“Worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” – English proverb
No one ever came to the end of their life and stated they wished they’d worried more. Indeed, worry is probably the last thing one would want to hang onto, especially during the final moments of life. Yet far too many of us cling to worry like a well-worn blanket, afraid to let go. It’s not exactly comforting, but it is familiar. That doesn’t mean worry adds to quality of life. It’s frankly time to stop worrying so much and learn to enjoy life more. Here are some thoughts on how to do just that.
Determine the source of the worry, so you can do something about it.
Do vague thoughts plague you? Are you unable to pinpoint just what it is that makes you feel so anxious and out of sorts? Maybe it has a physical cause, something you can readily address. Perhaps what you feel is the result of accumulated stress, an overflow of powerful emotions that’s left you drained. Before you can rid yourself of worry, you need to take some time to figure out what’s causing it.
Take out a pen and paper and jot down whatever thoughts come into your head. For example, if you have a headache, write: “I’ve got a headache. I wonder if it’s anything serious.” This zeroes in on what you’re concerned about now, identifies it, and robs it of the power to continue to gnaw at you. Maybe finances cause you uneasiness. You can’t seem to get them out of your mind. Write: “I’m worried about making ends meet.” This both acknowledges the root of the worry and takes the anxiety from the realm of something’s not right to knowing just what it is.
Put some space in your life.
When we worry, we jumble everything together. Unlike the ingredients in a stew that naturally go together, however, a pile of worry does not result in a comfortable or satisfying meal. They’re too close, too disparate, too useless to be any good. This is when you need to put space between the various activities in your day. By adding brief pauses during your waking hours, you’re giving yourself time to reflect, to take a break to do something you like, to exercise, rehydrate, have a meal, socialize, daydream or just relax. It’s not necessary to go to elaborate lengths or to feel guilty that you’re robbing your employer, loved ones, family or friends by adding space to your life. The simple act of inserting space is very self-liberating and self-empowering. It reinforces the fact that you make the choices in your life and you reaffirm your commitment to living life wholeheartedly and well.
Ditch the small stuff.
The detritus of ruined dreams is rife with mounds of little problems, annoyances and petty grievances that don’t amount to anything worthwhile. All they’ve done is add to a mounting load of negativity, unhappiness and unrealized goals. The key to making room in your life to find the time, energy and motivation to pursue what matters most is to let go of the small stuff. It’s not worth your effort to agonize over every little thing. Besides, in a year’s time, you won’t remember, much less care, about those trivial details.
Put things in perspective.
How many times have you felt the crushing weight of worry on your shoulders? This heaviness literally drags you down, both physically and mentally. No wonder worry never seems to leave. It’s pushed and trampled you until you feel you can’t move. Maybe what’s happening also is that you’ve lost a sense of perspective. Instead of rationally and logically being able to separate what’s a legitimate concern from an amorphous worry is a lack of perspective. Think about how you approach a task. The best way to be successful in any endeavor is to have a goal, create a plan and get to work. You’re not deterred by obstacles, since you’re committed to seeing the effort through. You can see that what you do now will net results in the long run. That’s perspective, understanding that your input will equal the output. When it comes to separating the real from the unreal or unnecessary, envision the long view. Imagine how what you do today will affect your life six months or a year from now. Is it worth doing? If so, work on plans to get underway. If not, release this burden so you can focus more on what you find truly empowering and satisfying.
Give in to laughter.
Much has been written about the healing power of laughter. It’s true. When you laugh, you’re releasing feel-good endorphins that contribute to an overall well-being. Like vigorous physical exercise, which also releases endorphins, laughter helps smooth out rough edges, calm overwrought emotions and deliver a sense of peace, calm and contentedness.
If you’re not prone to belly laughs, that’s fine. Chuckling will do, along with smiling, crinkling your eyes, feeling the joy across your face. Let the laugh bubble up without censoring it. This is something you give yourself permission to do and it’s worth every second you’ve got a smile on your face or hear yourself laugh. Worry has no place in a space filled with laughter.
Engage with others.
Ruminating endlessly over what’s troubling you won’t do a thing to change the situation. Neither will stewing over problems and worries alone. What will make a difference is making an effort to be with others, socializing, talking over the issues or problems, participating in a mutually shared activity, even working on a project together. This serves as a distraction and allows your subconscious to put some distance between the worry and what you’re doing now. Besides taking a bite out of worry, you’ll feel better and take some pleasure in life.
Employ relaxation techniques.
Excessive worrying can lead to increased anxiety and stress, neither of which are good for the body. Make use of proven relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, listening to soothing music, yoga and tai chi, even walking in nature. The relaxation response triggered by relaxation techniques produces a physiological state of warmth and quiet alertness. When you start to relax, brain blood flow increases, shifting brain waves to a relaxed alpha rhythm. Relaxation techniques can help reduce the debilitating effects of stress and excessive worrying.