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Managing Worry

April 13, 2020

Hello Friends,

I hope this blog post finds you healthy and safe right now amidst COVID-19. I know there are so many unknowns during this time. One thing for sure is that I’ll keep showing up for you regardless of our stay-at-home order – I feel like we need each other now more than ever!

So many of you have reached out to me via email, Facebook and phone calls about how to manage worry. I know we covered “How to Talk with Kids During Uncertain Times” in our last blog post. If you didn’t get a chance to review the content that includes scripts across all developmental stages, please check it out now.

Today, I want to talk to you about worry. We all have many worries that we hold onto in a given day. And the way I think about worries is through an analogy called “Worry Pie.” Here’s a picture:


1.     Past Worries – Worries of the past comprise about 30 percent of our time. These events have already happened.  Our “if only” or “I wish I would have” thoughts get in our way. Worry, guilt, regret, or shame can consume our thoughts. This might be worries about a fight you had with someone you love, a test that was failed, a meeting that went poorly, or an event that caused harm. The focus on past worries are events that have occurred earlier in the day, in the week, or in our lives.

2.     Future Worries – Worries of the future comprise another 30 percent of our time. These events have not happened yet; but our “what ifs” and “what might” type of thoughts get in the way. Future worries such as upcoming meetings or appointments, tests/quizzes, conversations, illness, vacations, etc. can fill our brains with concern. Future worries might be focused on events happening later in a day or months and years away.

3.     Out of Control Worries – Worries that are out of our control comprise 30 percent of our mind. These worries are tricky and truly out of our control – usually they have to do with someone else’s behavior or a natural disaster/pandemic. Out of control worries are a struggle for power and loss of control. The unknown can be terrifying for people.

4.     Now – The present. This is only about 10% of what our mind has capacity for given all of the other worries. Yet, it’s the only worry that we can do something about. It’s happening, literally, right now. “Right now” worries/concerns/cares happen in the moment. Whatever a person is currently engaged in – a behavior, activity, meeting, etc.

The key is to focus on “right now worries” – the present. It helps us shift from a state of paralysis, future focus and past worry, to a state of “can do” – because the present is the only timeframe in which we can have control. And our own behavior is the only behavior we can control. When we “let go” of other worries and focus on what we can do in the present moment – things become actionable, goal-oriented and anxiety can significantly decrease.

So think about this approach during a time of crisis, such as we’re facing right now. These are just some examples that I’m hearing from so many of you.

Past Worries – Have I been exposed? Why didn’t I check in with my teacher before we left school? Was that check-out clerk looking sick at the grocery store? Should I have stayed home sooner than I did?

Future Worries – What if I get sick? What if my kids get sick? What if someone I love dies? What happens if I can’t graduate? When will this be over? What if my job ends?

Out of Control Worries – When will this be over? Why does my neighbor/friend/colleague seem to be ignoring recommendations? Why does everyone else seem ok during this time? Will things ever be normal?

What I want you to focus on is what you can do now. Here are some examples:

  • Focus on your own safety measures and precautions for you and your loved ones.

  • Take care of yourself on a daily basis.

  • Check in with people you love in your circle of family and friends.

  • Engage in physical activity on a daily basis.

  • Reassure your children of their safety.

  • Limit media exposure.

  • Give up homeschooling perfection.

  • Reach out for help.

  • Ask for resources and support.

Please know I’m here for you. Here’s how I’m showing up and would love to help you:

What else can I do to help and support you right now? Please let me know! Let me hear from you and leave your comments below.

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