How To Crowd Worry Out Of Your Mind:
I’ve spoken above about how I’ve dealt with bouts of anxiety and how eliminating certain foods and understanding the difference between amygdala and neo cortex based anxiety has supported me over the years.
However, I think worry and anxiety are two sides of the same coin – we are the only species that have evolved the visionary capacity- where we can use our minds eye to literally see into our future. We also have what’s called ‘theory of mind’ – where I can think about what you think about me –i.e. do you like/dislike me etc.
This can be an incredible thing; envisioning your future can allow you to architect and create exactly what you want from life and your theory of mind helps to build incredible relationships with other people – the relationships that normally thrive are the ones where you can see from the other persons point of view or figuratively ‘put yourself in their shoes’.
Our brain, specifically our neo cortex has evolved to do this; but it also means that same visionary mechanism can have opposite and negative effect if we don’t manage it. Your brain is like a Rottweiler guard dog, if you mind it, care for it and look after it, it will serve you for life but if you mistreat or don’t look after it, it can attack you, harm you and even kill you.
“Don’t let your biggest enemy live between your two ears”
So what does that negativity look like? It all comes under the same umbrella- worry. Instead of focusing on creating your dream body, life or job – you worry that you might not look good enough, that you will never meet the right person, have enough money or that people may not like you.
There’s an incredible chapter in the book ‘Social’ by Harvard professor Matthew Lieberman whereby they put people into an FMRI machine (functional magnetic resonance imaging) – like an MRI but for your brain that shows the section of our brain that lights up when we are left with our own thoughts. When they put people into this machine after having just performed a simple task, the part of the brain that thinks about our social relationships lights up every time we are left to our own devices (i.e. not focused on a task).
This means that every second we not working, in conversation or focusing on a task, our brain is automatically starts thinking about our social relationships (it’s the default mode). Think about yourself, how often have you been driving home from work and you relay the conversations or interactions you had that day “what did Suzie mean by that comment?’ or ‘I wonder Paul likes me?’ – we’ve all done it and again, like most things, it once served an incredible evolutionary purpose. The more social awareness and theory of mind we have (i.e. put ourselves in other peoples shoes)- the more socially accepted to society we will be. Thousands of years ago, if you were isolated from your large hunter-gatherer group, it meant you ended up as dinner for some sabre tooth tiger so it was important to be accepted into the group.
This is why we have such a yearning to be liked and accepted. It’s an evolutionary survival adaption. Like most things, when used positively, it can enhance your life tremendously. Deep down, the majority of us want to be accepted and liked by our peers and build positive and thriving relationships with people.
But what happens when this isn’t positively channelled. Those social thoughts that allow us to better integrate into a society can consume our every free moment, which leads to. You guessed it. Worry.
So the question is, how can I use this information to support my own life? As someone who has spent a large portion of my life dealing with anxiety and worry, hopefully my story and tips will support you on your own journey.
Crying Into A Steering Wheel Until The Penny Finally Dropped:
I will never forget the night when I nearly reached breaking point. It was a few months before Holly was born and I had just finished working with twelve back-to-back clients. I was also preparing myself for the fitness model world championships in Las Vegas and had trained twice that day. I had more or less given up sleep at this stage and my anxiety and worry were at an all time high. During my own thinking time, I would regularly ask myself ‘What if I didn’t make my show? What if there is something wrong with my baby? What if I can’t keep my business thriving? All fear and worry.
I love the acronym description of FEAR ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’ – I had worked myself up into a frenzy and I remember parking outside my new home and crying whilst simultaneously hitting my head off the steering wheel for what felt like an eternity.
My body felt liked it was encased in a vice and the jaws of the vice were been drawn tighter and tighter. All the worries and fear felt very real at the time.
Socrates says ‘know thyself’ and one of my greatest gifts that I will be forever grateful for, is the ability to see things before they actually happen in the context of my own life.
I trained myself to have this ability when I played top-level sport, when I travelled the world as a professional fitness model and when I left the teaching profession to start my own business that better served people on a larger scale.
My own life philosophy that has supported me greatly over the years is ‘become the person you want to be and then wait for reality to catch up with that version of you’ – I wanted to a professional fitness model who travelled the world, so I acted, lived and became that person until reality caught up.
I wanted to create a business and life that helped to serve as many people as possible so I do my best to become that person, then wait for reality to catch up. My biggest goal in life is leave the world better than the how I found it and to instil that life philosophy into my daughter so that if she chooses to stand on the shoulders of giants, she has the character and belief to do it. I want the world to be better because we were here.
Sometimes we determine our character by what we have or do and that allows us to become that person. If I have a nice car or a big house then I will be successful. If I do well in this show, test or exam, then I can become that person.
In my opinion, that model is the wrong way around. It’s the ‘do, have, be’ model. If I do or have this, I can become that.
I think a better way to live life is the ‘be, do, have’ – I become this person, then I can do that and I’ll have this. If you want to be in better shape, you need to become a person who makes better food choices and creates better habits that support that end vision. Become a fit person in your mind, do the things like: eat well, create supportive habits and exercise more that all support the body you want. “Be, do, have”.
The ability to see into my future in the context of my own life has been of my biggest drivers throughout my life but like a Rottweiler, it can lead you to the brink of insanity if channelled the wrong way. That night, staring into my steering wheel, contemplating why I felt his way my turning point.
“We can choose to be the victim or we can choose to be the victor – you cant have both” – Billy Cox
As I sat in the car feeling really sorry for myself, I looked into my audio book library and re-listened to one of my favourite books ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene. Suddenly, I felt the wave of intense feeling starting to fade. My mind went into the book and I felt free if only for a short period of time. This was when I discovered my first ‘trick’ to dealing with worry – which I call ‘taking control of your free time’ which ultimately is your thinking time.
Take Control Of Your Free Thinking Time:
The biggest difference in my life over the last two-year period (alongside the birth of my daughter) is my ability to take control on my wandering and unhelpful thoughts. Two years ago, if I were left to my own devices, my mind would wander off to the social interaction conversations I had that day – and my life never really changed. I had the same income, the same shape, the same network of people I hung around it- nothing ever really progressed.
Now I fill all my thinking time with audio books, podcasts or media that supports my end goal in all the areas of my life. I consume information that helps me on my own journey: I know that philosophy helps strengthen my mind-set so I read Seneca or Marcus Auerelius before bed.
I know that reading books, going to seminars and doing courses on physiology, biomechanics and nutrition allow me to build my own knowledge that can directly impact the people I work with.
My advice would be to make a list of all the things you want in your life: the body you want, the job you want, the relationships you want and put them all somewhere visible where you can see them. After that, consume all the information there is that supports that end goal. When I wanted to build my own body, I read every book and magazine that I could find that would support the image that I wanted to create. Sixteen years later, I have the body that I dreamed about when I was thirteen years of age.
Use your free time to consume the information that supports you in creating the life that you want. Before you know it, even when you are left with your own devices, your automatic thoughts start to manifest themselves in ways that support your vision– not to the silly comment made to you at lunchtime.
“What you think, you become” – Buddha