“ Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. …“ If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry”
We often get so caught up with the future and how our lives will be months or years from now that we fail to recognise that the only moment we have is the present. Even though we know we cannot change anything that has happened to us in the past, we still can easily fall into the trap of dwelling on the past and wishing that things had been different or better.
Similarly, becoming too focused or driven to create a better future can result in us missing the beauty, wonder, joy and miracles that are around us right now. While there is a lot of value in knowing where we want to go in the future, it does not mean we obsess about the future and forget to really enjoy and appreciate the only thing we will ever have — this present moment.
If you’re anything like me, you might worry like it’s a second job: if the coffee is good or bad, if we’ll get that promotion, and what diseases the future has in store for us. The unfortunate part is that this all-consuming gig doesn’t pay money—it pays in stress, unhappiness, anxiety, and inner turmoil.
It can feel almost unbearable waiting for these future outcomes to transpire. Sometimes our worries are small and manageable and pass, but sometimes worry becomes a chronic default setting. When we worry chronically, it becomes second nature to live in this revved-up state of anxiety and restlessness. Know that you’re not alone; chances are if you are breathing you are likely worrying.
Here’s how to worry less and live more:
- Think about worrying differently:What purpose does worry serve? Does it make problems go away? Prevent them from happening? Or make them worse?
- Allow yourself time to worry: Many chronic worriers feel they have no control over it. They tell themselves things such as “just don’t worry” or “don’t think about it”. This thought stopping approach rarely works. The reason — it’s a negative command and people simply don’t process these well. It forces you to think about the very thing you’re trying to avoid.
Ask yourself: do I have control over the issue? So many of the things people worry about they have absolutely no control over yet it dominates their thinking. For example, the weather. We can’t control it but we can certainly prepare for it.
- Fact or fiction?
On a piece of paper make four columns. On the far left write the worry you’re having. In the next column identify whether it is fact or fiction and if there’s any real evidence to support your belief. Then write an alternative way of thinking and finally, think about whether the original thought was helpful or not.
- Be a problem solver:
There’s a big difference between worrying and problem-solving. The former is about repeating thoughts that are unhelpful and leads to more stress and worry and gets in the way of actually enjoying life and being productive. The latter is focused on getting out of the current way of thinking and making life better. Put on your problem-solver hat and think about solutions. How might you advise a friend who has a similar concern? What steps would you take to ensure a solution? Take action now.
- Make friends with uncertainty: Feel okay about not knowing exactly how things will turn out. Accept the unpredictability of life. Can you imagine how dull life would be if we knew everything that would happen? Think of all that is right with life and embrace ambiguity.