This year’s school experience is radically different from what we’ve ever known, but one thing remains the same—students’ backpacks are Heavy. With a capital H!
Observing my boys and their schoolmates hoist bulging packs onto their increasingly hunched bodies brought about the sensation that I too had weight on my back.
At first I figured that this ache was psychosomatic. It dawned on me later that I was actually feeling the invisible load that everyone is hauling on their backs, particularly these days.
In a word, it’s worry.
And it’s a weight that we’re likely storing not only on our backs, but in other areas of our physical bodies as well.
As someone who knows about worry intimately (it’s literally in my DNA; intense worrying has been passed down in my family’s genes for generations), I understand very well how powerful and debilitating this preoccupation can be.
That is, if we give it power.
Fortunately, there are ways to diminish worry so that it can get off our backs and be stowed in proverbial lockers.
The first step to minimize worry is to recognize that worrying is a choice.
This fact might be hard to accept since worry is often a default response, which we believe cannot be interrupted.
The truth, however, is that because worries are typically about things that have not yet happened or are out of our control, we do have power to decide how to engage with such situations.
Simply put, we must train ourselves to exercise this agency. One way is to treat worry as an unwelcome house guest…and kick it out!
No doubt, it is extremely difficult to detach from worried thinking, especially when our fear-mongering culture constantly incites it.
This reality points out the importance of developing a strong relationship with the mind, which helps with another strategy to lighten the “worry load”—de-personalizing things.
This means that when a worrisome situation arises, we need to deflate our ego by behaving as if we believe that life is happening “FOR me, not TO me.”
This technique is empowering and effective because it acknowledges distressed feelings while still expanding the thinking pattern beyond worry. It could be recited like this:
“[FILL IN THE BLANK] may happen and that idea is terrifying. Since fixating on it adds to my suffering, I choose to let these thoughts pass through me, not linger.”
The alternative—perpetuating narratives about “If I don’t focus on [BLANK], then I/others may not be okay”—only justifies worrying and thus fuels the problematic ego.
Admittedly, there is a great paradox about these approaches for trying to override the automatic reaction of worry.
When we worry, it’s common to hear, “You need to get out of your head,” and what I’m suggesting demands that we closely examine and adjust our thinking, which of course requires going INTO your head.
While this confusion offers an excuse to not try the techniques, I challenge you to play with your mind a bit…ideally before you’re confronting a potentially worrisome situation.
Effectively, this means you need to talk to yourself a lot—tell your mind that you’re in charge of deciding how to respond, and repeat the phrases above when you’re not in a worried state so they become more accessible/believable when you are tempted to worry.
Please make no mistake—I am still an active worrier, but with an increasingly smaller “w.”
I believe that worrying is inherent to being a parent, particularly a mother.
Realizing that worrying hinders not only me but also my family, however, urges me to lighten my load and invest in a hip pouch instead of a backpack to tote my troubles.