When we sign up for having kids, we sign up for worrying. If you are in a custody battle, or in a coparenting situation, the worry increases exponentially.
No one is immune. We all do it. No need to judge it, but we definitely need to manage it.
Our brains have a bias for the negative. It is part of our primitive survival programming from the days of cave dwelling. Our brains run a default program called “what is going wrong right now”. So, if you worry, just know that your brain is functioning normally.
I want to offer you four effective tools to help manage your worrying.
1. Worry while doing something
If you are going to be worrying, at least be productive while you do it. There are many tasks we can do while we worry. I love to take a walk when my head is feeding me lots to worry about. This helps some of the worry fall to the background while I get some much needed exercise. Another thing I can do while worrying is cleaning. I love to clear a drawer or closet out when I am full of worry. It makes the nervous energy go to work for me.
2. Go to the worst-case scenario
When your brain is catastrophizing and full of “what ifs”, I find it really helpful to imagine the worst-case scenario. I do this with my clients too. The important thing is to not just stop and watch it play out like a scary movie. You need to say: Ok brain…if that does happen what would I do? How would I handle it? How would I want to think and act? Then answer those questions. This active problem solving in advance is very reassuring.
The truth is, whenever we are actually faced with a crisis, most of us are pretty good at stepping up, making decisions, and coping.
3. Give equal air time to the other possibilities
When your brain is on the “what if” train, it will hyper focus on the negative. It is imperative to to direct your brain to consider the other possible outcomes. The truth is, we do not know what the future will bring, so we need to consider positive possibilities too.
What if everything turns out just fine? What if your life becomes richer for this experience? You need to consider all these possibilities to think about the situation clearly.
4. Focus on what you can control
If the thing that you are worried about is 100% out of your control, I would suggest you dig deeper to figure out why you are so worried about it. Take a look under the hood to see if the worry is masking a deeper emotion like fear or love. This is a great time to journal or do a thought download.
If you actually do have a percentage of control, put your focus here and get to work on it. Sometimes, focusing too much on the things that you cannot control will interfere with your taking action on those things that you can control. The idea is to channel your time toward problem solving rather than doomsday planning.
A great example of this for my clients is their custody battle. While they cannot control the court decision, they certainly have complete control of how their evidence gets presented and how they show up for their lawyers, custody assessor and court.