I have a small admission to make.
I tend to worry a lot.
No, I’m not a chronic worrier that sweats the small stuff, like if my favorite brand of green tea is in stock at the grocery store, or if my favorite wide-receiver will be available in my fantasy football draft.
I worry about if I’m being the best father that I can possibly be for my little girls. I worry about whether or not this blog is making a meaningful difference in anyone’s life. I worry about if I’m making the best choices on a daily basis to improve my physical, emotional and mental health.
A few years ago, these worries would eat me alive every waking moment of my life. Thankfully, those days are over. Things are very different in my life now, and I have these two simple, life-changing epiphanies to thank for it:
1) Worrying serves no useful purpose whatsoever.
2) I have complete control to ensure that worrying doesn’t control my life and mess with my inner peace.
I know that I will probably never stop worrying, but I always have the power to determine the influence that my worries will have over my life.
This is a game-changing concept, and if you struggle with excessive worrying, hopefully this blog post will help.
The Uselessness of Worrying
Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.” -Corrie Ten Boom
Excessive worrying, just like chronic complaining, is one of the most unhealthy and destructive habits we can engage in if we sincerely care about living a positive life.
Unlike chronic complaining where everyone is pretty much onboard about its uselessness, there are some people out there who think that excessive worrying has a positive purpose. It’s as if they believe that by constantly dwelling on potential disasters, they will be better equipped to deal with those disasters if/when they come.
Speaking from experience, it doesn’t work that way.
Worrying is like borrowing potential pain from the future just so you can repeatedly experience it in the present moment. It doesn’t help you deal with the challenges of life, it adds to them.
Some of the health-related side-effects of excessive worrying are sleeplessness, ulcers, a depressed immune system, increased blood pressure, a decent into dangerous addictions (e.g., alcoholism, drug abuse, over-eating, etc.) and a lot of other horrific things that are probably a lot worse than whatever it is that you’re worrying about in the first place.
Worst of all–when has excessively worrying about a problem actually played a role in solving that problem?
It was trying to answer that simple question that woke me up to the realization that worrying is completely useless in every way.
But let’s refocus here. I highly doubt that you’re reading this in hopes of battling me on the life-enhancing awesomeness of excessive worrying.
Chances are that you’re fully aware that worrying is not a good thing, and you want some help in not letting it control your life anymore.
If so, here are three steps that worked for me.
1. Break it Down
Two weeks ago, I lost my cell phone.
Anyone who has ever lost their cell phone will know how helpless it makes you feel.
You can’t be in immediate contact with your family if there was an emergency. Some random person could get a hold of it and start looking through your private texts and photos. Who knows? Maybe it could fall into the hands of a hacker who could access your bank account information and completely wipe out your life savings.
There was so much to worry about!
But wait a second.
Instead of tumbling down the dark vortex of worry and despair, I could make another choice. Instead of getting irrational, I could get purposefully rational and really break down the situation like the sane positivity blogger that I claim to be.
I won’t be able to be in contact with my family if there was an emergency! Well, I do have a work phone, and my wife and my daughters’ school have that phone number. If there was an emergency that happened while my phone is missing, they’ll easily be able to get a hold of me.
Someone could start going through my texts and pictures! My phone is locked, so I’m good. Even if it wasn’t unlocked for some reason, the lucky guy/gal who finds my cell phone won’t find anything too salacious in it (sorry, TMZ.)
Some world-class hacker could break into my phone and wipe out my bank account savings and leave my family out on the street begging for scraps of food to survive! Okay, I need to get a grip. There isn’t a sinister hacker who is maniacally twirling his mustache as he’s breaking into my cell phone and draining my bank account. Remember, there are way more good people in this world than bad people, right? Someone will find it and return it to me.
And guess what? It was found in my daughter’s 1st grade classroom (I accidentally left it there during the morning drop-off), and it was waiting there when my wife went to go pick her up that afternoon.
I honestly believe that the overwhelming majority of stress that we put ourselves through is completely unnecessary and self-created.
Excessive worrying is a habit, and just like any bad habit, it can be broken. One of the easiest ways to do that is to consistently break down the details of what you are worried about, and usually you’ll find that your worries can’t stand up to the power of rational thought.
But what if you’re worried about something more important than a lost cell phone?
2. Meaningful Action
There is someone very close in my life who is dealing with an extremely serious health issue (out of respect for his privacy, I’d rather not say who he is.)
Admittedly, I’m very worried about him, and I worry often if he will be able to beat this illness.
But once I get to the point where my worries about him are starting to take over my life, and I’ve already purposefully broke down my worries, then I have to focus my attention on answering one simple question:
What can I do to make this situation better?
There will be many times when it is tempting to say “nothing,” but there is almost always something that we can do.
I’m not a doctor, so I can’t heal him. Here’s what I can do:
- I can lift his spirits whenever I talk to him
- I can send him love, prayers, and positive vibes on a daily basis
- I can relieve some of his excess stress by helping him with some of his responsibilities at home
The key is to take meaningful action.
I’m not talking about keeping busy by doing mindless stuff in order to keep your mind off of what you’re worried about. This is about taking action to make the situation that you’re worried about better. Even if it’s only a little bit better.
There is something powerful about knowing that you are doing everything that you can to improve the situation. For me, it helps to bring me peace because I know that my actions are helping to make a very negative situation a little more positive.
And that’s something that worrying is unable to do.
3. Faith over Worry
Can you predict the future?
That’s okay, neither can I.
So, since we’re all working with incomplete information, we have a critical choice when it comes to the less-than-positive situations in our lives. We can either:
A) Worry that the situation is not going to work out.
B) Have faith that it will (or that it could) work out.
If you are prone to worrying like I am, consistently choosing B will take lots of practice. You didn’t become an excessive worrier overnight, so you won’t be able to fix it that quickly either. This is going to require a commitment, and only the serious need apply.
Whenever worry creeps into my life and I wonder if I’m being the best daddy I can be to my little girls, the best blogger I can be for you, or the best human being that I can be for this world, I stop and do three simple things:
1) Break down if my worries are rational or not
2) Take action and do the absolute best that I can to make the situation better
3) Have faith that what I’m doing will be good enough
Outside of that, there’s nothing else that you or I can do.
Does that thought bring you stress or bring you peace?
Only you can answer that.
Do you feel that you worry excessively? What strategies have you used to overcome worrying in order to find peace? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!