I’ll never forget what my mom said right after I told her I was expecting my first child. She said, “Now, you’ll never have a worry-free day the rest of your life.” Gee, thanks, Mom. I thought she was wrong. Of course, I’m worried now; I’m pregnant. What if the baby isn’t moving enough? What if there is something wrong? Pregnancy is a scary time, but I won’t have to worry once my baby is born.
Do you think I stopped worrying after my daughter was born? I did not stop. I worried even more. What if my baby is not eating enough? What if that rash is something serious? What if I can’t find a good babysitter when I return to work? What if my daughter gets bullied at school? What if she gets hurt on that class trip? What if? What if? What if?
Does any of this sound familiar to you? What do you worry about when it comes to your child (or children)? Is it their safety, health, happiness, nutrition, development, friendships, education, or future? Is it something else?
CALM: Worry Less in Four Simple Steps
In CALM for Moms: Worry Less in Four Simple Steps, I wrote:
Deep down, many moms feel that worry gives them some sort of superpower—an ability to stop certain things from happening to our kids if we just worry hard enough. Worrying does not prevent unwanted things from happening—but it does steal the joy of parenting from you.
The good news is that you can learn to worry less in four simple steps and enjoy a happier, more present, and more peaceful parenting experience using the CALM process. CALM is a four-step process designed to help you quickly and easily eliminate worry and cultivate inner peace:
C—Challenge Your Assumptions
A—Act to Control the Controllable
L—Let Go of the Uncontrollable
M—Master Your Mind
Step One: Challenge Your Assumptions
Challenge Negative Assumptions to Worry Less
This step is essential because negative assumptions create unnecessary worry. But how do you go about challenging your assumptions? After all, they make sense to you, so how do you break free from them? One strategy is to reframe the question from possibility to probability.
Here’s how it helps. After mentally compiling a hefty list of “what if” questions, you might ask yourself: “Is it possible these things will happen?” The answer is yes—of course, it’s possible. All things are possible. Anything can happen. That’s why, when we think about the unlimited possibilities of what might go wrong in any given situation, an enormous amount of worry can set in.
The good news is that you can regain your inner peace by changing the question. Instead of asking, “Is it possible?” shift the question to “Is it probable?” In other words, ask yourself, “Is it likely that what I’m worried about will happen?” You will gain a better perspective by simply changing the focus of the question from possibility to probability.
Make it Real
On a scale of 1–10, how likely is it that what you’re worried about will happen? Consider your answer on the following scale: (1 = least likely to happen; 10 = most likely to happen)
- Did you rate your worry a 5 or less? Acknowledging low risk can sometimes be enough to help you reconnect with your inner peace.
- Did you rate your worry a 9 or less? Keep calm, Mama Bear. There’s still a good chance that what you’re worried about won’t happen. Have you ever noticed that many things you’ve stressed about didn’t occur after all?
- Did you rate your worry a 10? Take a deep breath because there’s hope! The next three steps in the CALM process will help you let go of worry—even those with a 10 rating.
Step Two: Act to Control the Controllable
Control the Things You Can to Worry Less
The second step is all about taking action to control the things you can. You see, sometimes worry prompts you to take action. For instance, is worrying about your health prompting you to see a doctor, consult a nutritionist, or start an exercise program? Is worrying about your child’s schooling prompting you to meet with the teacher or find a tutor?
Make it Real
Take a moment to write down a list of possible actions your worries might be prompting you to take. Make sure to capture all your ideas in writing. It will keep you focused and on track. Then, follow through on your action plan.
Step Three: Let Go of the Uncontrollable
Control the Controllable to Worry Less
After you’ve done all you can to “control the controllable,” you’ve got to let go. As Mary Hemingway said, “Worry a little bit every day, and in a lifetime, you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.”
Extend Kindness to Others
Acts of kindness cause your brain to increase the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter (body chemical) that can help reduce depression and make you feel peaceful and euphoric. How does this increase in serotonin help you to let go of worry? Just try feeling euphoric and worried at the same time. It’s virtually impossible!
Make it Real
You have the power to boost your mood anytime you choose simply by extending kindness to another. Take a moment to write down ways you can be good to others in your life. What are some acts of kindness you can extend to another right now? Be creative and have some fun with this!
Step Four: Master Your Mind
Guard Against Negative Thinking to Worry Less
The final step in the CALM process, Master Your Mind, is about guarding against negative thinking. This is important because your inner dialogue largely dictates whether you feel worried or calm.
One strategy to calm your mind is to end “what-if” thinking. To do so, try implementing these three cures:
One: Ask yourself: What is?
Instead of asking “what if,” change the question to “what is?” This new question helps you stop borrowing trouble from the future and rehashing trouble from the past by focusing on the present.
For instance, suppose you’re worried about finding the right childcare provider before returning to work. Stop the “what if” game by reminding yourself that you’re not back at work right now. Right now, you can research childcare providers, ask friends for referrals, and conduct some interviews with potential candidates. At this very moment, you and your child are okay. Take a deep breath and bring your thoughts back to the present.
Two: Ask yourself: Will it matter a year from now?
What if your mother-in-law is ticked off that you chose to spend the holidays with your family this year? What if you have to call in sick for work to take care of your child? What if your e-mails sit in your inbox for another day while you take some time out to enjoy your life or to take action on a goal you’ve had on the back burner for a while? Will any of these things matter a year from now? Probably not. In fact, most of the things we spend our energy worrying about are really not that serious.
To distance yourself from current obstacles and concerns, ask yourself: Will this matter a year from now? This question will restore your perspective and remind you that most of the events in life that seem so urgent, stressful, and frustrating at the time are often insignificant in the grand scheme of things.
Three: Affirm to yourself: I’ll handle it!
If you feel what you’re worried about will matter a year from now, affirm to yourself: I’ll handle it! Think about everything you’ve handled up to this point in your life. Haven’t you already handled the cards that life has dealt to you? Isn’t it true that you’ll also be able to manage whatever the future brings? Affirming “I’ll handle it” will help you build belief in your ability to manage whatever comes your way. When you build your belief in your ability to handle whatever comes your way, worry loses its grip on you.
Make it Real
Turn a worried mind into peace of mind! When those “what ifs” are wasting your time and energy, focus on the present, restore your perspective, and build belief in your ability to manage whatever may come your way with these three steps:
- Ask yourself, “What is?”
- Ask yourself, “Will it matter a year from now?”
- Affirm, “I’ll handle it!”
CALM to Worry Less
The next time you are worried—about your child, your family, your finances, or anything in between—remind yourself to CALM and follow each of the four steps: Challenge Your Assumptions, Act to Control the Controllable, Let Go of the Uncontrollable, and Master Your Mind. Using these four steps will help you to transform worry into inner peace.
Denise Marek is known as “The Worry Management Expert.” An international speaker, author, and television personality, she has helped thousands of people around the world transform their feelings of worry into feelings of inner peace.