I was recently up half the night worrying about all kinds of things I had no control over.
These included a friend who is not in good health and who wasn’t responding to my texts (did they die?), the traffic problems I would encounter on my way to an important meeting, and the state of air travel as I prepare for a flight.
According to research, 85% of things we worry about never happen. And of the things that do happen, we are able to handle them just fine, 80 per cent of the time.
Professor Ad Kerkhof, author of the book “Stop Worrying” calls worry a form of “self-torture”.
But – we worry anyway. So I did some research to find out how to stop the insanity.
The best way to stop fretting over things beyond your control is to plant this thought in your mind: Life is amazing because of its unpredictability. We are all on an adventure. If we try to control every little thing, the mystery disappears. Let us change our mindset to one in which we accept life as it unfolds. And know that this is good.
Focus on what you CAN control
If we replace our worry over those things we cannot control with concentration on those things we can, a healthy dose of empowerment will result, leading to career and life success. We can control our attitude and our actions. Let’s put the focus there.
Understand the difference between “worry” and “thinking”
I never knew this before, but science reveals that worrying and thinking are not the same thing. Worry is a reaction. Thinking is responding. When you worry, it’s a deep seated emotional and irrational feeling. If you’re thinking, then you are not worrying – instead, you are seeing the pros and cons.
A new way to look at time
Productivity coach David Allen reveals that all of us, every single day, say to ourselves, “I need more time.” We worry about the lack of time to do all the things we want or should do. Deep down, we know there is not enough hours in the day so we worry about something that truly is beyond our control – time. But, asks Allen, how long does it take to get inspired? Zero time. How long does it take to spot an opportunity? Zero time. It’s not about time. It’s about what’s going on in your head and how we use each second.
Use “controlled” worrying
If you must worry, then schedule it. Author Kerkhof recommends a worry time at the start of the day lasting 15 minutes. Some people who do this say they find it very liberating because they literally get the worrying “out of the way” in order to move on with their day.
Think about what you’re doing right now. This not only is a lot easier than thinking about outside developments which may or may not be happening, but it improves the quality and focus of your current tasks. Obviously, we need to plan and consider future scenarios – but doing so excessively is working against us. Being aware that the here and now goes a long way towards eliminating worry.
Do something about it
I always feel better when I’ve done something about my worries, even if the action doesn’t produce any results. For example, in the case of my disappearing friend, I called the person repeatedly in the morning and left messages. Finally, they got back to me to reveal they had simply forgot to charge their cell phone! I felt like an idiot (all that worry for nothing). The traffic problems I mentioned earlier? I mapped out an alternate route I’ve never tried before and bingo – arrived early. Think of what you can do to push the worry aside.
If your mind just won’t stop, go and do something that distracts you from the worry. That may be taking a walk, doing some online research or calling a friend. Doing something different will break the worry cycle.
Change your internal program
The words we use when talking to ourselves make worrying much worse. For example, we say “I must do this, or else…” “I have to…” In fact, the truth is we don’t have to do anything. More accurate is to say “I could do this or that” or “I would like to do this or that.” Acknowledge your God-given right to make decisions and pick choices.