Written by: Misti Dawn White, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Can you imagine your life without worries? MRI brain scans have shown that young adults have an average of 6,000 thoughts per day. What if you were able to sift through even a portion of these thoughts and eliminate the ones that cause you distress, negativity, anxiety, suffering, and pain?If you want to level up your conscious thinking, grab a pen and paper right now and take note of this simple and oh-so-effective four-step process to knock out your worries like a black belt in mental martial arts.
Bobby McFerrin gave us a simple gem in the well-known song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” These words are beautiful and his lovely song brings about feelings of peace and surrender.
Somehow though, it just isn’t that simple for most of us. When I began my career in the fitness industry at nineteen years old I was certain I could easily transform humans into lean and strong superheroes with my expert program design alone! The fitness programming I created looked perfect on paper according to exercise scientists, and I knew that as long as my clients did exactly what was written they would get the stronger and leaner body they desired! However, as I began coaching I quickly realized that results in the gym are not just based on programming alone. My clients constantly came up with excuses for not showing up or not having time to train or not making healthy nutrition choices I found that the sessions were draining for me and them as they felt more like a talk therapy hour than a workout. The excuses, complaining, gossip, and comparisons were rampant. I found myself frustrated because I thrive on results but they were not participating in their own lives the way I needed them to so that they could be successful. My clients would leave feeling a bit better from “letting off steam” or “venting” to me, but I would leave feeling defeated and drained. My frustrations came from the knowledge that my clients had the power to fix their issues, but could not see the way to exercise that power. When I have a problem I look for a solution. I created a simple writing exercise to help move through the blocks that lead to deep worries, complaints, excuses, or whatever else causes the troublesome thoughts that kept me from achieving my goals. Excessive worry stifles the ability to think creatively, decreases motivation, clouds judgment and leads to decisions that are not in line with end goals. Research has shown that stress and worry can even cause physical illness. Refer to this link to learn more about how worry affects the body. Worry about the fear of failure leads to overly cautious decisionmaking holding us back from achievements. Regrets can cause us to feel sick to our stomach! Getting worries out and making well-thought-out decisions leads to achieving our biggest goals! It is a known fact that stress is toxic and leads to unhealthy habits and excess toxicity in the form of body fat. Therefore, easing your worries can lead to having a leaner body too! My gift to you is this simple four-step writing activity which will calm your worries and make space to focus on becoming the best version of yourself!
I do not want this to be a negative experience. In fact, troublesome thoughts can enhance our lives when we learn how to work with them. In the article titled Misconceptions Around Worry & The Role Of Metacognition, Behnaz Zeraatgar notes that worrying can help us be prepared for future danger and solve our problems. That is exactly what we are learning to do here. Step one is a journaling activity called "thought bubbles.” This style of journaling allows you to freely write whatever comes to mind as quickly as it comes. It is powerful to write all of your thoughts down so that you can see everything at once and choose which worry you will knock out first. It is important for you to set your environment up as comfortable and quiet as possible This will allow you to feel more open and allow deeper worries to bubble to the surface. Do not judge or censor what you write. Accept that your writing may be messy since you are just flowing with anything and everything that comes up and getting it all out on paper. For this exercise, start with a blank sheet of paper or large blank whiteboard. Next, create a few bubbles, and begin to write words or phrases that describe your worries. If you have a large worry that has what I call “worry spin-offs” then draw a line to a smaller bubble from the primary worry topic. For example, if you are a parent you might worry about your children. You can write “kids” in one bubble then draw lines or arrows leading to more bubbles expanding what you are worried about. You might say “driving” if you have a teenager. Another spin-off might say “grades” if you are worried about school performance. A different large bubble might say “my health.” The spin-off bubbles could say things like “exercise” or “injuries'' or “not enough time.” From here, pick something small to start as you engage in the next three steps to calm your mind. Sometimes one big thing has several worrisome "spin-offs" and can take much longer to work though. So start small in order to build confidence in this process. Once you get all of the worries on paper it’s time to start taking action! Step two involves examining the uneasiness and writing out at least three actions you can do to find more peace. Know that if there is one way you do have control over your situation then there are most likely ten options for you to choose from! Write any and all options that come to your mind. Get creative and have fun here! We really do have options in this life and it is very empowering when we know this and use our power to choose. I’ll use the examples from the large thought bubble which read “health” and the spin-offs being “too busy,” “unhealthy temptations,” and “genetics.” These are all very common concerns I hear as a coach. This person may have an overflowing plate already. She is a divorced mother who works as a full-time doctor and has a family history of heart disease and obesity. She is living with her widowed father who keeps a lot of junk food in the house. Can you see here how a worry could also be called an excuse? I have learned that the word excuse feels a bit more aggressive and people tend to get defensive when they hear it. I might even choose to interchange worry with the words uneasy or tough spot when helping clients work through their mental blocks. Moving on with step two lets write all of the possible options for one of the health-related worries. The worry states: “I am worried/uneasy because my family likesto eat so much junk
and so there are temptations all over my house that will sabotage my results.” Possible options for moving forward might read:
Stop buying these snack foods so that there are none in the house and feed kids fruits, nuts, and other healthy snacks. Talk to my family and get them in on this with me.
Move out of my house for the duration of my fitness program!
Prepare all of my snack options a day ahead of time so that I know exactly what I’m going to eat at what time.
Just keep eating the snacks as I usually do and not have a dramatic body composition transformation.
Step three is simply to choose which option to go with. Know that you can re-evaluate in the near future and choose one of the other options if your first choice isn’t working out. This will help you stay calm as you know you have options. Let’s say the doctor mentioned chooses option three. Step four, write a positive affirmation for your solution to reinforce your ease every time your worry arises. Note that it is best to keep the affirmation short so that it is easy to memorize. Additionally, be sure it is optimistic. For example, if you are concerned about losing fitness, it would be more positive to affirm “I train to love and take care of the one body I get” than “I train so I do not get sick and fat.” Furthermore, write down the affirmation in a location where it is easy to pull out. Putting affirmations in the notes section or a text message to yourself is a great way to keep them on hand. Moving along with the doctor’s story, if she chooses to let the family eat as usual and prepare her snacks ahead of time she might say to herself: “My health is my own journey and I love taking care of myself regardless of what others choose. It feels good to plan ahead and eat clean.” Voila! For each of your worries, work through these four steps! When your mind gets stressed keep repeating your affirmation! It is important to note that thoughts are primarily habits so stay diligent with consciously choosing yours. Furthermore, do not use excuses after learning you have options. There will be no more validating this worry with friends who also have a tough time with what their family puts in the pantry. Instead, feel confident that you do have the power to choose and be easy with yourself if you have setbacks. Move towards your choice and repeat your affirmation. The above example was light and simple. I recognize that there are much deeper worries. Sometimes we will be worried and there is actually no solution. There may be no answer for making things the way we want them and stress-free. The doctor in our case was also worried about her genetics. She is already doing everything within her control to maximize her genetic potential for a healthy life. The rest of the outcome is not up to her. There are no options. There is no further action to take, and the rest is up to God or the universe or whatever she trusts as a power greater than herself. In this case when you get to step two and there are no actions you can take, use the Serenity Prayer as your affirmation. The prayer goes like this:
God, Grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change The courage
To change the things I can And the wisdom
To know the difference.
You might find times when a worry has you repeating this at least one hundred times in a day! Life can be so out of your control at times and with persistance, this prayer can soothe you like hypnosis. This takes mindfulness and practice! It’s work and it’s so worth your time and energy. The serenity prayer has personally helped me to let go of trying to change other people which has helped heal relationships. It is the idea of living and letting others live. When we spend our time controlling what we can and letting go of the rest we are far more busy getting results that make a difference in our lives and this is one of the most impactful ways to make a difference for others as well as a positive difference in the entire world.
To review, name your worries using thought bubbles, write all possible action steps, choose how to move forward, write an affirmation to repeat every time your uneasiness comes up. Once you move through this four-step exercise six to ten times on paper you will be able to do it on the spot, in your mind, every time you think worrisome thoughts! Imagine getting so clear on what causes you uneasiness and becoming completely peaceful and worry-free! The amount of space you can create in your mental life results in less time with negative thoughts and more time taking action towards the life of your dreams! Go now! Lighten the woes in your mind and heighten the wows that you once saw as unrealistic!
Misti Dawn White, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Misti Dawn White, a transformational expert, uses physical intelligence, mental resilience, and compassion to guide others. With over 20 years of experience, she helps individuals turn challenges into opportunities. As a gym owner, coach, breakdance instructor, licensed massage therapist, and author, Misti's holistic approach has cultivated a strong and loyal community. Her journey from adversity to resilience, or what she likes to call shattered to shredded, inspires a broad audience, showcasing her remarkable transformation.