How to Wash Away the Worry

30 Jan

How many of you wake up and almost immediately, a little voice inside your head starts yapping, nagging you about all the things that must be done that day? Do you hear the worry mind, too? It adds task after task to the mental agenda and pretty soon The List gets a mile long.

In an ominous voice, the perfectionistic voice inside commands, “You HAVE to take your vitamins, feed the dog, make your bed, take a shower, do your makeup, curl your hair, drive Mom to work, get to the bank, pick up the family’s dry cleaning, google directions to that doctor’s appointment, call that client, check your work schedule for this week, buy supplies for Catherine’s wedding card, call your grandmother to check on her, check your email, return those library books, get gas, get to work on time… oh and you MUST LOOK PERFECT, COMPLETE THE ENTIRE LIST PERFECTLY, AND ACT PERFECTLY HAPPY DOING IT.”

Just hearing that everything that day must go perfectly makes me want to perfectly crawl back under the covers. If I get too overwhelmed, my eating disorder gets flared up. My ED uses The List as an excuse… “See, you are/are going to be too busy to eat today. Restrict and you’ll make both the yapping, worrying mind AND me happy.” But instead of listening to them, I hop into the shower and wash away my worries… Here’s how I do it:

1.  Acknowledge the mind’s voice. When I first tried quieting the endless jabbering and nagging, I did it by telling my mind to “Shut up already!” I quickly found that the mind doesn’t like this. It wants to be heard and it HATES being ignored. It’s kind of like a little kid who wants to show his mom something… he won’t stop saying, “Mommy, mommy… look at this,” until she acknowledges him. If Mommy says, “Later, Timmy…” do you think he’s going to stop? No. In the same way, acknowledge that the mind is talking and worried. I generally silently say, “Yes, I know I have lots to do today, but right now, I can only do this one task. I’ll worry about the rest of the list later.” You’ll find that this pacifies the mind because it’s been heard, not ignored.

2. Visualize the worries going down the drain. No matter what type of worry you have (financial, educational, personal, familial, work-related, etc.), it probably takes a toll physically. I’ve found that when my anxiety level rises, I can sense my body “revving up.” I get jumpy, my heart races, and I hold a lot of tension. I imagine that my worries are sort of stuck to me, like little words, crawling all over my body. By visualizing the water rinsing not just the dirt, sweat and grime, but also these words, down the drain, it’s easier to let them go. You’ll be surprised how physically lighter you will feel… try it!

3. Focus on one physical sense. After acknowledging the mind’s chatter and rinsing off, I choose one sense to focus on. When the mind begins to jabber again, I refocus back on that. Some that I have tried are:

  • the heat of the water hitting your skin
  • the smell of floral, sweet soap
  • the sound of the spray landing in the tub
  • the touch of a loofah exfoliating your skin
  • the sensation of the steam entering and exiting your nose and lungs as you breathe deeply
  • the luxurious lathering of shampoo into your hair… take a moment to give yourself a scalp massage!

As you become more centered and calm, it is easier to stay that way. The worry mind runs faster and faster if you let it, but tomorrow morning, take a soothing shower. You’ll be surprised how “spa-like” and refreshing even a five-minute shower can feel when your brain is focused on the shower, rather than running ahead into the future, worrying about things that you simply cannot accomplish at that moment in time. So, wake up, crank the water to “HOT,” and let The List rinse right off you!

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