When I was just barely 29, right in the midst of chronic fatigue and not too long before an intense episode of depression that landed me in the hospital for a week, I remember going to a doctor. She was a lovely woman and she was leading the way in integrative medicine, helping people get at the root cause of their illness.
At one point, I told her my husband and I wanted to start a family within the next year. I will always remember the expression on her face in that second. It embodied worry. That sad smile and look in her eyes about whether I could get pregnant and sustain a pregnancy and be healthy and happy felt like a big huge sack of sand had been dropped in my lap.
She re-composed her expression quickly and we went on to talk about food and supplements and other holistic treatments, but I couldn't seem to shake the heaviness I felt leaving her office after she 'sent me her worry'.
Of course she didn't try to weigh me down intentionally and she went on to offer me solutions and guidance, but experiencing the energy of her worry has stayed with me over the years and it's shaped my thinking about worry.
As women we often worry about other people lot. We worry about whether our spouse is ever going to slow down that work schedule and take better care of himself. We worry about whether our child is making friends and whether she is going to pass the science test or if he will make the basketball team. We worry about about our friend's diagnosis or how her marriage is unraveling or our whether our parents are okay living on their own still.
To say that all this worry is weighing us down is an understatement.
While I'm not a huge worrier, I definitely have had my moments. (...did you think all those examples above were from other women? ;)
We all worry to different degrees and for different reasons. Some of us are wired that way. Some of us have learned to believe that to worry makes you a 'good' mom, wife, friend, sister, co-worker. Maybe it's how we've learned to express care for someone or we feel like we're being helpful to a person by holding them in worry or holding their worry for them. Others of us have situational worry - we worry about this but not that, which seems to be the camp I'm in. Some, like the doctor I mentioned, have a lot of opportunities to worry about people all day long because of the work they do.
There have been times in my life that I didn't think I was a 'good' person because I didn't spend a lot of time worrying about the people I love and care about; like I *should* be worrying more about people if I really love them. I couldn't quite figure it out and have even felt shame around this at times.
Partially it's how I'm wired and I've realized more recently that this is rooted in that visceral feeling I had when the doctor sent me her worry. I experienced firsthand in a powerful way that receiving another person's worry feels heavy and hopeless and it's a burden for me to either carry or figure out how to set down.
Enter Danielle Laporte a few years back. Author. Speaker. Teacher. Light Giver.
I opened my email to a blog post she wrote called refuse to worry (and how to be more useful for your friends). What she wrote clarified for me the difference between worry and concern and how to shift from the former to the latter in a way that has been so helpful.
In part she wrote:
Energetically, there is a critical difference.
worry: to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; fret.
concern: to relate to; be connected with; be of interest or importance to; affect.
Worry obstructs possibility. Concern is pro-active.
Worry weighs things down. Concern can rise to the occasion.
Worry is wistful. Concern is penetrating.
Worry tangles. Concern peels back the layers.
Worry gossips. Concern enrolls.
Worry is the conjoined twin of anxiety. Of course concern can be riddled with anxiety, but it’s strong enough to turn anxiety into a constructive force.
There is a subtle but powerful difference between worry and concern. Worry feels like a bag of sand, landing heavy for not only the worrier but also for the worried-about. The energy of worry is gloomy and dark.
Concern though is empowering. It feels lighter, like something you can hold onto but also put down. Concern is more about sending light and love. It's about seeing the other person as resilient and capable. It's about offering good thoughts and supportive actions without burdening another person.
One of the ways Danielle shares about how to practice shifting from worry to concern is by sending people wishes. She offers examples like:
I’m worried that he’ll stay lonely. I wish him sweet love.
I’m worried the meds won’t work. I wish her quantum healing.
I’m worried she’ll do something drastic. I wish her equilibrium.
I’m worried he’ll sink into depression. I wish him lightness.
I’m worried this will takes years. I wish for swift grace.
I've practiced this myself over the years since I read this post. I've shared it with clients and sent it to friends. The response of women who are open to it is always that this feels so much lighter.
Sending wishes (or prayers) instead of spending time worrying and expressing that worry to people doesn't mean we don't love enough or aren't a 'good' woman. It's actually a way of lightening our own burdens, because worry takes up so much of our precious energy that could be used in more helpful ways. And it has the potential to lighten the burdens of others.
As much as I appreciate the intention behind it, I've learned that I don't want to receive another's worry; but their light and love, I'll take that any day of the week.
So, as part of our Lighten Up series, we have another question for you...
Who in your life would feel lighter if you replaced your worry for them with healthy concern and showered them (in thoughts, words and energy) with sweet wishes? How would you feel lighter if you shifted from chronic worry to concern + wishes?
If you decide to try this, don't be surprised if you feel challenged by how hard it can be. Often we are connected to our worry. It becomes part of our identity - 'I can't help it, I worry, that's who I am.' It fills our thoughts and our time and makes us feel like a good person.
Letting go of the habit of worrying, will create space in your mind and your life that might have you feeling a little disconcerted. You'll likely judge yourself and wonder if others are judging you when you don't engage in 'worry' conversations.
Just do what we call Notice & Name it for what it is: shifting a long-held pattern and it's making you feel a bit uncomfortable. Then, take a deep breath and send a wish out to whoever you 'caught' yourself worrying about.
We'd love to hear how this lands for you. Do you worry a lot or not so much? Can you see yourself sending wishes vs. worry? Have you experienced the energetic heaviness of worry being sent your way? Reply to this email and let us know your story and thoughts.
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P.S. Want a sure way to lighten up in body, mind and spirit this spring? Join us for our 14-Day Reset.
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