Weighty Worry

4562617727_40d9889ab7_z“Don’t worry, be happy.”

Bobby McFerrin had it right in one regard.

Don’t worry.

Easier said than done, but let’s break worry down and see if that helps.

Most people worry about some things. Other people make it an Olympic event; worrying about whether they will make the next light, whether lunch will be ready on time, about their child’s score on their math test today, about their ability to meet their bills next month.

And we’re not alone. When we share our worries with friends, coworkers, family, they mirror the very same worries. That cements the behavior. If they worry about the same things that cause us concern, then we’re doing the right thing.

Not so fast.

Worry is the result of an inability to forecast what will happen in the future. Worse, you have no control over those events. And we’re control freaks. We want to guarantee the outcome of everything in our lives. And we can’t.

So we worry. It seems like the right thing to do. But worry is a wasted emotion. A total waste of time, talent, and energy. No amount of worry ever changed the outcome of anything.

In an ideal world, worry would disappear. In the real world, let’s talk about how to manage our habit of worrying.

The next time you find yourself worrying about something, try to recognize what it is you fear and see what you can do to improve the outcome. Worried about getting to work late? Start out earlier. Worried that your child won’t do well on a test, make sure to allow for time to study. Worried about paying bills on time next month? What’s the smallest thing you can do to fix it?

If you can’t, then find a way to work off your feelings. Physical exercise not only produces endorphins that help to chase feelings of worry away, it might also produce a creative solution you might not have thought of otherwise.

Worry hijacks our thinking. It uses energy we could apply differently in other ways.

Remember, the first step is to notice that you’re worrying. Then take steps to stop the process of worrying by evaluating whether you are accurately understanding a situation. Then determine the smallest step you can take to alleviate that worry and then move on. This is especially effective at night when worry interferes with sleep. Get up and write in a journal about what you are worried about and how you think you will try to fix it. Just the act of writing things down will free your mind enough to go to sleep.

When you can let go, you will immediately feel better.

Photo Credit :
Scale model
from brett jordan
via Flickr