How to stop your worries running you ragged.

When people are stressed, they either focus myopically on the closest source of their stress, or they focus on the stress itself. Either way, the result is to establish a cycle that produces still more anxiety. Here’s a way out.

Many people focus most of their attention on their worries, the risks they’re taking, and the troubles they face. One whiff of trouble and they let their minds run wild, imagining all kinds of pessimistic and fearful outcomes. Then the stress and anxiety feeds on itself. You become stressed about being stressed. It’s like being a hamster in a wheel, running as fast as you can and getting nowhere.
Where’s your attention?
The first and most important step to take to get out of this mess is this: stop running. Slow down and give yourself time to think. Don’t just let your attention wander wherever it likes. If you direct your attention consciously and deliberately, you can focus it where it will do most good.

Okay, that maybe sounds too easy. It certainly won’t happen overnight, but it can be done—and done by anyone. What it takes is a firm refusal to go on feeding your anxiety. Every time the temptation arises to go over your worries for the thousandth time, don’t give in to it.

It’s your attention, isn’t it?

Most of us forget that what we pay attention to is under our control. You cannot stop thoughts, emotions, or worries from coming into your head. But you can—and should—decide which of those thoughts and feelings you are going to allow to stay in your field of attention. Whatever you “feed” with attention will take root and grow. Whatever you continually set aside and starve of attention will diminish and wither away.

If you’re stressed, don’t let your fears control you. Don’t dwell on your worries and problems, so that you become more and more distracted and stressed.
Try looking carefully at one problem, and one option for helping to solve it, at a time. Follow it through and see where it leads. Then take another option and do the same, directing your attention where you want it to go. Think about your next step to get out of the mess. If you can’t see one, set that problem aside for a while and consider a different one.

If you don’t let your fears make you confused, you can stay focused more of the time on positive possibilities and avoid giving in to anxiety and stress. What opportunities are you aware of right now? What do you plan to do about them? Don’t wait. They may never return.

“Who’s in charge here?”

Awareness and conscious choice are as closely intertwined as thorns in a briar patch. Without awareness of yourself, what’s going on in your mind, and all the ways that you contribute to your own anxieties, none of your choices will be fully conscious. Every problem has some causes that you can try to deal with, even if all the others are out fo your control. Focus your thinking on the one’s that you have some responsibility for and can do something about. It’s your attention, use it as you want.

When someone asks you to deal with a problem or make a decision, you’re going to bring all your prejudices, opinions, likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, antagonisms and knowledge along. Your mind is like a committee—and a pretty bad tempered and cantankerous one too! Like all committees, your mind has some members who have greater clout than others. They hog the floor and shout twice as loud as the next person. They get together and rig the committee elections so they’ll hold all the power. And once they have a taste of power, like politicians the world over you won’t easily part them from it.

Who is in charge? Who is running your life to their agenda, not yours? Are you just going with the flow? Doing what you’ve been assigned? Or are you making your own choices?

Keep asking yourself who or what is really controlling your life. Is it your conscious choices and focused attention? Or is it whatever fear, worry, or concern happens to be newest or uppermost in your thoughts in the current moment? Are you happy about that? If not, what do you plan to do to change it?

Worries go along with each of us like fleas on a stray dog. However much you scratch, you can’t get rid of all your passengers. Ignoring them altogether doesn’t work either. instead, use your ability to make conscious choices about where and how to direct your attention. Take action where you can and send your attention onto other matters where no action is possible. By slowing down, focusing your mind, and refusing to be sidetracked by random distractions, you’ll get more done, feel less stressed, and develop a powerful technique that you can use to help yourself through any troubles you may face.

It’s your attention. Don’t let anyone or anything else hijack it.

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