Worrying about your future after a loved one has died or is no longer in your life is commonly experienced in grief.  The tomorrow you had once planned together has now changed and it can be difficult to imagine a life without that person.  There are so many small and not so small thoughts that come into your mind and these thoughts can cause you to suffer mentally and physically.  Your brain may be firing so many worries on repeat.  It is overwhelming and unnerving.

It’s hard enough to lose someone.  Trying to deal with the worrisome thoughts when your body is anxious, stressed and exhausted is icing on the misery cake.  Grieving takes so much energy out of a person!

Worrisome thoughts can be perceived as threats so your autonomic sympathetic nervous system begins to rev up your body.  Your heart starts racing, your muscles start contracting, preparing your body to fight or flee.  Your concentration becomes more focused on the threat and you start stressing out.  This limits your ability to rationally problem -solve and find some peace.

To get some control back to your mind and body, you may want to gently help your body calm down and think in an alternative manner so that you can decrease the perceived threat and think in a way that is more constructive and solution focused.

Anxiety expert and clinical psychologist Jennifer Abel, Ph.D., suggests using the intervention she calls B3’s- or Better But Believable thoughts.  The idea is to come up with several different thoughts that are better (meaning more positive) and possible.  It is not to just to “think positively” because sometimes when we do that those thoughts are not believable so they do not help.  The idea is to come up with 3-4 thoughts that are related and more positive, and pick one that is most believable to you.  If you have a hard time coming up with them on your own, ask a family member or friend to help.  Write them down.

For example, I have the worry, “What am I going to do now if my internet goes down or I have technical questions about my computer? Joe used to handle all of that for me.”

Some B3’s for the above worry could be:

  1. My brother Todd is computer savvy- I could ask him.
  2. I will research companies that help with these issues and use them.
  3. I can begin to learn more about technology so I can fix these issues on my own.

After you chose one, read it to yourself while doing some deep breathing. Breathe in deeply for 4 counts, and breathe out for four counts, reading over the thought that is better. Try and breathe in so deeply that your belly expands and contracts.  Do this breathing and reading exercise for one minute.  Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system that calms the body.  It lowers blood pressure, lowers heart rate, and reduces muscle tension.  When your body is more relaxed, your brain can get more creative in exploring solutions and planning for action.

Grieving the loss is hard.  Remembering your sources of support from others and yourself is instrumental in healing.  You have more resources than you think.

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