a) How can I stop thinking the worst? And stop worrying about dying?
Fears about dying can be quite common and can cause anxiety and become all-consuming in our thoughts. Depending on your individual circumstance, there are many ways to help soothe this fear by finding ways to confront your mortality and how to live a meaningful life. It is also about connecting with and understanding the circle of life in a way that brings ease rather than angst. Worrying about dying when there is no immediate threat is about our brains working in overdrive and telling us that we are in danger when we are not. Below is an explanation regarding why we tend to focus on threatening thoughts.
b) I don’t like leaving home as I am worried about what is going to happen when I’m out. Can you please give me some tips and things that I could try?
There is actually a really good evolutionary explanation for why we tend to focus on threatening thoughts. Our brains are wired to detect danger, to help us humans to survive as a species. So it’s really normal to have worries about something bad happening, but it’s how we choose to respond to those thoughts that makes a difference to how we stay on top of anxiety.
We can make our mind a gentle space by taking charge of our thoughts, and realising that thoughts are just thoughts. They don’t know everything. We don’t need to chase after all our thoughts, some of which may be fear-generated and irrational. Remember, we are not our thoughts. Have a practice at watching your thoughts enter your mind, acknowledging them, and then seeing them leave your mind, letting each one go. Some people find it helpful to visualise their thoughts like clouds passing in the sky, or leaves drifting down a stream: to see thoughts as impermanent, with a beginning and end. You don’t need to become your thoughts. By doing this and not letting the thoughts take charge of you, you can allow your mind to feel less rigid and stressed, and instead, feel more gentle, quiet and at peace.
We can also practice self-compassionate thoughts, by acknowledging the worry and then saying to ourselves, “thanks brain for trying to protect me, but I know I’m safe for now.”
Sometimes worrying thoughts can cause patterns of avoidance for us – for example, we think we’ll make ourselves feel better if we avoid leaving the house. When we do this repeatedly, our brains become comfortable with this pattern and then we think it’s the only way to be safe. The key here is to gently challenge yourself to do things that feel uncomfortable (but not unbearably scary). So you might decide to go out even when you feel worried, and prove to your anxious brain that it is in fact, safe. In the very likely case that nothing bad happens at the end of the day, you will feel more confident to go out again another time. The more you practice this, the more able you are to challenge your worries and have the good day that you deserve.
If your worries become overwhelming and are getting in the way of your usual everyday functioning, remember that accessing support to get you through this time is a helpful way of gaining insight and taking charge of your thoughts.
Wishing you all the best,
~Thania and Christina~