Do you ever find yourself worrying? What-iffing? Catastrophising? Have you noticed how this cranks up stress and tension?
But worrying is costing you so much more than just lost sleep! Here's why you need to kick the worry-habit - and how to do it.
In this episode, you'll cover:
Show notes & resources: https://ditchingimpostersyndrome.com/podcast/018/
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Do you ever find yourself worrying? What-iffing? Catastrophising? Three o'clock in the morning, yeah? Have you ever noticed how this cranks up stress and tension? But worrying is costing you so much more than just lost sleep. So this episode is all about why you need to kick the worry habit and exactly how to do that. Welcome to episode 18 of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast with me, your host, Clare Josa, author of Ditching Imposter Syndrome.
And I decided I needed to create this episode because I was thinking back to why I'd created my Inner Critic Bootcamp program. And I was remembering, it was a really traumatic time in my life that kicked me off on this journey. And one particular morning, at three o'clock in the morning, I was screaming at a God I wasn't even sure I really believed in about how I couldn't take anymore. I was about to leave a domestic violence marriage. I had a two year old and I was six months pregnant. And I had no idea what I was going to do.
I was already an NLP trainer. I knew all about managing my state, my emotions, manifesting, how my thoughts created my reality. The secret was just about to be launched. All of that stuff was kind of starting to go mainstream. And there I was at three o'clock in the morning torturing myself about everything that was going wrong and what might get worse. And in that moment, I realised that yeah, my outside world situation was pretty pants, but what was worse was the stories I was telling myself about it in my head. And I realised I had no way to control them. I was worrying about everything and that's what was causing me the pain. It kicked me off on a long journey to work out how to choose which thoughts to feed and truly set ourselves free from this, which is why I can do the work I can do now.
So there's a part of me that's actually very grateful for going through that experience because without it, I wouldn't have written my books and I wouldn't teach what I now teach. But in that moment I realised how dangerous and damaging worrying is. So, what happens when we worry? It doesn't have to be huge stuff. It can be the day to day things. We have this, what if thing. We have this catastrophising. What might go wrong? Now, here's the problem. Your body feels every thought you think and it obeys without questioning. When we think a worry thought it fires off the sympathetic nervous system's, fight, flight, freeze. I'm going to be talking about this again next week in the whole feel the fear and why we need to let go of that message. But in the sense of worrying, it's still a fear-based thought, what might go wrong?
It fires off the biochemical reactions that support worry type emotions. That feeds more worry thoughts and suddenly, there we are at 3:00 AM, unable to get back to sleep because we're struggling with anxiety about everything that might go wrong tomorrow and worrying about things we can't change in the past. Now, the thing is that your body and your mind can't easily tell the difference between imagined worries and real life drama. So this fight, flight, freeze response that kicks off when the worrying thoughts happen, it leads to exhaustion. It leads to anxiety. It can create mental health issues. It is the fast track to burnout and worrying is actually one of the things that my research has shown increases our risk of burnout.
If burnout, by the way, is something that's a topic on your mind, something you're worrying about, maybe, please don't. I've got a research-backed questionnaire you can do that's yours as my gift, at clarejosa.com/burnout. That's clarejosa.com/burnout, where you can answer some questions and it will let you know what your burnout risk is, what the core risk factors might be for you and give you a personalised action plan PDF for what you can do about it. Okay? So make sure you either pause this episode and go and do that now, or make a note of it to do after you've listened.
So one of the things that happens when we worry is we then self-sabotage. I talk about worrying being mental rehearsal for a future you really don't want. So you've probably heard about the research behind mental rehearsal, it's used by athletes, musicians, even CEOs, really deeply imagining achieving what you want to be doing, or creating the skill, developing the skill. And it's been proven by researchers to actually change the brain structure, almost as much as people who were doing that activity in real life.
So it can work incredibly positively, but it can also work negatively. So when we worry about what might happen, we're mentally rehearsing a future that we don't want to create. When we add in a strong negative emotion to that thought process, it fast tracks building the neural pathways, creating the thought, body and action habits to support that future we don't want. So being able to press pause on worrying is incredibly important. And I remember about 15 years ago, my dear mum, passed on now, but she was a real worrier. It always gave her a reason to exist. She had to be worrying about somebody and something. And I remember her once telling me, oh, I'm really worried about you, Clare, because of this, that and the other. My response, well, but I'm fine, mom. I don't need you to worry for me. But someone has to worry about you, Clare.
This was how ingrained it was for her, is worrying was something that she was doing to show that she cared, to evidence love. And yet, it was causing her complex PTSD, little micro-traumas, as she worried about these futures that she didn't want to have happen for herself for those that she loved, and she didn't know how to press pause. And it was actually my mom's addiction to worrying that gave me the kick up the backside to get out there and start teaching people how to be able to feel safe, letting it go. Because at some level, worrying is trying to keep us safe. It's trying to protect us from things that we don't want to happen. It's trying to make sure that we consider outcomes that we might want to avoid. But when it becomes a mental, emotional, and even physiological body addiction, it's really, really unhealthy.
So sometimes when you're worrying, it might just be a reminder of something that we need to do. I get that kind of thing pops up all the time. I must remember to do this, and I then have that split second choice of, do I now want to feed that train of worry thoughts, taking me down, imagining the future where I've forgotten to do this? Or do I just want to write that thing down, set a reminder, trust I'll do it and let it go? And when we come across somebody who's worrying, it's really common for us to want to help them but there's one question you should never ask somebody who's worrying, and yet it is one of the most common questions they are asked. What is the worst that could happen? Yeah. What is the worst that could happen? Now, somebody who is addicted to worrying, whether they're consciously aware of that or not, is going to be incredibly good at imagining that, and it's never going to be mild.
So what this actually does is feed that fear even more. It helps to increase the catastrophising. And there's a lot of advice out there on social media that's come from the heart, that's really well intentioned, that can actually make things a lot worse for you if you're worrying. I saw one the other day, it was on LinkedIn which is kind of quite a lighthearted channel, it doesn't usually go that deep. And this person who was a coach was talking about an ancient, spiritual practice to foster detachment to the things that we love and gratitude for them by imagining them going, and I'm not saying any more than that. And they were suggesting that everybody in their feed did it that day. But the problem is it's not a process that's to be taken lightly. It's supposed to be done as part of a deep spiritual journey with close supervision, when you are ready for it, and it's potentially traumatising for somebody who's already got strong worry habits.
On the other flip side, there's an enormous wave of toxic positivity going around the world. Oh, just, could be worse, chin up, positive vibes only. Oh, just stop worrying. All of these things trying to make us flip from worry thoughts to positive thoughts. But here's the problem with that, it creates an inner conflict, a bit like a pantomime. Oh, I'm so worried about such and such. Oh, no I'm not! Oh, yes I am! Oh, no I'm not! And when the body is primed by the biochemical reactions that our thoughts create to think worry thoughts, to suddenly flip into positive thinking is almost impossible.
So what can you do if you spot that maybe you're running a worry habit? Well, my process 'Want A Magic Wand for Worrying?' is on page 144 of Ditching Imposter Syndrome. And that is something that really guides you through, with the preparation from the earlier stages of the book, to be able to go beyond just pressing pause on worrying and actually be able to start setting yourself free from that habit because the body and the mind and the emotions do get addicted. I've also got my Inner Critic Bootcamp program that you can find at innercriticbootcamp.com, that guides you through exactly how to do this using my natural resilience method.
But what can you do right here, right now? Well, there's a technique I teach to be able to press pause on worry thoughts, and you can find that as my gift at clarejosa.com/pause. I'm not going to teach it here on the episode because it's a technique that requires you to close your eyes and concentrate. And I know a lot of people listen to the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast while they're driving or doing other things and I don't want you closing your eyes, but you can find an MP3 to guide you through how to press pause on worry thoughts and any kind of negative thinking in under 60 seconds at clarejosa.com/pause.
And then there's a self mentoring question that you can use if a worry thought comes up. Is it really true? Is it really true, if you were to take out the emotion and the mind story drama and the catastrophising, the what if thing, is this really true? Or is it just a sign that I need to take action to make sure it doesn't happen? And then as a second self mentoring question, you can ask yourself at that point, if it's not really true, which a lot of the time, it's not, what do I want instead? And then, what is the first action I can take towards that?
So is it really true? What do I want instead? And what is the first action I can take towards that? Remember, you've got my resources in Ditching Imposter Syndrome, in the book, page 144. Search 'Want A Magic Wand For Worrying?' if you've got the ebook version, I've got the free resource clarejosa.com/burnout. And there are other resources I've mentioned in today's episode which you can find listed at the Show Notes page impostersyndromepodcast.fm/018. And I'd love to hear from you. Had you been stuck in the worry habit? Has this helped today? And what are you going to be doing differently? This isn't about beating yourself up about worrying, it's about getting back to the moment and being okay with letting those worry thoughts go.
I'd love to hear from you and if you found this episode useful, please make sure you subscribe to catch each episode. Pop over to wherever you love to get your podcast and hit the subscribe button and maybe also leave it a review. Let people know why you've loved the episode and how it might help them. And I will be back next week with episode 19, all about is it time to forget the feel the fear message? And what we can be doing instead. I hope you have an amazing week.