Worry sucks. It’s true. Worry keeps you from being your best and keeps you from enjoying what is going on around you. Many of us were born worriers. We worry about what happened yesterday, we worry about what is happening today, and we worry about what may happen tomorrow. But just because we were born worriers, does not mean we have to continue to be worriers.
The easiest way to punch worry in the face is to begin asking questions. Questions can be used to shift our thinking and focus from the act of worrying to solutions based thinking. Here is a series of questions that everyone can use to shift your focus to the right things and away from worry.
1.Can I control what I am worried about? Or, are there pieces that I can control?
If you find yourself in a state of worry, take a moment to determine if what you are worried about is in or out of your control.
If the answer is that your worry is in your control, then what steps can you take to address it? For example, if you are worried about a presentation for work, identify why you are worried about it and then do what you need to do to minimize that concern. Are you uncomfortable presenting in front of people? Make sure you practice. Are you unsure if your presentation covers the right information? Seek feedback before the presentation.
If the answer is that your worry is not in your control, then are there pieces that you can control? What if you have planned an outdoor party? You certainly cannot control the weather but you can control what happens if the weather doesn’t cooperate by having a plan B in mind before the party begins.
2.Can I influence what I am worried about?
If you find that you are worried about something that is out of your control completely, decide if there are any ways that you can influence what you are worried about. Let’s say you are going to meet your significant other’s parents for the first time. You end up not sleeping for a week prior to the meeting because you are worried that they won’t like you. When you are really honest with yourself, you will realize that you cannot control whether or not someone likes you. However, you can influence the degree to which they like or dislike you based upon your behavior towards them. Not allowing worry to cause you to withdraw or cause you to try to be something that you are not and instead focusing on being your genuine self allows others to get to know who you really are and betters the chance that they will like you. (Assuming, of course, that you are a likeable person!)
3.Do I need to let it go?
So, if you can’t control what you are worried about and you can’t influence what you are worried about, you probably need to let it go. Rarely will there be anything left from question 1 and question 2 that you will need to hold on to. To be honest, I’ve not found a single item to date that I could legitimately justify holding on to. And I’ve tried.
They key to letting it go is to give yourself permission to stop worrying and give yourself permission to start looking for ways to be grateful within the situation.
4.What can I be grateful for in this moment?
Finding ways to be grateful in the moment will release your body’s natural anti-depressants and will aid you in working through letting go of the worry. Start out by looking for little, but specific, things to be grateful for in the situation. It could be opportunities that present themselves, it could be experiences that you would not have been given the chance to experience, it could be lessons learned, etc. Finding ways to express gratitude will change the way you feel and think about what you are worried about and the more specifics you identify, the bigger the impact to how you will feel about it.
Worry can be crippling to people and can keep you from experiencing life as it was meant to be experienced. Worry also rarely changes anything. You can be extremely worried about your upcoming presentation at work but worrying about it is not going to make it go away. Use worry to your advantage by allowing it to signal where something may need a little extra attention and focus and then punch it in the face by asking yourself these questions so that you can keep it in check.
There are so many amazing quotes about worry and it is impossible to pick a favorite, but here is one I like. “Worry is a total waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is steal your joy and keep you very busy doing nothing.” – Author Unknown