Worry can be a confusing emotion. Worrying doesn’t make us compassionate. It doesn’t make us thoughtful, and worrying has never been a good problem solving tactic. Even though we may worry with good intentions, it’s pointless and can be damaging.
I used to worry much more than I do now. Worry would keep me up at night, distract me from my work or conversations, and affect how I treated people, especially if I was worried about them.
I worried about big things like …
(more on these below)
And the small things like …
- passing tests
- being on time for work
- running out of gas
- missing a deadline
- forgetting something important
- how I looked
- what other people thought about me
I finally stopped worrying (for the most part) when I realized that none of the scary things that ever happened to me were the things I was worrying about. I was losing sleep and wasting time for absolutely no reason. I also noticed that the more I worried, the more fearful I became.
If you are tired of losing sleep or living in fear, these suggestions can help you worry less.
1. Read a book. If worry keeps you up at night, choose almost anything instead of tossing and turning. Get up and read a book. It can be any book, even a cookbook. Read until you feel sleepy and then go back to bed. If reading isn’t your thing, use the cookbook to make a simple recipe that you can enjoy the next day. Recognize that your sleepless worry fest isn’t solving problems and turn your focus to something else.
2. Lose control. Your worrying and replaying of scenarios never changes the outcome. Acknowledge that you have no control over the things you worry about most, and let them go. In other words, don’t own your worries. They are often very different from the reality of the situation.
3. Take Action. Waiting and wondering leads to worry. Instead of going down the rabbit hole of what ifs, take action. Do one small thing to improve the situation that has you worried.
4. Tell Someone. A downward spiral is much more likely if you are alone with your worry. Let someone that you trust add perspective and lift you up before you slide down.
5. Write it down. If you can’t talk about your worries, write them down. Putting your worries on paper allows you to see them for what they are. You can see what part of your worry is reality and what part is hyped up fear. Bringing the words from brain to paper will also help to calm the chaos in your mind.
6. Exercise. Trick your brain by inviting it to keep up with your body. Take a brisk walk, do jumping jacks, turn up the tunes and dance around your kitchen, or anything else that will get your heart rate up.
7. Act like Scarlett O’Hara. Our southern damsel in distress never let worry get her down. Her go to approach was, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Give yourself permission to put your tiny worries off until tomorrow. Chances are, you won’t remember what they were.
8. Don’t Google it. Before you search your next heartache or headache, take some time to decide how you feel and who you could consult to help. If you don’t feel well and start searching all of your symptoms, you’ll be more worried than before you started. While the internet is an amazing resource to find helpful information, you can find a negative response for every positive, helpful result. Panicky Google searches almost always end badly.
9. Reflect. How productive was your last worry session? What happened as a result of your worry? How did it make you feel? Learn from that and recognize that when worry presents itself, you have a choice. Indulge or turn your focus to something that really matters.
10. Help someone. The best way to stop thinking about yourself and your worries is to help someone else.
Use one or more of these recommendations when you start to worry. With consistent practice, you will worry less and eliminate another layer of stress from your life.
Many of us have similar worries, like the big three I mentioned earlier. Money, love, and health are very important, but worry is just as effective on these biggies as it is for everything else … not very. Here are a few specific ways to help your biggest worries.
If you are worried about …
Take away the power that money has over your emotions by learning new ways to think about it. Money will continue to come and go in your lifetime in all sorts of unpredictable ways so the sooner you decide to learn how to do it better, the happier you’ll be. The three books that have made a difference in the way I think about and handle money are:
- Money, A Love Story: Untangle Your Financial Woes and Create the Life You Really Want By Kate Northrup
- Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Vicki Robin
Love is the most powerful, important thing we have. People worry about finding love, losing love, and being loved. The best way to stop worrying about love is to practice and notice that love is everywhere and you don’t just find it from one person or place. If you want more love, give love, notice love, and appreciate love.
I was doing a mediation from this free series and learned that “love travels in all directions.” I was also thrilled to walk away with this great recommendation,
Anytime you notice love, say “this is love.”
- When you have a great conversation with a friend, say “this is love.”
- Watch a beautiful sunset and say “this is love.”
- When you make time to take care of yourself or do work you care about, say “this is love.”
Worrying about your health can make you unhealthy, and worrying about the health of people you love will make you crazy. Instead, learn how to be healthy regardless of your current situation and then be a living example of great health. Be an example and an inspiration by making healthy choices.
If you are worried about a specific diagnosis or current condition, be proactive in connecting with people in similar situations, especially those who are living examples of great health. Work with a medical team that you trust and remember that they work for you.
Be completely empowered by noticing the difference one simple change or healthy habit can make.
How something ends up never depends on how much you worry about it. Release your worries and all of the stress and sadness that comes with them. You deserve that.