Persistent and Uncontrollable Worrying is a Problem
“I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.” —Mark Twain
Worrying is a normal part of life. Everyone does it to some extent. But excessive worrying can have a negative impact on your emotional and physical health.
Worrying rarely does any good. Yet, it’s habitual for some people. Like any habit, it can be changed. Here’s how to stop being a worrywart and start enjoying life more.
Postpone Worrying to a Specific “Worry Time”
It doesn’t work to tell yourself to stop worrying. You can distract yourself for a while but it’s like trying to ignore the pink elephant in the room. Your thoughts wander right back to the exact thing you’re trying so hard not to think about. The increased attention makes your worries stronger and more persistent.
Here are a few strategies to hit the pause button on your brooding and move out of your worried headspace.
Instead of trying to stop or get rid of anxious thoughts, postpone worrying. Give yourself permission to ruminate at a designated time when you aren’t vulnerable (never around bedtime or when you’re tired). You’re allowed to dwell on your anxieties only during your specified “Worry Time.” The rest of your day is worry-free. When a worry creeps into your thoughts, write it on your Worry List for later and then continue going about your day.
Recognize Worrying is a Waste of Time
“Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.” —Erma Bombeck
You need to understand there’s a difference between worrying and problem solving. Worrying is a waste of time and energy. It doesn’t change anything, but it’s excellent at making you anxious and sleep deprived. Problem solving involves working on solutions and is productive.
Distinguish between solvable and unsolvable problems. If what you’re fretting about is unsolvable, accept the uncertainty. Life is unpredictable and a bit messy sometimes.
It does you no good to worry about things you can’t control. While you can’t control someone else’s behavior or events, you can control your reaction. You’ll be happier in life if you put your thoughts, time and energy into what you can control, and accept what you can’t control.
Stay Focused on the Present Moment
Another strategy is rather than ignoring or fighting your worries, simply observe them. If you stop trying to control the anxious thoughts that arise, they will eventually pass. It’s when you react and engage with your anxieties that you get pulled in and stuck. But if you direct your attention to the here and now, the worries gradually disappear on their own.
You don’t do yourself any favors when you constantly rehash in your mind things you’ve said or done in the past. It also doesn’t help to agonize about the future. The ‘what-ifs’ you create in your mind are usually much worse than what you actually feel when something does happen. It’s rarely as bad as you imagine it will be. These are all reasons why you need to stay in the present moment. You do that through mindfulness. Being mindful and present stops the endless rumination.
Shift 100% of your attention to what’s going on within and around you. Feel your heart steadily beating in your chest. Sense your clothing against your skin. Focus on your breath. Fully engaging in your surroundings and what’s going on inside of you is an effective way to disrupt your fretful thinking and produce a calming effect.
You Choose to Worry or Be Happy
Accept that worrying is part of the human experience. It’s a necessary element of the shadow self. Overcoming worry is part of the natural progression of learning how to control your thoughts rather than your thoughts controlling you. Who knows, maybe your soul deliberately wanted you to incarnate into a family of extreme worriers. Ah, the conditioning you’d undergo is rich! It certainly provides tremendous growth opportunities in gaining control over unhealthy thoughts.
It’s helpful to remember: “Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles. It takes away today’s peace.” Are you finally ready to stop worrying and enjoy life more? It’s always your choice.