In a post I published a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I was trained by my grandmother to be a worrier. In essence, she trained me to live in a state of constant fear.For the most part, I have overcome that training — as Dr. Phil says, sometimes you’ve got to rise above your raisin’. But there are still times when I feel dark clouds gathering around me. Sometimes it’s just the feeling of clouds and I’m not even acutely aware of what dread they portend. Other times, I know exactly what it is.
Regardless, I’ve gotten pretty good at shaking off these feelings and trained my mind to banish these useless thoughts efficiently enough that I don’t usually need to give it much thought.
It’s taken most of my adult life — and the right dose of antidepressants — to accomplish this.
As I touched on in my previous post about worry, worrying is pointless because it accomplishes nothing except creating stress and sapping your energy.
My habits control mePrior to her death in 1998, I tried explaining this to my grandmother. She insisted that she was powerless over her constant worrying and could do nothing about it. “I can’t help it,” she said. Granted, once she reached a certain age, attempting to change a lifelong habit, no matter how destructive, was probably a heavy lift for her. Still, I believe she could have done it if she’d wanted to. I honestly don’t think she wanted to. She was comfortable with her habit and had no desire to change.
Here’s the facts: There are things we can do something about and things we can’t. If you’re facing a situation that is within your control, instead of using your energy to worry about it, use your energy to do something about it. If the situation is outside of your control, you can spend 24 hours a day worrying about it, and it won’t do a damn thing to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, you’ll be spending your energy on something that is accomplishing nothing when you could use that energy for something worthwhile.
So, here are some steps you can take to break the hold that constant worrying has on your life:
- Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Company, suggests asking yourself, “What’s the most I can do with what I have right now?” Often we find ourselves worrying because we feel a lack of control over a situation. But it’s frequently the case that we have more control that we realize, and the one thing over which we have complete control is ourselves.“I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” (Charles R. Swindoll)
- Look around and appreciate what’s good in your life. Years ago, I came across a quote: To mourn what you lack is to waste what you have. I have no idea who said it, but it’s absolutely true. In the case of worrying, you are essentially mourning your lack of control of a situation while wasting all the opportunities you have to do something about the things you do control.
- Lew also suggests recognizing that the future exists only in our minds. The only thing that’s real is the present. The “what if” game is always a losing proposition. I’ve often thought that my son must have inherited his great-grandmother’s worry gene. Since he was a little kid, he has obsessed over “what if.” Frankly, he used to drive me crazy with it. In frustration, I’d respond, “I don’t know, Son! What if the sun explodes?” As he got older, he tried to rationalize his “what if” game by saying he wanted to be prepared. However, it’s been my experience that it doesn’t matter what you spend your time worrying about; it’s always going to be something you never expected that swims up to bite you in the butt.
- Talk about it. I have often found that, by talking to someone about how I’m feeling — or writing about it in a journal — I come to understand my feelings much better. That’s because, in order to communicate your thoughts — whether to a trusted friend or in writing — you must, of necessity, find a way to organize them. The act of organizing your thoughts can help you focus and better understand what you’re feeling.“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.” (Winston Churchill)
Set a goal this year to let go of worrying. If a situation is out of your control, be like Elsa in Frozen. Let it go. If it’s something within your control, use your energy to figure out how to resolve it.