Worrying helps you avoid unforeseen problems. Those who worry are more realistic, because they plan for every contingency. Worriers are simply more conscientious than the rest of us who don’t worry. If any of those statements remind you of yourself, now there is something tangible to worry about. (Kidding.)
The root of worry is fear of the unknown and the mistaken idea that if you worry and obsess about something, you can stop bad things from happening. You can’t. A good deal of life is out of our control. I saw something written the other day that said, essentially, planing is wonderful until you put on your clothes and leave the house. Amusing and true. Worrying has no inherent protective quality. As a matter of fact, the bad things that may happen may be something you didn’t even consider before-the unknown.
Worrying saps your energy, robs you of sleep, it hijacks your day and can ultimately reduce your quality of life. Nor is there room in the life of a worrier for spontaneity, too risky. Worriers may not be much fun either, they have a heavy parental quality, ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’ because all these bad things could happen. Those who worry also seem to have difficulty making decisions, because it might be the ‘wrong’ one.
Do not confuse worry with problem-solving. The latter does not have a fear component. Problem-solvers attempt to anticipate problems, but they don’t go looking for them. Problem-solvers rely on their own resourcefulness or that of others. They have faith that they are up to the challenge. They make a decision and then let it go…
Self-confidence appears to play a role as to whether one is a worrier or not. People who believe in themselves and are emotionally resilient (bounce back from problems), roll with the setbacks and forge ahead. One of my favorite quotes about worry is from Pat Schroeder, former US Representative from Colorado. She said, “You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.”
Assuming you are a worrier and want to change that trait, here are five tools that may help.
- The most important concept I have for worriers is that thoughts come and go, they are not reality. One day you will worry, and the next maybe not. Imagine worries as clouds as they drift across your vision.
- Deliberately change your focus. When aware you are worrying, consciously think about something else more productive and positive.
- Another tool I have sometimes used with worriers is to have a worry “session” and then leave it alone. Set aside a certain amount of time to fret, and then that’s it-move on. It’s not my favorite tool, but for some this works well.
- Have someplace physical you can go to “settle.” A place of serenity to quiet the mind and the body. Meditation is non-denominational and it can be as simple as sitting or lying down in a place with your eyes closed paying attention to your breath traveling in and out. But you must practice it. Meditation is a bit like exercise, you don’t have to love it to derive the benefits, but you must do it.
- Exercise, especially outdoors, benefits the brain as much as the body. Walking in greenery especially seems to calm our nervous system. It’s hard to worry when you are paying mindful attention to the beauty that surrounds you.
If none of these tools work and it seems as though worry is robbing you of present day pleasure, it may be time to seek professional help.