Harried? Frazzled? Strung tightly?
When you feel irritable, overwhelmed and close to snapping, it’s a good time to ask yourself, ‘how much am I worrying?’
Worry causes stress, it depletes energy, it negatively affects the mind and body’s ability to revive and rebound from ordinary tensions. This might be a price worth paying if worrying solved problems or averted disaster. Sadly, worry is more like a parasite than a preventative.
If you worry a lot, you are diminishing your health and quality of life, worse you can sometimes develop a buzzing negative field around you. This often has the effect of people needing to get away from you, making you feel that your concerns aren’t taken seriously, fueling another round of worry. Worse, worry is addictive. It gives a burst of adrenaline to your system and that little charge of energy will make it more likely that you’ll respond with worry again.
Which isn’t to say that sometimes worry is a natural reaction, in the case of a loved one’s illness or a loss of your sudden job. So how best to handle and reduce worry?
There are seven easy steps to reduce worry –
1. Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen.
2. What are you worried about? List your answers down the page.
3. Then ask yourself if this is your problem, or is it someone else’s? If it’s someone else’s is this person your child? If not, accept the cold reality that your worry changes nothing and helps no one.
4. Next, list concrete thing(s) you can do about the(se) problem(s). Make a commitment to doing these things as soon as possible.
5. What if there’s simply nothing you can do? The Dalai Lama said, “If there is a solution to a problem, there is no need to worry. And if there is no solution, there is no need to worry.” If there’s nothing you can do, pray or meditate for the strength to accept that fact.
6. Will this matter in a year or ten years? In most cases, it won’t matter much at all. If it really won’t make a big difference in the future, is it worth this much mental energy? As you’re expending energy worrying, you are inescapably living outside the present time. In a very real sense, worrying keeps you from living what life you are guaranteed to have, this very minute. To paraphrase a famous prayer, ‘accept what you cannot change’ and allow yourself to move forward with your life.
7. The next question to ask is, “What’s the worst case scenario?” Then make a plan for that scenario. It may not be at all what you want, but by answering this question you’ll find that no matter what happens, life does go on.
Finally, ask yourself to come up with one instance when worry saved you time or trouble. If you’re like most people, you can’t think of a single time when worrying changed the outcome of anything. When people say that it did save them trouble it is nearly invariably because their worrying made them find something they could do about the situation and they did it. That’s the healthy way to use worry, as a goad and a springboard to action.
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