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Be More Bird: 4 Tips to Fly Free of Worry

Birds on feeder

I sometimes sit and look outside at the birds flitting around the feeder, patiently taking it in turns to get their fill.  The lumpy pigeons are less successful but I admire their determination. I marvel at the magpies as they work, non-stop, to get a stick-home camouflaged into a treetop. I hear the tropical Manchester parakeets squawking overhead, beautiful emerald bullets proudly making their presence known. And I think...oof, to be a bird! A tiny-brained, flying, beaky-being without a worry in the world.

I am assuming that birds do not have the capacity to worry. Do they? Fear is a pretty basic survival mechanism for all living things, so I imagine they will feel a tad fearful if a kestrel is giving them the side-eye and licking its beak, but do they worry about Kes coming back to get them in the future? Can they think ahead? Can they worry about the big What If? (Answers on a postcard, please.)

I hate it when I get my worry on. I am talking here about my proclivity to worry about hypothetical future events. What a waste of time. Worrying about possible outcomes does not change anything (other than my blood pressure). Instead, worry renders me incapable of change because I am so stuck in the stories in my head that I miss the steps I could action in the present to actually make a change.

Some of the things I worry about:

  • that I am going to die and will not have filled my life with enough joy.

  • that I am becoming forgetful and what if it is the start of Alzheimers.

  • that every man or woman over 65 that sits on a bench on their own is lonely.

  • that I am becoming forgetful. (Have I said that one?)

  • that I might crash the car or that someone will crash into me.

  • that I am not the best mum in the whole wide world...ever!

  • that I might get ill before I go on holiday.

Worrying is anticipatory fear and we all experience it to some extent. It is a clever protective mechanism to reduce the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty. We try to work out eventualities that could happen so as to prepare us and protect us. That can be helpful, for example, worrying that I will not have filled my life with enough joy. Gulp! Let's go get some joy! Worrying my child is too close to a fire. Sheesh! Get them away from there! Great, thanks worry!

But, what if we worry about the worries, which become new worries and, worse still, what if you do not have anything to worry about and the absence of worry becomes worrying? Anyone been there? (My hand is up.) When worry becomes excessive it can prevent you from living the life that you want. You become stuck in a demoralising and exhausting sinking sand of worry. I bet birds don't do that!

So, how can we manage the worry and get out of our heads. How can we Be More Bird? Here are 4 tips to bring yourself back to the here and now and fly free of worry.

  1. Movement Snacking. This is basically stopping the flow of your day (or in this case, stopping the flow of your worry) and moving, shaking and releasing. Taking nibbles of movement when a worry creeps in is a brilliant way to break the cycle. Try standing with feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent and just bouncing there. Let the arms get involved and then the head. Maybe whack on a tune and go with the rhythm. Obviously, this is a slightly less attractive option if you are at work (or maybe you work in that kind of office? If so, don't let me stop you!) But if you need a snack of movement whilst in the office and feel a bit self-conscious about public gyrating, try a lively walk to the coffee machine or have a wiggle in the loo. Take any and every opportunity to grab those munches of movement throughout the day.

  2. Fact Finding. Grab a notebook, a piece of paper, or even the back of an envelope, and write down the facts of the situation you are worrying about. For example, you are worrying about what your boss thinks of you. They seem to be a little distant with you and definitely not forthcoming with support at the moment Why? What have you done? Are you on the way out? Stop. Ask yourself, what are the facts? What are the things that you actually know to be true? Okay, so you know your boss is snowed under at the moment and gave you forewarning that the next month would be chaotic for them. Fact. Your boss has never evaded your asks before, in fact, they have always been really open with positive feedback, commenting on how impressed they are with the effort you put in. Fact. You did request some feedback from them two days ago and they haven't responded yet. Fact. So, the rest is merely story. Figuring out what you can control and what you cannot brings you back to reality and offers you tasks to work on. For example, you may want to send your boss a reminder email so that you hit the top of their mailbox again. No harm in that.

  3. Deep Breathing. This one seems obvious and a lot of people say, 'Yeah, I've tried that but it never seems to work for me'. So, let me tell you a technique I learned as an actor that means that you are actually breathing deeply and not just gasping for big gulps of air in the hope it will calm you down. Sit with your feet on the floor and back upright. If you can, close your eyes to help to focus your attention inwardly. First, notice the air trickling in through your nose and then out again. Just notice this sensation and try not to control what is happening to your natural in and out of breath. Next, place your hands onto your lower stomach (thumbs on belly button) and take a long, slow breath in through your nose. (Do not worry about how long the breath is, just make sure that you are focusing the breath right down to your lower abdomen, where your hands are sitting on your stomach.) Then, breathe out through the mouth imagining that you are trying to make a candle flame flicker consistently and evenly. (If you are in a safe space and want to try this with a real candle, go for it!) Follow those in and out steps at least five times and then check back in with your natural breath again, noticing if it has become naturally deeper and slower or if it has become slightly less regular. Whatever you notice, try to eradicate any judgement, just say 'hi' to the thoughts, then get back to your breath.

  4. Talk About It. Find someone you can talk to honestly and openly. Worries love the dark and musty crevices of your brain, so, get them out so they have no where to hide! Better still, work with a coach where you can partner in disempowering your worries and devise actions to move you forward.

So, if birds do not worry, then I would like to be a bird, please. If they do worry, I guess I will stick with my two-legged lot and just show my worries who's boss. (I'm not a big fan of seeds, anyway.)

Bless This Mess: A Blog by Gemma North at CORE Coaching

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