Everybody worries about something. If you have kids, you worry. If you have a job, you worry. If you live on planet earth, you worry. Some people are chronic and intense worriers and others are less consumed with it. Let’s face it – there are lots of things that we could worry about. From illness to job layoffs to relationships to roller coast economies to global warming to terrorism, we could devote a lot of attention to worrying about what might happen.
Worrying is a lot like sitting in a rocking chair. It takes up energy but it really doesn’t get you anywhere. Worry doesn’t ever change what will or won’t happen. It’s not like if you worry better or harder or longer that you will prevent the thing you are worrying about. I think worrying is simply a bad habit. Faced with uncertainty about something, our default response is often to replay the possible negative outcome over and over in our heads. Even worse, sometimes we convince ourselves that worrying is just part of who we are.
Given that worrying doesn’t get you anything you want, here are 3 ways you can spend less time doing it:
First ask yourself if there is something concrete that you can do to change the situation you are worrying about. Sometimes circumstances are within our control and if they are, then take action rather than worrying. Ruminating on what could happen without doing anything doesn’t make a lot of sense if there is a chance that you can actually influence what might happen. If you worry about getting older, you can focus on making healthy choices for your mind and body. That won’t necessarily prevent health issues in the future, but doing nothing increases the chances that your worries become reality.
When it comes to worrying, most of the things that we fret about are completely out of our control. They depend on other people’s choices or even global events. Perhaps you are worrying it rain on a special day or your kids will make a dumb choice or the economy will tank. None of those are directly in your control. So the second thing you can do instead of worrying is to put your energy somewhere else. If the outcome is not in your control, as much as you might want it to be, then focus on the things that are. Have a plan B in case the weather is nasty. Teach your kids well. Be proactive and responsible with your finances. And then what will be will be.
Worry is all about the future. We become consumed with “what if” thinking which often creates a domino effect. One “what if” thought leads to another with increasingly unpleasant outcomes. So the third thing you can do is practice managing your thoughts. They create your reality. It’s only in the present moment that you can make choices that impact the future. Instead of thinking about something that hasn’t yet happened, focus on what is happening right now. Recognize when you are future thinking and then mindfully bring yourself back to the here and now. Sure it takes a little practice to learn how to do that but it’s a far better use of your time and energy than worrying.
Instead of worrying take action if you can. Focus on something else if you can’t. Practice catching yourself future thinking and return to the present moment.
What do you worry about the most?
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