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Why our brains like to worry.....

I recently had to go to the dentist. I really love my dentist but I HATE going to the dentist. We have been at this same practice for 10 years. They know all of our children so well that they almost feel like family friends.

HGTV was on the tv and I when he walked in I joked that watching this all day must make for a lot of house projects for him. He laughed, but said "really we have it on all day because this is one of the only “safe” channels out there." I looked perplexed, so he then added – “you know even the cartoon channel isn’t safe and this one is becoming unsafe too. Every show now has two guys sitting on a coach holding hands – the token gay couple.”

I was so flabbergasted that I am ashamed to say that I didn’t even respond. Which makes me feel shame that I didn’t take the time to educate him how hurtful those words are.

But I did feel sad. Sad that this is what our LGBTQ community faces everywhere they go – even at the dentist – marginalized thinking which leads to marginalized treatment. Here was a man that we love and respect and had no idea he thought this way.

When my son first came out my mind would have gone straight to worry. Worry about all the possibilities how my son could get hurt. Worry that not even the dentist could be a safe place for him.

But worry is an indulging emotion that brings no returns. Worrying doesn’t help my son or myself.

Why does our brains try to convince us Worry is necessary?

Because we don’t like to feel helpless and there is a lot you feel helpless about especially when your child is LGBTQ.

So our brains worry to try to gain back some control. It tells us the story that worry is necessary because at least we are taking action.

This is a lie.

Erma Bombeck said it best - “Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere”

Worry appears to be necessary but I promise, it never changes the impact of the thing you are worrying about. Your brain will try to sell you that worry is necessary but this is a lie.

When my son came out I worried. I worried a lot and about everything. I was eating worry for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can imagine my indigestion and weight gain!

I felt like in order to be a good parent worry was necessary and important.

The result of all my worry was a disconnected, distracted, fearful mama. My parenting decisions were made from fear and worry, which made for a lot of parenting mistakes.

My worry wasn’t solving anything and in fact it was causing more problems.

Then one day my life changed when I was working with my coach and I was telling her about how I was so worried about something that my son might do.

She asked me “Why was I worried?” I didn’t understand her question. I didn’t believe there was any other way to feel about it. I thought it was a dumb question because it was pretty obvious why I should be worried.

Then she offered me one of my favorite questions– it changed my relationship with worry.

She asked my "how was my worrying helping my son?"

Asking myself that question made me realize worrying was the opposite of helping. In fact, it was hurting my ability to help him by taking away my energy and blocking my creativity from actually helping him.

I couldn’t give her one useful answer for why my worry was necessary. I finally saw worry for what it was. A joy stealer. A manipulator of my positive emotions.

I was making parenting decisions from fear which really resulted in me trying to manipulate and control his actions so I could feel less worry.

My worry was coming from my mindset of something had gone wrong and I needed to solve the problem.

I was wrong. I needed to stop wasting my energy about things that were out of my control and instead I needed to focus on what I could control - who I wanted to be in this story.

I was telling myself that if I worry then it might prevent him from making bad choices. I needed to own up to the fact that his choices weren’t creating all of my negative emotion, I was.

This is the moment when I got my power back and I realized worry is ALWAYS optional and never necessary.

When worry tries to steal my energy I have learned to remind myself that being afraid of things going wrong isn’t the way the way for things to go right.

So how do you break the worry cycle and get back your power?

In order to overcome the habit of worry and all the anxiety and suffering that goes along with it, we must be willing to feel sad and accept that sadness is going to be part of our human experience.

I recommend you acknowledge and allow worry, but then also get clear on the thought that is generating the worry and question that thought. Is it helpful or useful? What’s the upside in believing it?

Find your worrisome thoughts because your brain will go where you tell it to. When I had my experience at the dentist my first thoughts were filled with worry. “What if he had said this to Nick?” “Is this not a safe place for Nick?”

Because I am onto worry and what it does – I know to answer my brain’s questions. I realized that this isn’t the first time people have said stupid things about LGBTQ people and it won’t be the last. And I know we have had many conversations with our son on how what people say and do says nothing about my son but has everything to do with the education of that person.

I know to avoid getting in the worry trap that I needed to allow myself to be sad. We don’t like to feel sad so we usually replace that emotion with worry. When we learn to process the sad and accept that our world will always have sad moments is when we lose the need to worry.

Worry comes from thinking one of these thoughts. Your thoughts are either fabricating problems in the future, resisting reality, or not believing in your faith.

1) Present problems vs. fabricated future problems

We never know the future. We envision it, but that is exactly what it is- a vision. You can’t solve a problem that doesn’t even exist. Stop manufacturing problems in the future – it drives our brains crazy because our brains likes to solve our problems – and the future problems we are envisioning are not solvable because they are made up.

Focus on today. What are the problems you are facing today. Stay in the present. This allows you to use your energy to solve what is solvable.

2) Accepting Reality vs. Resisting Reality

A lot of our worry comes from the story we are telling ourselves that something has gone wrong. That the reality of the situation shouldn’t be happening. That people should be different.

When we start telling ourselves the story that things are happening exactly how they should be and people are acting exactly how they should be is when we open up our brains up to see evidence for this thought. Me judging my dentist isn’t going to help solve the problem. But me thinking thoughts like he is acting this way because he doesn't understand gives me the emotion of compassion and from that emotion it is so much easier to have courage to act to help educate.

The magic of acceptance is we let go of trying to control the uncontrollable (your can't control the humans) and we focus on who we want to be in the story. I want to be the mom who feels compassion enough to say to the dentist "you might be right, but I know for my gay son, it sure helps with his emotional health when he feels represented in society even on TV."

3) Faith vs. Worry

When I feel worry I remind myself that Heavenly Father is in charge. He is aware of all of us. He knows our suffering. He has plan for all of us. Jesus Christ's Atonement means we have nothing to fear.

Worry comes from thoughts that God can’t handle things. Even saying this out loud I find it funny that my brain tries to tell me that story. The Lord is always working for our good but life will not always feel good.

Your brain talks to you a lot – you need to talk to your brain more than you listen to the brain – what you want to focus on. This world we live in is not perfect. But there is a lot of good too. But my ability to experience the good is so much greater when I learned to manage how I interrupt life events - and lose the habit or worry.


Learning not to worry isn't something that comes automatically to our brains. Worry is our brain on default. It takes practice to catch the worry. And often it takes the help of another person to help us see what's going on in our brains. I worried myself (literally) sick for decades before I hired a coach to help me. Best investment I ever made.

I can help you through the worry too. You don't have to stay there. Your children don't have to stay there. Schedule a session to learn the tools to break your brain's worry habits. Losing worry gives you more peace and confidence about your journey and you're child's journey - and frankly makes your everyday life experience so much better.

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1 Comment

I appreciate this so much, especially as we navigate our son going to college.

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