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How to Stop Worrying Using the 180 Rule

Aug 17, 2007
We all know the feeling; a negative voice begins creeping into our heads, whispering (or sometimes screaming) worst-care scenarios, reminding us of past disappointments or predicting doom and disaster for the future. And so the cycle begins...

This small negative thought begins to build, attracting more negative thoughts, and pretty soon, you find yourself feeling physically uncomfortable and in a state of worry. The more you worry, the more you feel uncomfortable; and the more you feel uncomfortable, the more you worry. So it just goes around and around, building into an avalanche of negativity that seems certain to overwhelm you at any moment.

Breaking the vicious cycle of worry requires a "radical shift in thinking." To quote the old info-mercial, you have to find a way to "stop the insanity!" But the great news is that we affect radical shifts in our thinking all the time. If fact, as human beings, we are really good at it. Don't believe me? Consider this simple example:

You're watching "Lost" on television-you're completely drawn into the story-line and focused with laser-like precision on who took the Australian girl's baby, or what that smoke-monster thing is, or whatever drama they've cooked up for this episode. And then suddenly...

The phone rings. It's your child's teacher from school, or a distant relative that never calls you, or your boss calling about a problem at work.

In about 1.3 seconds your focus has shifted 180 degrees. You are in a completely different mode of operation, you have completely different priorities and even a different tone of voice as you deal with the situation at hand.

At this point, the furthest thing from your mind is "who took the baby?" or "what's that smoke-monster thing all about?" Congratulations! You have just completed a radical shift in thinking.

These sudden changes in our mind-set are not rare, but most of the time they happen because something outside of us interrupts our current pattern of thought. However, we can interrupt our own pattern of thought just as easily as something outside of us can (like the boss calling, etc.). To do this, I use a technique I call "The 180 Rule."

The 180 Rule is a way of interrupting your pattern of thought by doing the exact opposite of what you are doing right now. You make a complete 180 degree shift in as many areas as possible until you find your self automatically in a different state of mind.

For example: if you find yourself in a negative loop of worry and fear, stop and think to yourself, "180 degree shift." And then begin doing the opposite of what you were just doing. If you were watching TV, turn it off and listen to music instead. If you were eating, put it aside and go for a short walk. Wearing your old "fat jeans?" Change into shorts. Reading the newspaper? Put it down and go take a bath. You get the idea.

And while you are doing this, notice the state of your body. Are you slouching in a chair? Sit up straight or better yet, stand. Are you rushing around to get ready to go out? Let them wait for you a few minutes while you sit down and read a chapter in a book. All of these seemingly small things help to interrupt your pattern of thought, and the more 180 degree shifts you make at one time, the better. If you were listening to music and doing housework-try taking a shower and singing.

When you interrupt the pattern of worry before it really gets started you are establishing a new habit of (you guessed it) not worrying. And it's really easy to remember: when you are worrying, notice what else you are doing and begin to do the complete opposite of that. Shift accomplished!
About the Author
Jon Mercer recovered from a 20 year struggle with severe anxiety to become a successful personal development coach and author. Today he helps others eliminate anxiety problems, through private consultation, seminars and video coaching programs.

Jon is the founder of www.easycalm.com, a leading anxiety resource site. Click here to watch a free video explaining Jon's method of eliminating Anxiety.
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