I worry too much and it is draining joy from my life, but I honestly cannot stop. I am really good at thinking of everything that could possibly go wrong with every situation. Even when things are going good, I can think of things to be worried about. My spouse says that I can rain on any parade. How does one turn that off? Do you have some advice?
First, understand that worries are nothing more than perspective. Everything you feel and experience is just perspective and in every situation there are other perspectives you could choose, which could make you feel different. I want you to take your thoughts (worries) less seriously. They are not facts. They are just ideas.
Unfortunately, it sounds like worry has become your autopilot or subconscious default perspective. You can look at anything and immediately see something to fear. This happens so fast, you don’t see the other perspective options available to you. You must slow down and become more mindful. This means stepping back and observing what you are thinking, then consciously deciding if it serves you.
Here are 10 ways to get control over worry and choose a different perspective:
1) Remind yourself worry never robs tomorrow of problems, it only robs today of joy. Studies have shown most of the things you worry about will never happen and the bad things which do happen, are usually out of your control and no amount of worrying could have prevented them. This means that worry is a waste of your time and energy. It does not change the outcome of the future and it does not protect you. It only robs you of your ability to thrive today.
2) If there is something you can do right now, do it. If there is nothing you can do right now, let it go. Choose to be present and focus on where you are. Look for people to serve or love, or action that would make a positive difference in your life. Stay present. George Macdonald said, “No man ever sank under the burden of the day. It is when tomorrow's burden is added to the burden of today that the weight is more than a man can bear.” Take everything one moment at a time.
3) There is a difference between worrying and planning. When you have a big project you may need to spend some time thinking about the problems and figuring out how to handle obstacles, but you can do this planning in a state of optimism and trust believing everything will work out for the best or you can do this in a state of fear. Planning and should feel peaceful and wise, while worrying in fear feels anxious and out of control. Choose to plan not worry by choosing optimism.
4) Choose optimism. A state of optimism means trusting the universe that it is a classroom that is always conspiring for your good. Believe things always work out to serve you in the end. You don’t know they will work out, but you don’t know they won’t work out either. Given that it could go either way you might as well choose a positive, optimistic attitude because doubt, fear and worry are less fun and less motivating. Remember, worry saps your energy and leaves you less able to deal with what does happen.
5) Put worries in the worry closet. Don’t let yourself think about problems all day long. Instead set aside some time (maybe an hour late in the day) when you can sit down and process your concerns. When worry shows up during the day, put those worries in a worry closet and lock the door. The worries are still there, but you are not dealing with them right now. Don’t try to stop worrying. This actually keeps you thinking about not thinking about it, which is actually still thinking about it. Just put them in the worry closet until later. When the time comes, open the worry closet and walk inside. Give yourself a specific amount of time to dwell in worry, plan and process all the concerns. Use some of the strategies below to do that.
6) Figure out what is in your control and what’s not. Get a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. on the right side write down everything that is in your control and on the left everything that is out of your control. You will find the right side list is usually shorter. Decide to take action on those things. The rest is out of your control and does you no good to worry about.
7) Focus on solutions. During your worry closet time, instead of dwelling on your fears, focus on solutions to the problem. Brain storm solutions and don’t stop until you come up with 50. This will push you to stretch your imagination and come up with new ideas. You might want to recruit family or coworkers to brainstorm with you. Two heads are better than one.
8) Uncertainty is part of life and it doesn’t have to scare you. Accept that uncertainty is beautiful part of the adventure of life. Not knowing what tomorrow holds isn’t a bad thing it is just unknown - and the truth is it is just as likely to be good as it is bad. If you put your trust in God and this amazing classroom universe he created, you can walk into each unknown adventure without fear. Trusting God and the universe is the key to peace.
9) Spend time dwelling on positive feelings. Gay Henricks, Phd and author of the book The Big Leap says most of us are subconsciously programmed to sabotage ourselves if too much success and positive change starts to happen. We may think we don’t deserve the good or don’t believe it can happen to us. We may start worrying because it is a feeling we are more used to. Worry is more "in our comfort zone" than accepting the positive is. You should always step back from negative thinking or worry, and check yourself for subconscious self-sabotage. Ask yourself these questions:
What is this worry showing up for?
How could this worry be trying to keep me safe or protect me from something?
What positive thing might be manifesting in my life?
What do I fear about getting this positive thing that could make me push it away or deny it?
What would happen if I embraced the positive?
Instead of dwelling in the worry sit with the positive thoughts about what could go right for a minute. How would it feel to let this positive thing happen and not worry about it or doubt it? Feel the positive feelings and get used to how they feel. Embrace them and believe you deserve good things to happen. Practice accepting positive from the universe.
10) Fear is a choice. You may not believe you have a choice about fear and worry, especially if it has been your autopilot setting most of your life, but you do.
Fear is a choice, and so is peace.
Choose to trust the universe and the process of your life. See life as a wise teacher that is constantly conspiring to serve you, educate you and make you stronger, smarter and more loving every minute of every day. It is on your side and if you trust your higher power and the amazing classroom universe more deeply, you will find there is nothing to fear because there isn't.
There is nothing to fear.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.