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The End to Worry

Photo by JUCO
Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight. ~Benjamin Franklin

A friend and I were on a beautiful hike through the redwood. It was early morning, and the mist still hung in the trees, but the sunlight had started streaming through the branches, little beams of heaven.

“I hope I locked the car,” she wondered out loud.

We both looked at each other and started laughing. Here we were in arguably one of the most beautiful and special places on the planet, and she couldn’t help but worry about the car doors.

It’s something we’re all guilty of, and it’s a tough habit to break: worry. It can rob us of our sleep, our joy and in many cases our sanity.

When I was only 21, struggling to pay for school and other bills, I made a rare discovery: Worrying won’t make me more money.

It was like a light bulb went on for me. Of course, it didn’t make me stop worrying completely, but I started to see worry for what it really was, and I knew I could beat it.

Over the years I’ve become much more adept at managing my inner worry-wart, and I’d like to share some of that, because I believe with a little practice, worry can be a thing of the past. And when it leaves, it creates more room for peace, love and beauty in our lives.

Insight into Your Inner Worry

The reason most people are angry, stressed out or filled with anxiety is because they can’t answer the burning question inside them: Why? In order to answer that, you need to get the hard data. This is the easy part, but it takes some legwork.

The following is a two-step process to gaining insight and understanding into your worries—recognizing what they are, when they happen and what triggers them.

1. Identify Your Hot-Button Issues

Keep a small notebook with you for three days. (Trust me, it’s worth it.)

Divide the pages into three columns. Every time you worry, write down what you worry about, when and where you are.

After the three days, go through your notes and tally up your “what” column.

There are usually a few big ones that stand out. These are the hot-button issues that cause us to worry. For me, it was money and how people perceived me.

2. Identify Your Worry Triggers

This is where your “when” and “where” columns come into play. Grab a piece of paper and a pen.

Draw out four (or less) columns. Write your top four hot-button worry issues at the top of each column.

You may have more or less hot-button issues than four. The point is to keep it to a maximum of four worries. I had two reoccurring worries: money and how people perceived me, and I just focused on these two for this exercise.

Write down the times and locations of each worry instance. Once you’re done, look through each column for patterns. Notice if you tend to worry more during a certain time or activity. These are your triggers.

For example, I found that I would worry about money after I looked at catalogs or magazines.

Pay attention to the “whens” of each column where you find yourself worrying about things, and start to become sensitive to them. Take proactive steps to avoid your triggers.

For example, in my case, I unsubscribed to a lot of magazines. I quit looking through catalogs. Immediately, I felt a lot better.

When you can’t avoid your triggers, be aware that you might worry more but to not take it so seriously. Tell yourself: “I’m just worrying about that right now because of A, B or C.” And move on.

How to Deal with Your Inner Worry-Wart

Learn to have conversations with your inner-worrier. This is vital. The voice in your head that worries is there for a purpose. There are certain things that should make your hair stand up.

But just because that worrier is supposed to be there doesn’t mean it belongs in the driver’s seat. This is when knowing your triggers become vital, because it gives you factual ammunition that can help your worrier calm down.

1. Be Kind and Encouraging

I’ve read a lot of self-help books that say you’ve got to be aggressive toward certain parts of yourself in order to tame them into submission.

I disagree. We have enough tough love in the world. It’s time for a little kindness. Your inner worry wart is frazzled enough working overtime, oftentimes in unstable conditions.

When you start chatting with the part of you that worries, remember that this part of you can be like a child: Handle with care. Try to avoid chastising or saying hurtful things.

Use phrases that are friendly. “I understand that you are worried.” Be empathetic. “It must be hard work worrying like this all day. ” Offer to be helpful. “What can I do to make things easier for you?”

2. Ask Questions

Start with the easiest: “What are you worried about?” And then let your worrier talk. Then ask: “How does worrying make you feel better?” Listen to what it says.

Then talk with it about the triggers. “Do you think you’re just worrying because we spent time doing this activity?” Your inner worrier might have a bit of an ego, but if you’re kind, it will usually admit the truth.

Then ask the kicker: “What will worrying about this do?” The answer is almost always nothing. “So why do you continue to worry?” To which your worrier can’t say much.

3. Gratitude & Compliment

When your worry-wart gets to that point where it admits that there isn’t really a reason to worry, celebrate with it! When you notice it’s been quiet from worrying, compliment it.

But understand that it may still want to hold on to the habit because it feels like that is all it’s good for. It may feel useless without the unnecessary worry.

This is why it’s important to acknowledge how grateful you are when it’s quiet. And it’s also important to compliment it when it speaks up in a situation that’s questionable.

“Thanks so much for speaking up when I thought about going through that deserted field at night. That was a bad idea.”

4. Be Vigilant But Be Patient

Worrying is a habit that for many of us, is as old as we are. You can’t break a habit like that in a week. Or even a month.

Even now, a decade after my realization, I catch myself worrying about finances, going over my bills in my head or mentally balancing my checkbook.

At this point I have to remind myself that I trust myself, I make good choices and most importantly, that worrying isn’t going to make my bank account balance go up. And then I move on.

The End to Worry

If you spend some time working with yourself and make a commitment to worry less, I can guarantee that other parts of your life will become more beautiful.

The space you create by removing worry will be filled with wonderful things. You will have more mental and physical energy and your body will thank you for it. I encourage you to grab a notebook and give it a try!

* What do you worry about? What did you learn from this article? Share your thoughts and insights with us in the comment section below.

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About the author

Rebecca is a fierce optimist who believes in the power of making life happen. After realizing optimism doesn't jive with journalism, she left newspaper to create her own brand of marketing through education and humor. Balance and mindfulness are her latest pursuits, along with learning to knit. Read her blog and follow her on Twitter for her latest enthusiastic (and sometimes witty) remarks.

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12 thoughts on The End to Worry

  1. Good post and a great way to work with your worrying. I found a little saying that is enough to cut through my worrying. It goes like this – If you can do something about it, there’s no need to worry. If you can’t do anything about it, there’s no point in worrying.
    Works for me.

  2. nice post,Rebecca A. Watson.I love have explain very well how to remove worry.I think If we enjoy every moment of our life there is no space for worry.just remember we have to enjoy every moment of life and talk yourself positively that’s it.every body have different ways goal is same.thanks for sharing nice article

  3. The rational mind is conditioned to only see incompleteness in the world. This is yet another example of one of its places to find incompleteness, something is defined as not right. Everything is right.

  4. Money is one of the things I tend to worry about but it only happens when I talk to my husband about our finances. I’m not sure I can totally remove the trigger in this case but I do make a conscious effort not to engage him in money talk! When the inevitable happens, my trick is to remind myself that I have things in place to improve the situation because if I get stuck in that downward spiral, it squashes my creativity which, in turn, does nothing to help improve things financially!

    I have a feeling that some people are naturally more prone to worrying. It seems to come hand in hand with a need for certainty. The less of a certainty freak I become, the less I worry. As with many things though, I’m a work in progress. ;)

  5. I read once that only 20% of the things we worry about come to pass – which means that 80% of the time we spend worrying is wasted. Since we don’t know which 20% of the thing will happen, why worry!

    Since we all spend time worrying, I really like your idea of recording when you are worrying and then finding your triggers.

    Thanks. This is a new solution I haven’t seen before

  6. I love your practical approach. Our worries sometimes spiral us away from reality. Your approach brings us back to the present moment and focuses on what happens now, while helping us switch our thoughts to healthier ones.


  7. Rachel

    Great article Rebecca! Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Will definitely give this a try. ?

  8. Bob

    Love Thalias mantra: “If you can do something about it, there’s no need to worry. If you can’t do anything about it, there’s no point in worrying.”
    This makes so much sense and summarizes pretty much all you need to know about worries :-)

  9. Rad

    Lately, I’ve been becoming more conscious of my tendency to worry. It’s always about something in the future, never in the present moment. But it’s getting so much better with meditation. And it’s true what you said, you have so much more energy available to you once you’re worry free.

  10. I love this! At our chiropractic office we talk a lot about how to deal with emotional stressors in our lives and worry is definitely one of the big ones. We’ve pointed a number of clients to your website because of all the great tips for dealing with the things that come up! Less stress is soooo beneficial for the body!

  11. Nice article, and some very practical tips there.

    I think some of this may be hereditary also. My mother is a huge worrier and I find myself getting worse with age. Although I’m also adding to my tool box (to combat my worry-wart) as I age as well.

    Recently I’ve noticed something more along the lines of anxiety. Like on a recent trip to Belize, on the plane I started freaking out a little. Not like ‘running around naked on the plane yelling’ or anything, just a little anxious. It seems to be a chemical thing as it usually starts with a metal taste in my mouth. The first time I noticed this was a few years ago while SCUBA diving and having my brain enter the “fight or flight” mode.

    I find meditation and hypnosis audio programs help me with this.

    But I can certainly feel the whirling dervishes starting at times (especially when trying to sleep). And yes, my worries are often financial or similar.

    Or (similar to the car door thing) I turn around after a few miles to go back and make sure I shut the garage door, or check the back door to make sure it’s locked… more than once before bed. I don’t think it’s quite OCD yet, but could be. :-)

    I often use something I call a God box. If a worry is interrupting my serenity, I’ll write it down on a piece of paper and ask myself, “can I do something about it now, tomorrow, or next week?” If yes, I write down what I can do and try to follow through. If not, I put the piece of paper in the God box and let it go.

    • Me

      I love the idea of a God box. Although there are worries that I can’t do anything about, they still take over my thoughts. I worry to the point of making myself sick. Perhaps if I put them in the God box, I know they are not in my head and safe with someone I trust.

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