Let Go of Worry

The older I get, the more I like myself. It’s true because when I look at myself as an observer, I can appreciate what makes me uniquely me. But still, there are some things I’d rather not see or acknowledge. Case in point: the worry habit. I know better, but every now and then I find myself traversing that well-worn, ill-begotten path. 

Well, I have plenty of company as “uncontrollable worrying” afflicts one in ten adults!  Dr. Graham C.L. Davey explains the phenomenon. “Chronic worrying is often driven by a need to worry to make sure things will all be okay.” That’s quite the irony, no?   When I find myself focusing on the negative, ruminating, or catastrophizing, I reach for qualities I appreciate about myself: my resilience and my ability to keep going, come what may. Then I go back to these trusted tools from my worry banishment toolkit:

Distinguish Between Productive and Unproductive Worries

You can act on a productive worry. You can problem-solve and take steps to improve the situation that’s causing the worry. An unproductive worry is just the opposite. It is something  that is completely out of your control.

  • When you identify a productive worry, move into problem-solving mode. Consider steps you can take to improve the situation. A friend recently shaved $200 off her monthly household budget just by getting practical and creative. Another climbed out of a self-described “rut” by identifying ten new experiences she could try over the course of the following ten months. 
  • When you identify an unproductive worry, call it out for what it is and move on to the next tool in your kit. 

Make Peace With Uncertainty

Many of us dislike uncertainty as much as we do change. Why? Because of the persistent, frustrating and often scary element of being out of control. It can be helpful to remind yourself that uncertainty is a fact of life that resides alongside your best plans and most heartfelt dreams. That is true for everyone. When uncertainty rattles your cage, remember how you endured and often thrived in the past when you didn’t know what would happen. Draw strength and courage from those examples.  

Manage Your Worries

With worry as a persistent companion, it’s hard to get through the day calmly and productively.  So, get a grip on worry. Assign it a specific time slot to grapple with what’s troubling you and  parse out the productive from the unproductive worries. Then, 24/7, jot down your worries as they arise, knowing that you can retrieve them during your specified worry time. When time’s up, shift back to a calmer you by doing something nice for yourself: a cup of tea, a short walk, a warm text to a friend. 

Ditch the “What Ifs”

“What If Road” is a certain path to panic-filled misery. Maybe you’re worried about an upcoming relocation, or an exam, or the possibility that your mother-in-law may have to move in with you. Whatever it is, practice changing your “What if” into a “How can I?” best prepare myself, or be ready for this? That’s a practical shift that gives you some control. And don’t forget that the majority of our worrisome “What ifs” never come to pass.   

Stay in the Present

The crazy thing about worry is that it robs you of the present.  So how can you disengage with your worries and enjoy what you have in the here and now? Try these simple approaches:

  • Experience the life around you by getting outside and taking a brief walk, refilling the bird feeder, or pulling a few weeds. 
  • Repeat an empowering mantra such as, “I’ve got this,” “All is well,” “I am not alone,” “This will pass.”
  • Count your blessings. When you focus on all that you have, you create a shift in your brain that makes you more peaceful and more hopeful. With worry at bay, you can focus on the present in positive ways. 

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