Worrying. The process of over-thinking what might happen in the future. I say over-thinking because in most cases when we worry about things that might happen in the future usually occurs when we concoct a scenario in our head about some future event and, as is human, we often embellish the scenario with a whole load of ‘what ifs’.
What if this happens? What should I do? But, what if that happens instead?
Whilst it is good to plan things for the future, it is not good to worry about it. Worrying is planning for too many outcomes, most of which will never likely happen. Even if you’re not planning for those outcomes, but you’re still thinking about what might be and getting yourself into a knot about it, you’re worrying.
The spiritual effects of worrying can be similar to the spiritual effects of unforgiveness in that the mind keeps the body in a constant state of over-alertness and ‘overdrive’. This constant heightened alertness leads to an increase in cortico-steroids in our bodies and science has shown over and again that these can cause various diseases. We’ll look at these diseases specifically later on in the post. People who are consumed with unforgiveness are living in the past. People who are consumed with worry are living in the future. We need to live in the present!
But the spiritual effects of worrying are just as disturbing as the physical effects;
Worrying steals our joy. We cannot see the good in the things that happen around us because we are concentrating on the future. Which leads to :-
Worrying stops us from living in the moment. We’re concentrating on the future, not the now. We can’t enjoy what is happening now if we’re focussed constantly on the future
Our relationships with other people become impaired. This is the most harmful of all the spiritual effects of worrying, because without relationships, there is no point to any of it!
Worrying reduces our creative ability in the universe. The Law Of Attraction is quite clear that we attract that which we think about the most. Worrying is thinking about all the wrong things – we actually signal to the universe that this is what we want. And yet, it’s the opposite of what we want.
How Do I Stop Worrying Spiritually?
It would be easy to say ‘Stop It’ to this worrying – as indeed was once said in a TV sketch which, for entertainment purposes I’ll include below. But if it were this simple then everyone would be able to do it. It is fair to say that ‘Stop It’ is actually the answer – but the question is how? How do we stop worrying about things in a spiritual way?
It’s also very easy to say ‘Give your problems to God’. We believe this is a form of spiritual bypassing because it doesn’t actually address the problem. It may help temporarily, but it won’t help resolve any of the underlying issues that are making you worry too much.
Some issues may well require professional help to resolve and can’t necessarily be addressed in an online post such as this. If that’s the case, we’d highly recommend you find yourself a spiritually based counsellor or even psychologist to help you through. This is particularly true if the worrying is debilitating and affecting your daily activities.
Spiritual Meditation To Reduce Worrying
Spiritual meditation can help reduce our worrying. This works because it helps to calm our minds, takes our focus off of our problems for a designated time, and focusses instead on ourselves. Spiritual meditation helps us to focus on the here and now, not the future.
Often, when we meditate and focus on ourselves spiritually rather than on our problems (whether they be from the past (unforgiveness) or from the future (worrying and anxiety)) we quieten our minds sufficiently to allow the creative nature of our true selves to communicate back to us. When this happens, the problem we’re worrying about often has a solution. A solution we cannot receive if our minds are too busy and blocking the creative signal from the universe or our higher selves.
Quieting the mind through guided meditation can be one of the most effective ways to reduce worrying that we can do alone.
Mental Imagery Swapping
Most humans are driven by visual stimuli. That’s to say, it’s our sight (and imagination) that drives our responses to stimuli. If we see a tiger running towards us, we run. Or we prepare to fight. This action of preparing to fight or run generates hormones in our body that are specifically designed to give us extra endurance and strength to do this in the moment. That last bit is key, hold that thought for a moment.
Our imagination is very powerful because it creates images in our mind. Separate sections of our mind operate independently and in the case of the ‘fight or flight’ centre, it knows no difference between what we literally see visually with our eyes and that which we imagine we see in our mind.
This means that what we imagine also creates these extra strength and endurance hormones – but importantly, we have no outlet for them. They’re created to give us extra strength and endurance in the moment, but we have no release for them because we’re not going to fight or run. This is because what we’re imagining with our worry is not happening in the moment, it’s happening in the future.
But what works against us can also work for us! With practice we can control our imagination. And worry is no more than overactive imagination running wild and uncontrolled. Learning to control our thoughts can lead to massive increases in our quality of life. Remember, ultimately, you’re reacting to stimuli. Stop the stimuli and the reactions will ease too.
It takes some training – and it might be worth engaging the services of a professional who can help you to do this. Recent treatments such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).
The Washing Line Approach
One technique that can work, and can safely be tried at home, is this;
Find somewhere quiet and comfortable and sit, close your eyes and try to relax. Unlike meditation, relaxation is not compulsory.
Imagine a scene in a large city whereby people who live in flats have their washing lines strung across from one building to another. An image is included below.
Notice that the clothes hanging in the middle must have got there somehow. Indeed, each clothes ‘line’ is actually two lines on a pulley. When you pull one line towards you, the other line goes away from you. So you lean out your window, peg an item of clothing on the line, then pull the opposite line toward you – moving the item you just pegged away from you and over the street.
Imagining the above, but instead of clothes on the line we’re going to hang ‘videos’ of our thoughts.
Whatever it is you’re worrying about, picture it now, in a frame and as a separate item pegged onto that street hanging washing line.
When you have pegged that imagery to the washing line, look at it once more. Then, in your mind, grab the other clothes line and pull it quickly towards you. Imagine, as a result, the imagery you pegged to the clothes line has no choice but to be pulled away from you.
Thoughts, pictures and ultimately any stimuli that is far away from you is less important and less stimulating. Imagine yourself looking at the overall scene of the street and the buildings, with your worry scene now further away and smaller than it was before.
Pull that clothes line again if you like to move the scene in the frame hanging on the washing line even further away. As the scene moves further away, notice that it has less effect on you.
Finally, now that you’ve whooshed away that negative worry thought, replace it with something more positive, such as somewhere that relaxes you, or something that makes you feel good.
This method is not easy, but with practice it does become more so. It can be incredibly liberating to be able to whoosh away your negative thoughts in this way. Practice it with innocuous thoughts first to build the skill. It’s easier to do on thoughts that don’t carry as much emotion for you. But as you get more practised you’ll be able to do the same thing with thoughts that do carry a lot of emotion.
If you find you can’t accomplish the technique, it’s worth getting some external help. A professional CBT practitioner may be able to help you try this method or may have others of their own.
How Does Too Much Worrying Affect The Body?
As we mentioned above, worrying creates additional stress hormones as a response to our fight or flight system. These hormones, when we’re faced with an actual threat in the present (e.g. a tiger running towards us) are helpful. They increase our heart rate, our blood pressure, reduce our digestion process and concentrate all our bodily energy and blood flow into areas that enable us to either fight the tiger or run away from it.
Whichever option we take to deal with the tiger situation, these hormones are burned up naturally as a result of the increased physical activity of either fighting or running away. Once the threat is dealt with, the hormones aren’t needed and have been used up.
But with worry, the second part is missing. There is nothing to fight or run away from. The hormones aren’t burned up as quickly and so our heart rate stays up, our blood pressure stays up and our ability to digest our food stays down. The fight or flight hormone leads to a release of cortico-steroids into our bloodstream which reduces immune response, increases sugars (which can lead to diabetes) in our blood stream and makes us angry and irritable. So, worrying too much affects the body in the following ways;
Feeling tired, fatigued or washed out as we run out of energy to keep ‘fighting or running’
Restlessness, as the fight or flight hormone keeps us hyper-alert.
Irritable, due to the fatigue and cortico-steroids.
Headaches, due to the muscle tension, from the constant fight or flight hormones.
Palpitations or chest pains. Strongly consider a professional medical assessment if you’re experiencing these symptoms. Sometimes the stress hormones can cause these by themselves, but sometimes they can be as a result of an actual physical heart problem. Only a professional medical assessment can determine this.
Reduced sex drive. Your mind says now is not the time for that! There is fighting or running to be done.
Cancer. The long term effect of the cortico-steroids reducing immune response can lead to cancerous tumours being able to form.
Chronic hypertension. (High blood pressure) which leads to heart disease, kidney problems, liver problems etc. etc.
Worrying about things literally serves no purpose. With the help of the techniques in the previous section you can learn to leave worrying behind and concentrate instead on how to overcome and prevent the outcomes you’ve been worrying about.
What Does Anxiety Mean Spiritually?
Anxiety blocks our spiritual abilities as noted above. Part of the reason it does this is because it shows the universe, or the one source (whichever you prefer to call it) that you don’t trust the process. Spiritually speaking, anxiety shows that you don’t believe. Whether that’s that you don’t believe in the process itself, or you don’t believe you are worthy of the process working for you.
Now, of course, belief in something working isn’t necessarily going to translate into it actually working. But personal experience in much of the spiritual process, particularly around the law of attraction suggests that belief certainly helps. Because without belief in a successful outcome we fight against our own selves to make sure it actually doesn’t! And anxiety is part of that fight.
This may be why the Christians do say “Give your problems to God” (although most will say that because that’s what the Bible says to do). But if you don’t trust in the process you can end up with anxiety. Giving your problems to God does at least show faith in the process. Although we believe it needs that and effort on our part to steer the ship in the right direction. If merely giving our problems to God would sort them out then there’s some fairly heavy questions about whether we have any free will in our lives or is it all just destiny.
Nevertheless, anxiety means that spiritually you still have some growth to do in order to trust the process. That’s not a bad thing, or a criticism of anyone who struggles with anxiety. We all do on occasion. That’s because we all have growing to do. Using the techniques in this post can help build the trust in the process and reduce anxiety.
Planning Ahead Is Not The Same As Worrying
Of course, one of the best ways to avoid anxiety and worrying is to plan ahead. Whatever it is that you’re worrying about, you can plan around it. Planning, in itself, is good. But over-planning, or trying to plan ahead for every eventuality in a situation is when planning turns to worrying.
Have faith in yourself and your ability to think on your feet if something does go wrong. Have faith that you also have friends or family that can help you if whatever it is that your over-planning goes wrong. And have faith that we live in a society where we can get physical help for almost any problem.
In other words, with the skills you have as you’ve grown up, and the contacts you have (who also have contacts), there will always be something you can do if whatever it is you’re worrying about comes to pass as badly as you worry it will. And remember, 999 times out of 1000, whatever it is you’re worrying about won’t be anywhere near as bad as you think it is!
So, plan ahead, of course. But don’t try to overplan. Overplanning leads to worry, and we’ve shown where that leads.
There is absolutely no benefit to worrying about something. Worry blocks the signals from our higher selves because we’re distracted. We’re full of physical 3D hormones when we worry, and this causes our minds to be noisy.
Worrying not only shows a lack of trust in the process, it actively blocks the process. A calm mind can receive the answers to future problems seemingly from nowhere. A calm mind is not a worrying mind.
There are physical techniques which can help reduce the worrying we might feel, and this helps us control a wide range of different emotions we might be tempted to act on against our own interests. These physical techniques aren’t necessarily spiritual in nature but they can calm our minds and help us therefore grow spiritually.
As with many of our posts, if you’re struggling with any of the issues in this post to a point where it’s affecting your daily ability to properly function, then we highly recommend you talk to a qualified counsellor (spiritual or otherwise) and/or a qualified medical professional for assistance.
We hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any comments or feedback please leave them below!
3: Skottnik L, Linden DEJ (2019). Mental Imagery and Brain Regulation-New Links Between Psychotherapy and Neuroscience. Front Psychiatry. 2019;10:779. Published 2019 Oct 30. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00779
Featured Image by chenspec from Pixabay (modified for MysticalSpiritualPathfinder)