Worrying. It’s an anxiety-ridden, angst-causing cycle many people endure daily, often multiple times a day. Worrying is a complete waste of time, yet the mind continues to search for the answers to problems, real or perceived. It ends up causing undue stress on careers, relationships, home duties, and even activities that are supposed to be, and should be, fun.
Our society has taught us that control is necessary and if there is no instant gratification, there is a problem. When there is no immediate solution to the problem, worry sets in and takes over. People spend an inordinate amount of time stressing over things that have already happened, or things that may or may not happen in the future.
The brutal truth of the matter? We aren’t time travelers; we have no control over what has already happened, and we can’t prevent bad things from happening in the future.
However, there are several steps to help eliminate the cruel cycle of worrying.
Pinpoint the Worry
Identify it. Name it if needed. The source of worry must be established before you can begin dealing with it. Until the reason for stress is clearly defined, it’s impossible to address it with an actionable plan. Ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” Usually, worry is based on a fear of some sort. Fear of speaking in public, fear of someone finding out the truth, fear of losing a job, and fear of looking foolish in the eyes of others are common reasons people end up worrying tirelessly.
Worrying about the Past
Everyone has made mistakes. It’s part of being human. If we break down the realities of worry, people probably spend about half of their “worry time” on past events. This negative thought pattern wreaks havoc on the people we are today, the right now here in the present, or the people we want to become in the future. It’s a breeding ground for depression, shame, and guilt.
We can’t change the past. We have zero control over what has already happened. Instead of perseverating over the past, use it as a stepping stone. A guide. Think of the past event as objectively as possible and learn from it.
Worrying about the Future
The future is tricky, especially regarding fears and worries. It’s so easy to fret about something in the future, but we usually end up just blowing things completely out of proportion. It may not even happen, at least not to the degree that matches the amount of worrying put into it. Instead of getting carried away and freaking out, pin down the possible outcomes which are causing the negative feelings.
By isolating the possible outcomes, the real, tangible outcomes, it becomes easier to plan for them. The idea here is to plan for the future instead of spiraling out of control.
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Determine What You Can and Can’t Control
If the center of worry has been pinpointed, as described above, this next step should be easy. Since much of the worrying people do is centered on control, it’s important to determine what you can and can’t control.
Past events are done. Dealing with the repercussions of decisions made in the past might cause worry, but the decisions themselves were already made. Worrying about the decisions or “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve” feelings aren’t going to solve anything. The past obviously cannot be controlled. Let it go.
Future events, that may or may not happen, is a little more unique place for worry and stress. For example, you might be up for a promotion at work. Worrying over the competition is useless. Instead, focus on doing a fantastic job and rise above and beyond your job duties. The employee has no control over who is chosen; that’s the management's job. However, the employee has absolute control over their job performance and attitude during the process.
Plan and Act On It
Now that the source of worry and stress has been identified and control has been established, the problem should feel much smaller. Much more solvable. Worrying gives a false sense of control, so don’t fall for it! What always is in your control is behavior and planning.
The key in planning is to hone in on the worst-case scenario and create a plan of action to combat it. If that means doing damage control so the devastation of a past decision or event is lessened, do it. If that means making alterations or enhancements that might positively influence the future results, go for it.
An actionable plan is no good if there is no action. If that means waiting until the chips fall, where they may form a future event where you have no control, by all means, let it go and wait.
Simple changes in attitude and behavior make worrying easier to avoid. It’s important to manage stress for your overall health and wellbeing. Many have found daily affirmations, meditation, and even journaling helpful when worry is creeping in and taking up too much time. Others rely on famous quotes or funny memes to get them through the rough periods and find a positive, centered sense of self.
In summary, identify the worry, determine who has control, create an actionable plan, and redirect thoughts with positivity when worry tries to rear its ugly head.