Turn angst into action
Brooke Broadbent, MA
Many of our worries come from imagined rather than real threats. Follow five simple steps to stop worrying.
Have You Ever Tried Counting Your Worries?
While drafting this article I managed to squeeze in worries about my gobbled-down breakfast, my half-baked plans for the rest of the day, and what I can do to ease pain in various aching body parts–to name but a few ever-nagging worries.
I derive no benefit from worrying about the past or about the future. Nevertheless I continue to do it. The time I spend on my worries takes me away from the task at hand. So why do we all worry?
It’s About Survival
Humans are hard-wired to feel agitated when we perceive imminent danger; in short, we are programmed to fear. In the beginning, fear was a good thing; it kept our species alive.
But today our fears are watered down into useless worries. Many of our worries come from imagined rather than real threats that cause us to feel anxious, distressed, or troubled. Oftentimes, our worries are more about thinking, than reacting–the trademark of fear. We gain some pleasure out of worrying because it helps us to feel we are in control.
5 Ways to Stop Worrying
Worry is pervasive. We worry about our thoughts, our memories, and our futures. We even worry about worrying. Let’s move beyond all this worry. Here are five simple steps to help relieve your worries.
1. Move Into Action
As a first step, we can recognize what we worry about and bring our worries into conversation. For example, students who worry about exams can put their worries behind by studying. Simple enough. Others who are worried about major world issues such as poverty, global warming, or war can get into conversations about these topics and join organizations dedicated to alleviating the issues. As a result we mitigate our worries and turn our worry energy into personal action.
2. Count Your Blessings
Research shows that perception, not fact, determines whether we are happy or worried. Each one of us gets to decide how to perceive new situations. For example, a job promotion may be perceived as an opportunity for some, but a heavy responsibility for others. Choose positive–not negative worry-filled–perceptions, and your life will be lighter.
3. Articulate Your Concerns
Move from vague worries and a sense of unease to a clear definition of the situation. Articulate what you want. Create possibilities for you and your life. Engage others in your possibilities. If you are preoccupied about your future, talk to people who have travelled the road that lies ahead of you. Ask them what it was like to move, raise children, lose loved ones, change jobs, and negotiate other difficult life passages.
4. Live Squarely In the Present
Focus on the present and do something you enjoy. Stop regretting the past or projecting into the future. We cannot know what the future will be–or more importantly–how we will react to it when it comes. Reality is a perception coloured by our worries, our regrets, and our dreams. So trundle off on a wonderful hike, dive into a refreshing lake, cuddle someone you love, or paint, write poetry, or play a sport. You can even lose yourself in a book, a movie, or in an intense conversation. Just do whatever you love to do and stop worrying.
5. Learn to Love What Is
Byron Katie, the guru of acceptance or what she calls “loving what is,” has developed a simple process to help us become aware of the realities of life. Katie teaches that, if a situation is causing you stress, it may be your perceptions that are at fault. She offers simple-to-use free tools at thework.org. You can use these tools to change your thinking and accept what is. When we embrace what is, worry and stressful thoughts lose their grip.
If you want to free yourself from negative mind chatter and move beyond worry, stress, and fear, then stop listening to your negative thoughts. Say no to negative concerns.
Excuse me. I’m taking off the rest of the day to lose myself in nature and to stop worrying.