I used to worry about every little thing, and I filled my brain with so many thoughts that I couldn’t distinguish between what was important and what wasn’t. As a result, decision making was a real challenge and sometimes I would spend so much energy agonising of something as simple as what to order on the menu. Have you ever done this before? Do you struggle to make decisions in your daily life, or feel like you’ve got so much going on in your mind that you don’t know which things have priority over others?
Worrying about what other people think when you enter a party, a bar or simply walking into the office or cafe. Concerned about the weather, what’s happening on the weekend and constantly thinking about the worst case scenario or something that may not even happen? Preparation is one thing, worry is different. Preparation has an intention, it has an end point. Worry keeps going around and around and around. When we are worrying, often it is distracting us from the present moment and into the past or into the future, making guesses about what negatives might possibly come to us.
While it’s easy to tell someone not to dwell on the past or worry about the future, sometimes we get caught because of a deeper emotional need for certainty, safety or wanting to have more control. Life is uncertain and while there is no use dwelling on the past, and there is no sense trying to predict the future, sometimes we want the certainty that everything is going to be ok. When you worry, it can keep you trapped inside your head, and from truly enjoying the depth or positive moments in your life as it unfolds.
Worry took so much of my time
What is the biggest waste of time in your life? Most people will probably answer with watching television, social media, surfing the net or getting caught watching Netflix, Ellen or YouTube on continuous play. How many times have you noticed that minutes or even hours have passed while you’ve been distracted or avoiding something. While they are time wasters, there is something deeper and more insidious that distracts us from being and doing all that we are capable of. Something that not everyone will realise that they are wasting their time on.
Overthinking, over analyzing or more specifically for some of us, worrying.
Why do you spend so much time worrying?
Great question. While it may feel different to each of us, there are patterns. Some people spend time worrying about losing their jobs or not being able to find one, instead of working on enjoying the job that they have, or contemplating how they can improve their work life and maybe exploring better career options. Have you ever felt like the grass is greener on the other side? Or have you thought about furthering your education and improving your skills to give you better chances to land a job that you have always wanted to do?
There are also a lot of people who spend so much time worrying about not having enough money, not being able to pay your bills and not being able to buy the things or experiences that you want. However, have you ever stopped to just be grateful for the money that you have and just enjoy the things that are already in your life?
Some people worry about never finding true love or losing the love that they have, but they don’t actually stop to just learn to love themselves or nurture the relationships that they have, in order to build deeper more lasting and fulfilling ones. If you spend your time thinking over the lack and loss of love, then you are often not paying real attention to the people who are already present in your life.
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There are also a lot of people who waste a considerable amount of time worrying about what other people think about them. They spend their precious time comparing themselves to others, pursuing approval and worrying that they will never get it. Wouldn’t it be so much better if we spent time actually doing the things that you want, instead of thinking about what other people’s reactions will be?
Why do I keep thinking and worrying about things that are not important?
So many people spend time worrying about unimportant things, many of us are probably guilty of this. We easily get bent out of shape over tiny remarks or perceived insults; we put ourselves through agony when it comes to making decisions or considering whether the decisions that we have made are the right ones for us, for our family, for our boss or for where we want to be in life. Many of us spend time worrying about what we’re going to wear, what are we going to eat, what are we going to say, etc. Do you know someone like this?
Worrying is a distraction from what we could be doing
Worrying is often a distraction and it feels like a safety-net, but it’s not really. It feels safer to worry, to go over things again and again without changing anything, but all that it really does is enable us to feel worse and worse. Worrying usually doesn’t build certainty or re-assurance that we are doing something right, or something that supports us. In fact, it can do the opposite, building uncertainty within us. The more options there are, the more we can question things and the more uncertainty builds. This can lead us away from the relationship we are pursuing, the friends we are building, the job or career we are spending our time in. The more we worry the more time goes by, and the longer it can take for us to recover.
Very rarely worrying can be useful, and motivate us to be healthier, fitter, more social, more active at work or motivate us away from what we are concerned about losing or changing. This can happen when the negative feeling toward the concern builds up so much that something has to happen to change. When there is almost no other solution than to do the opposite of the thing that you are worrying about. Sometimes this may be motivating for a while until you forget or get distracted or relax and the thing that you didn’t want to do, you start to do again.
Often because we are so focused on what’s going on in our thinking, we are not looking at what we could actually be doing. By doing something you can change it, shape it into what you’d like it to be, instead of worrying that it might be the thing you want.
So how do I stop worrying?
When you don’t take your health for granted, and really and truly appreciate it, there is very little to worry about because you know that you are doing everything you can to maintain it the best you can. What if you applied the same principles to your relationship, friends, career or yourself? What if you really did do everything you could to learn about yourself and others, if you really cared for yourself and others and spent a bit of time and energy towards these things, even when it wasn’t asked for, or convenient? Not worrying or overthinking about each area, but instead, thinking about how you can help? How you can add value to your workplace, work colleagues, partner, health, friends, family or to yourself? As soon as you start to think in these terms, you begin replacing worry with tangible action.
Worrying about friends keeps you stuck. Considering what it’s like for them in their current life circumstance and what would really add value to them that they would enjoy, takes a bit of extra effort and time but can have more of a positive impact. Worry has a lot to do with the person worrying. Consideration, caring, adding value and appreciation usually involves at least one other person and can help get us out of our head and out of worry.
There’s a difference between knowing the worst case scenario, being prepared and worrying. Worrying usually involves more fantasising, thinking and intangibles such as emotion. Being prepared in the face of a worst case scenario usually works more with data than with emotion. Perhaps by asking yourself if you are simply worrying or if you are taking action in preparation for something, could be a good start. Learn the difference in yourself between the two. Be prepared and then stop, knowing that you have done everything you can.
In addition to being prepared, when you don’t take for granted what you do have, and fully appreciate the moment, people, gifts, environment and maybe even the circumstances or whatever it is that you can feel appreciative and grateful for, your perspective changes. It helps you to see life from another point of view and to distinguish between the important things and the ones that are less important. It helps to take away much of the worry associated with overthinking and allows you to step into more clarity of thought.
Appreciating is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. The stronger it gets the easier it can fight or positively distract from worry. I do this by keeping a diary where I write down all the little things that I appreciate or that I can feel grateful for each day. It really helps me to pay more attention and notice the little times that I appreciate more, and the times that I’ve been more prepared. Give it a go and maybe you’ll even notice that your ability to be calm or have fun slowly increase also. What you focus on increases, so begin by focussing on the little changes and watch them grow!
I have been practising this for some time now, and these days I find that my appreciation just flows naturally each day. I enjoy every activity that I’m doing so much more, whether it’s a work task, spending time with people I love or simply taking care of myself and my health. I don’t worry much at all these days because I know that I’m prepared to handle whatever may happen, and I know that I’ve spent time adding value to myself and to others, so that even if my worst case scenario happens, I will be able to adapt and draw on my resources. I know that I’ll be OK, no matter what life throws at me.