Take this from me. If it’s mine, give it back to me in the morning.
With a bit of context:
- When I’ve reached a momentarily point of sanity, I ask myself, “What if this is not a problem?” Too often escalating a fear, a frustration, or a slight simply isn’t a problem when I view it from this more neutral position. Just asking the question is often enough to make the worry drain away, allowing me to step off the hamster wheel.
- If it doesn’t release with that first question, my next question is, “Is this my problem?” I’ve been known to assume others need me to run to their rescue when, in reality, they were only looking for a sounding board. Sometimes, if the topic of their concern is already a hot-button issue for me, I try to solve my own thoughts on the subject by fighting for them. This doesn’t work for me either because, at the core, I’m still trying to solve someone else’s problem. (Of course, there are times when one must heroically work to right a wrong for someone other than oneself, but those are few and far between, and could become the topic of a future post.) A simple “no” to answer my question, again, is often enough to make worry drain away.
- I occasionally get a “yes.” In those instances, I’m most often angry with someone that mistreated or offended me, didn’t agree with my sound logic, purposely baited me into a particular thought or behavior…basically, I’m feeling like a victim to someone’s unkindness. The question I ask myself in this case is, “What can I do to resolve this for myself?” Just like that, I’m focused back on myself, resolving the matter for myself, taking action for myself.
- When I’m in some kind of emotional pickle, I ask myself, “What about this situation is perfect for me right now?” Not answering the question is a cop-out, so I always look for one or more answers. This questions brings to the surface possibilities that had remained hidden since I had only been looking in the woe-is-me direction.
- I use this final technique when I can’t get to sleep because I’m still on the hamster wheel: I think about someone related to my spiritual path. (Perhaps for you this could Christ, Buddha, St. Joan, Kuan Yin, etc. If you are atheist, you could pretend speaking to a beloved relative who passed away when you were a child.) I tell the person, “Take this from me. If it’s mine, give it back to me in the morning.” Nine times out of ten that allows me to drop into a sound sleep immediately. For that rare tenth time, I repeat the thought another time or two and end up drifting off to sleep.
It is my sincere hope that you can breathe easier after asking these questions of yourself and that you sleep well and soundly.