Transcript: Work Worry with Dina Cataldo
Hello there. How are you?
If you've felt worried that you're not able to get it all done, you're in good company.
This has been the themes of some of my coaching calls lately. I want to share with you some things that will help you get out of worry, and start feeling more at peace in your practice.
Think about productivity as a blazing hot fire, and worry as a huge bucket of ice water dousing that fire.
When we worry, we're not making decisions. Decisions are what produce results.
Instead, we're spinning out, procrastinating, ruminating. We're not making the decisions we need to make to get the momentum we need to take action.
In this episode I want to show you how to move move into decisiveness.
I'm going to give you the steps, so you move from worry to decisiveness with anything, and I'm also going to apply it to your calendar because that's where I see this come up a lot.
I want to preface this episode like I do a lot of the episodes where I'm talking about emotions.
Have so much compassion for yourself listening to this episode.
It's so easy for us to be upset with ourselves because we're not getting the result we want.
It's harder to love everything about ourselves even the worried parts.
The worry is there to show us something.
Our nervous system developed worry as a way to protect us at one point in our life. At some point it was helpful.
Maybe you were in a household where you felt like you had to walk on eggshells as a child. The worry was there to keep you on alert, so you'd be safe. Now it's a matter of understanding the worry you feel when it comes to work. It followed you here like a puppy thinking it needed to be here.
Now the work is loving ourselves completely — worried parts and all – -then seeing that there's a better way.
So how do you know you're worrying?
Here are some ways to know:
– you ruminate on something or multiple somethings on your to-do list
– you write out a to-do list and don't know where to start
– you do anything but what needs to be prioritized – doing these things feel productive, but it's not clearing your mind of the rumination
– you feel guilty because you're not doing what you tell yourself should be getting done
– you put off decisions or put off conversations with your assistant or associates about systems in your practice
– you tell yourself you need to do other things BEFORE you do that thing you've been ruminating on, but it really isn't necessary. For instance, you tell yourself you should decide how to organize your files before you tell your assistant how you want them organized. The purpose of having an assistant is so your assistant can organize them for you. Want them done alphabetically and by practice area? Tell your assistant that.
These are all symptoms of a worried nervous system.
Our nervous system controls our body – how it feels, how it moves, and our automatic responses to the world around us. It responds to what we think.
Our thoughts create the feelings our nervous system experiences.
When we think a thought enough times, the thought becomes a habit that sinks into our subconscious but so does the feeling that it creates. When a thought becomes a habit — meaning it feels normal and 100% true — our subconscious not only ingrains the thought in our brain but our nervous system ingrains the feeling that the thought creates in our bodies.
That's why it can feel so hard to change a habit.
The thoughts and feelings we have about something — whether it's work, exercise, food, relationships — have been memorized and ingrained in our subconscious and our nervous system.
We've practiced thinking certain thoughts and feeling the feelings that come with them so much that they feel like home and they feel easy.
The first time you drove a car, it may have been difficult. But the more you practiced, the easier it became. Pretty soon your body took over for your mind, and you could drive across town and not pay attention to when you put your foot on the brake, turned, sped up or slowed down.
Once we practiced thinking about how to drive over and over, then our bodies took over the motions, and we didn't have to think consciously about driving anymore. Everything was relegated to our subconscious.
It feels easy to drive a car now.
If you're listening to this, you may think that worry isn't a choice, but I promise you it is.
And that's a good thing.
That means you can change it.
You don't have to worry. It's an option.
I'm going to offer to you that worry is the opposite of decisiveness.
Take a moment and ask yourself what worry feels like in your body. For me I feel tension in the center of my torso, my stomach feels nauseous, my shoulders tighten, and I notice my breath gets shallow.
Can you feel that in your body right now?
It's a gripping sensation and our bodies close down.
I want you to think about worry as a vise holding onto something tight. The more you focus on thoughts creating worry, the tighter the vise gets.
Those thoughts might be something like:
“I need to catch up.”
“I feel behind.”
“I don't know where to start.”
“This needs to get done.”
“I can't do this.”
Now think about what it feels like in your body to be decisive.
You can breath deep, your body feels calm, grounded. Your shoulders open up.
When we make decisions, we're thinking thoughts that might look like:
“I know what to do.”
“This will work.”
“This is what I want.”
“I can do this.”
These thoughts are the opposite of what create worry.
You can't move from worry to decisiveness by simply changing the thought and deleting the old worry thought.
That is not how it works.
We need to calm the nervous system first before it can learn something new.
That's why willpower doesn't last. It's exhausting on the nervous system.
Years ago, I took a motorcycle class because I wanted to learn to ride.
What I didn't know is that everyone else had already been on a motorcycle before, and I was about 4 inches shorter than everyone in the class. My feet didn't touch the ground at all with the smallest bike they had available. The instructor wasn't able to show me the kind of attention I needed, and I was trying to keep up with everyone else's experience level. Meanwhile, my whole body felt tense because I had fear of falling over and didn't know where all the gears were. It felt horrible, and I was super embarrassed. My nervous system was not going to learn how to ride a motorcycle in that environment.
I wasn't going to be able to willpower myself through that class, which is what I was trying to do. I needed things broken down for me. I needed a different environment.
I needed an environment where I felt safe. Like I could ask questions. Like the people understood me and what I was feeling.
I did not feel that at all.
The work here is to create that environment for yourself to move out of worry and really the hold it has over your nervous system.
Don't underestimate this part.
We need to feel safe to change. Right now worry may feel really necessary.
It's been there so long it feels like a warm blanket on a cold night.
What I want to show you next is how to move from worry to decisiveness knowing that this is a practice. Knowing that it's okay if you repeat this 1000 times. If you've been living like this for 30, 40, 50 years, of course this will just be a practice that you do forever. That's ok. The reward is momentum towards your what you want.
1. Notice the worry — Now that you know how it feels, you'll have a signal that you're worrying instead of making decisions.
2. Sit with the worry. Feel it. Breath.
3. If you can, identify the thought that's creating the worry. That can be helpful when you notice it pop up again. You can use that as another indicator that your nervous system is defaulting to worry, and you can come back to this practice.
4. Remind yourself that this is normal, and you're okay. Putting your hands on your heart is a nice way to break the routine of the nervous system. It's calming like when you put your hand on someones shoulder. Physical touch can be calming.
5. What decisions do I want to make right now?
6. If your brain offers you, “I don't know,” don't accept that. Ask yourself what's one decision you want to make right now? It could be to decide that you don't have to do things this week. It can be to decide to say no to a new board position.
This practice will help you shift out of worry. Practice this every time you notice worry in your body.
Now let me show you what I worked through with a client on her calendar, since that's where I see this come up a lot with lawyers.
To implement some of this, you'll want to download the Busy Lawyer's Guide I created. You can download that at https://dinacataldo.com/busylawyer
That's going to give you the structure I teach my clients, so they can have a framework for their calendars. They can tweak it as necessary, but that's a great place to start.
1. I helped her identify the feeling she was having, which was worry.
2. Then I helped her find worry in her body. How it felt. That way she can identify it when I'm not around and see that it's just a feeling being caused by a thought.
3. We identified the thought creating the worry, which was she thought she “needed to catch up,” so she could see if worry was coming up for he again.
4. We got really specific about what her brain was telling her she needed to worry about. It turned out there were 4 particular matters, training her assistant, and hiring a housekeeper. You can do this for yourself by asking yourself, “What is top of mind right now?” Just start with one item at a time, so your brain doesn't get overwhelmed.
5. For each individual item I asked her how long each item was going to take her to complete them.
6. Then I asked her what decisions did she want to make about the items? She made decisions about where she wanted to block time on her calendar for them.
Then she placed them on her calendar.
I can't stress how important it is that you create a calendar. The more you practice it, the better you get at it. It's just like driving a car, calming your nervous system or any other habit.
Download the Busy Lawyer's Guide to get a framework that will help you with this. Go to https://dinacataldo.com/busylawyer to get the guide.
One of the funny things about worry being a habit of the nervous system is that when you don't have anything to worry about, your brain looks for things to worry about.
We get so used to feeling worry that it becomes our normal. When we don't feel worried, our nervous system thinks something has gone wrong, so it looks for things to worry about.
It starts to wonder if something has gone wrong.
Know that this is normal.
I went through this too.
When I saw myself doing more productive work and feeling really good about it and taking time off, my brain wanted to tell me something must be wrong, and it looked for things to fret over.
Worry pretends to be important. It's not really productive, but it feels normal and almost like we're doing something. Like we're getting ready to do something.
When we stay in that perpetual state of worry, we not only deteriorate the health of our nervous system, but we also neglect making the most important decisions that will move our business and our life forward.
If you see yourself in this episode, and you know you're ready to make powerful decisions for your life, let's talk.
I work with lawyers who are ready to uplevel their lives.
They know they want change, and they know they're capable of change.
And they want help to make it happen even faster.
If this sounds like you, you can book a call with me at https://dinacataldo.com/strategysession
Working with me is like stoking the blazing fire in your soul. You're more productive — yes — but really, you also feel more alive.
Hope you have a beautiful rest of your week.
And I'll talk to you soon.