5 Steps to Help You Tame Worry and Negativity Starting Now

If you’ve been worried about the events in the news lately, you're not alone.

Posted Nov 20, 2020

If you’ve been anxious and worried about the events in the news lately, you are not alone. Many of us are worried about the pandemic, the elections, and all the negativity around us. The deep political divides in the US are causing tremendous upheaval and worry. It’s readily apparent that we have become a nation divided. 

Alexandra Koch/Pixabay
Source: Alexandra Koch/Pixabay

Discussing the polarization in the US, a November 2020 article published in the American Psychological Association's Monitor on Psychology explains, “One thing we can do right now as individuals is pause and consider our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and identify the psychological factors at play” (Waldroff, 2020). Psychologist Kirk Schneider, Ph.D., (2020) explains that when people fear that they may be rendered insignificant or disempowered, this can lead to dramatic polarization and a highly inaccurate view of the “other side" (in Waldroff, 2020). And according to cognitive psychologist Fathali Moghaddam, Ph.D., the opposing sides can grow more and more extreme, leading to what he calls mutual radicalization (in Waldroff, 2020).

As we live with all of this tumult, it can help to become more aware of how the news affects your thoughts or changes your mood. How can you take a step back to gain greater balance and perspective as you try to overcome worry, fear, and negativity – as you consider the divides and your role in perpetuating them and also healing them?

Each day offers new opportunities for growth and change. Where do you find the answers to your questions? Rather than staying stuck or looking for magic answers somewhere out there, how can you discover new possibilities and a path toward your next steps? How can you wake yourself up and move toward greater calm and clarity? How can you move toward becoming part of the solutions amongst the upheaval and divide?

Striving to live your life with greater clarity and perspective is an ongoing process, not a destination you can just reach and remain at. Moving toward a fuller life requires listening, courage, discernment, and increasingly engaging your values and strengths, learning to distinguish your needs from your wants, so that you can discover and express your best self (Kaufman, 2020; Niemiec, 2018; Kirschenbaum H. & Henderson, V.L., 1989). This process can be enhanced by employing a growth mindset, believing that your efforts and directed energies can empower your ability to learn, grow, and change (Dweck, 2006).

Drawing on ideas from positive psychology, neuroscience, and mindfulness, this five-step discernment process may help you re-energize, reduce negativity, and gain greater clarity.

Step 1. Pause: Mindfully notice that you’re breathing. Simply notice the natural flow of your breath. 

Step 2. Listen: Tune in to your inner voice – the still small voice that guides you. Listen to messages from your mind, body, and spirit.

Step 3. Reflect: Notice and identify your feelings and reactions. 

Step 4. Discern: Where do you feel called? Sift through your awareness and intuitive wisdom along with realities, possibilities, and choices. What additional information do you need?

Step 5. Act: What direction do you want to go toward? What’s the next right thing? Mindfully choose your next steps for reflection or action.

To try this process, offer yourself a few moments of quiet. This can be an opportunity to pause, pay attention, and reflect as you follow these five steps to create a habit of greater discernment in your life.

Step 1. Pause: Create an intermission in your day. Offer yourself a few moments of quiet contemplation to help you tune into your inner voice. Make sure you’re in a safe space. Let yourself get into a comfortable position and gently become aware that you are breathing. Simply notice your breath as it flows in and out of your body, breathing mindfully as you meet the moment – no need to change anything, simply noticing. Pause here, noticing the flow of your breathing for a brief time that feels right to you.

Step 2. Listen: What’s on your mind and in your heart? Gently notice where your attention gravitates and let yourself be present where you are called in this moment. Open your awareness to your inner voice and your intuition. What is the voice that offers you guidance and wisdom letting you know? What do you know deep inside that perhaps you don’t often let yourself notice? What are you sensing with your inner compass or guide? Perhaps an image, a hunch, a fleeting feeling, or a knowing just waiting there for you to become aware of.

Step 3. Reflect: What are you noticing about how you feel – excited, content, sad, worried, resentful, angry, hopeful, or another reaction? Try to name the feeling or emotion for yourself. What are you noticing in your body? What is your experience?

Step 4. Discern:  Consider these quetions and any others that come to you:

  • What is most significant for me to pay attention to right now? 
  • Where do I feel called? 
  • Where do I feel inspiration, such as: energy, joy, understanding, happiness, openness, gratitude, zest?
  • Where do I feel desolation, such as: frustration, confusion, anger, restlessness, meaninglessness?
  • What do I want to move away from?
  • What can I release or let go of? What beckons me to move toward?
  • What am I aware of now that I hadn’t noticed or let myself see before? 

Step 5. Act: Consider what may have shifted or changed for you during this process? What did you learn? What direction do you want to go toward? What is your next right step?

**This post is for educational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.

References

Dweck, C.S. (2006), Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Random House.

Kaufman, S.B. (2020). Transcend: The new science of self-actualization. New York, NY: TarcherPerigree.

Kirschenbaum H. & Henderson, V.L. (1989). The Carl Rogers reader.  Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Niemiec, R. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

Waldroff, K. (2020). Healing the political divide: How did we become such a divided nation, and how can psychologists help us bridge the gap? Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, 52(1). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/01/healing-political-divide