Put Worry Less on Your To Do List
Posted on August 6, 2012 in Fulfillment, Happiness, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski
I interviewed Wayne Dyer a few years ago and he said something that stuck with me. “Worry is the most useless of emotions.” I jotted it down in my notebook and made a mental note to think about it later. Worry? Useless? So we should aspire to get rid of worry?
Worry was one of those things I just thought we do as humans, kind of like breathing. We worry about the majors—when the life of anyone we love is at stake, but there are 1,000 minor ways we all drum up worry too. What if I get sick on vacation? Do I have enough time to meet my deadline? What if I eat this bowl of ice cream and gain weight? What if my Facebook post isn’t as funny as I think it is and I am defriended in droves? You know … regular every day worry!
Then I realized Dr. Dyer was right. Worry is useless. It only makes you feel negative emotions—fear, anxiety, brooding, panic or stress. Worry never gets you to a better place. Worry doesn’t change outcomes.
I think many of us may mistakenly believe worry is a prayer in reverse. If we brood and worry and put ourselves in a negative space, maybe those bad outcomes won’t happen. The reality is, whether we worry or not, the outcome will be the same. Worry only lengthens the time we spend simmering in negative soup.
So, I made up my mind. I’d start worrying less. Fast forward to today, and I think everyone should put Worry Less on their To Do lists because there are so many benefits.
Worry takes over your mind. I heard once that worrisome thoughts produce faster than rabbits. You get a headache and you think it is brain cancer. Bored one day you read the little packet of info that comes with your box of tampons, and immediately you think you have toxic shock syndrome. Worry can multiply in your mind. But you can stop it. Just say, “That’s ridiculous” and move your mind along to a positive place.
Worry can make little things seem big. Take this very moment as an example. As I write this, I’m stuck in the Boston airport with a flight delay that will make me miss my connection home. I made a decision not to worry about it. I can’t change it. I can, however, decide not to let it impact me negatively. I say, “Oh well” and I tell my brain something positive like: Now you have more time to write your blog. It’s so much more relaxing than having an emotional reaction to something I have zero control over.
Worry keeps you stuck. You can worry that you won’t meet Mr. Right, like I used to, but that can keep you with Mr. Wrong too long. You can worry about making the wrong decision and that can prevent you from making any decisions at all. Worry can keep you stuck, but it won’t keep you safe.
Worry doesn’t change anything. Do you ever notice that when you worry about certain things or situations, you later realize the worrying part was worse than the actual thing you were worried about? It’s easy to let worry spiral until it gets you into a state of angst. That’s why it’s important to remember it’s a useless emotion. It doesn’t improve your life.
Worry gets you tangled up in what people think of you. I used to be afflicted with the disease to please. I came out of my childhood naively thinking I could have a life where everyone would like me. Soon I cared more about what other people thought of me than my own opinion of myself. It was like I was an empty bucket and I kept approaching everyone for a cup of water. When I stopped worrying about what other people thought of me, I became more likeable … to others and to me. It’s also empowering because you no longer need anyone’s approval. How liberating is that? Worrying about what other people think is living an imprisoned life. Decide your opinion about your life is the only one that matters.
Reducing worry in your life is a work in process. I keep my own version of the serenity prayer in my head to tackle worry. First, I ask myself if I can do anything about it. If I can do something, then I take action. Action always helps mitigate worry. If I can’t do anything about a potential source of worry, I accept it and let go.
Ironically, it’s calming to let go of outcomes you can’t do anything about. Using your energy to try and control things you can’t control is exhausting—and futile. Plus, you free up your energy to focus on all of those things you can control.
Don’t make the mistake of believing your worrying state is helping you direct your life. It isn’t. If you make a resolution to give up on worry you will actually have more control of your life than you have ever had before. No longer will you be devoting your mental space to negative emotions and energy of what might happen. Instead, you will be busy making your life happen.
There are so many better places to let your mind live than in the land of worry. As author Dan Zadra says, “Worry is a misuse of imagination.”