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Posts Tagged ‘Marsha Linehan’

Photo taken by Maggie Wright of Wilmington, Ohio.

Humans have a natural tendency toward worrying. When we don’t know what is going to happen in any given situation, we may start to feel ourselves getting keyed up and thinking the worst possible outcome will come into existence. We may lose sleep, no longer have a normal appetite and becoming irritable without intending to do so. That’s what worry does.

A former co-worker of mine told me during a spiritual conversation one day that worry is a sin. He mentioned how the Bible instructs us not to worry and how God is in control, we just have to have faith. When I heard this, it helped change my perspective about the excessive worrying I had done my whole life. Yes, I was dubbed a “worry wart.”

This, along with becoming familiar with acceptance and mindfulness, has transformed my worry into productive energy. Acceptance-based interventions are part of a treatment modality known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy, developed in the 1970s by Marsha Linehan. Counselors and psychologists across the country use this as part of their treatment (and insurance companies love that).

Part of the goal in DBT is to work toward acceptance of what IS and even what WAS. So often we can fall into the mindset of “I wish…” or “I should…” rather than looking at what we are thinking, feeling and doing right now. Adding mindfulness to our lives takes acceptance of the here-and-now, this moment, and allows us to be fully present where we are.

Sound complicated? It’s actually quite the opposite, but it does take a conscious effort to alleviate worry and practice acceptance and mindfulness. However, it DOES work. At least, that’s my experience. When we can stop “shoulding on ourselves” and move to a place where we can be okay with what is in front of us in this moment, we can then start to realize that there is no need to worry about the next moment. It will take care of itself.

Let me give you an example of how I use these practices in my daily life. My schedule is overwhelming as I am finishing graduate school and sometimes I look at my planner thinking “How in the world will I ever get all of this done?” Then I start stressing out and feeling like I want to give up because it seems impossible to complete all of these tasks. It is in that moment that I stop, take a deep breath or two, remember where I am (i.e. work or school) and re-focus on what I must do in the moment; what’s the task at hand. If I have a paper due in three weeks, of course I don’t want to wait until the last minute to finish it, but if I’m at work and there is nothing I can do to complete the paper while I’m there, I’m able to notice the stress coming up, feel it, not judge it, and let it go (also known as having a “teflon mind”). I can then stay present in the moment and my worry subsides.

At first I thought there was simply no way I could stay in the moment. Worrying is what I did… always. I was turned off by the idea of accepting what is and being fully present where I am because I “don’t have time to practice all of this stuff. I have too much to get done.” Yet, those were the reasons it was crucial to implement such skills.

DBT skills extend beyond acceptance and mindfulness, but I will spare you and not get into all of that. You can Google DBT to find a wealth of information that may help you stop worrying for worry’s sake.

In this moment, I am finishing this blog and heading out the door for work.

Until next time…

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