Wander Woman

Guidance for the goal-driven woman

What to Do When You Think Yourself Crazy

Six Tips to Shift Your Worrying and Negative Thinking

According to Gender Intelligence expert, Barbara Annis, women tend to spend more time on introspection and worry over social interactions and daily events than men. Women tend to reflect on a situation over and over, looking at what went wrong, what they should have done or said differently, and why people reacted the way they did. They also spend more time than men worrying about what will happen in the future to their security and happiness and how this will affect the people they live and work with. Men spend more time deliberating over solutions; women ruminate on causes and effects.

In other words, as a woman, you often think yourself crazy.

When you feel stuck, overwhelmed or stressed out, your brain is trapped in negative thinking patterns. You are likely to believe the worst will happen. You regret your life/career choices. You might find yourself critical of everything and everybody around you. Here are six tips to shift your perspective out of a negative spiral:

Shifting Tip #1: First, release the tension. You can’t change your thoughts while the adrenalin is flooding your body. Acknowledge you are hurting yourself. Then breathe deeply into your abdomen and slowly exhale until your body relaxes. Think of someone you care about or something you are proud of about yourself. Bring that thought into your heart and smile.

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Shifting Tip #2: Notice what point in time you are stuck on, the past or the future.

  • If you are stuck in the past, look for what your brain is trying to teach you. Recently, a woman told me that no matter how badly a situation turned out, we have to “squeeze the blessings” out of it. What mistake will you never make again? Write it down so you don’t have to think about it anymore. Also, you had a reason for making the choices and taking the actions you did. You now know there were other things you could have done. List out what you have learned from the experience so you have guidance for the future. Your past events shine a light on possibilities in the future based on what you now know about yourself, your desires, and what you do well. You have value. Your love is needed. Your work is important. Quit beating yourself up over the past so you have energy to focus on the future.

  • If you are stuck worrying about the future, try to determine what is at stake, really, and what is honestly in your control to do anything about what could happen. What are the consequences, really? How likely will the worst happen? How does the bad weigh against the good possibilities if you choose to move forward? If you don’t get what you hope for, what will you do next? Focus on what is in your control to do or influence. When you worry about things you can’t change or influence, you either burn-out or become a victim.

Shifting Tip #3: Examine your past history with worrying. Have any of your worries come true in the past? If they did, how did you cope with the outcome? Did any of the unexpected experiences lead to even better outcomes? It’s likely if you go with the flow you will handle what turns up and maybe even be grateful for the surprises.

Shifting Tip #4: Set aside a specific time to rehash the past or worry about the future. If you schedule a time of day to ruminate, you can remind your brain that you will attend to the problem later. Then you can focus on something more productive until your appointment comes up.

Shifting Tip #5: Practice self-compassion. Treat yourself like you would want others to treat you. Forgive yourself for being a human who has made mistakes in the past and will probably make more in the future. Find gentler ways to talk to yourself instead of using harmful words.

Shifting Tip #6: Focus on your next steps. You will feel more control when you are in action. Plan your next steps, even if they are small. Then be positively curious about what will happen next when you keep moving forward.

If these tips don’t help, I suggest you seek professional help to determine if there are clinical factors that needs to be addressed.

If you do find relief practicing these tips, print this page and keep it nearby so you don’t fall back into bad habits. You can learn from your actions and move on. You can trust things will work out, because they generally do. Don’t ever forget that you are the master of your brain when you decide to take control.

- Read more at brain tips at OutsmartYourBrain.com

Marcia Reynolds, PsyD., is the author of two leadership books, The Discomfort Zone and Wander Woman. She is President of Covisioning, a leadership development and coaching firm.

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