Are you a worry-wart? Do you find yourself constantly stressing about what you cannot control? Do frequently experience anxiety? If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions -- you're not alone. In fact, I used to be right there with you! Chances are, worry and anxiety play some sort of role in your life. Worry can sometimes be beneficial when it urges you to take action on a pressing issue (ex: I am worried about my health so I am going to start exercising and eating right) but the constant stream of “what-if” worries rob you of joy and leave you feeling anxious, nervous, and afraid, usually for no good reason (Examples: What if my boyfriend cheats on me? What if I get fired and become homeless? What if the plane crashes? What if I get cancer someday? What if something happens to my family? What if someone physically attacks me?)
I’ve found that the biggest roadblocks that stand in the way of our happiness and love for life are worries and anxieties. Loving life doesn’t mean that you will be free from stresses or worries; it means that you find effective ways to deal with them and will accept them for what they are: a natural part of life. Sure, if you experience chronic worrying or feel as if anxiety is getting in the way of your everyday life, I suggest you seek professional help, but I think we can all agree that unpleasant worries are just a part of life that most everyone deals with at some point or another.
I've realized that while we can’t expect to be 100% free from worry, we can learn to deal more effectively with it, which will enable us to experience it less drastically and frequently. Here are a few tips, which I utilize on a regular basis, for constructively dealing with worry and anxiety:
Ask yourself: Is this worry solvable or is it just something I cropped up in my imagination?
If the issue has a solution, start brainstorming possible plans of action. (Examples: If you’re worried about getting fired, you can set up a performance review meeting with your boss. Or, if you’re worried about having a life-threatening illness, you can set up an appointment with your doctor.) On the other hand, if the issue at hand has been created from your imagination and there’s not much you can do about it, you can find a way to let it go. You can remind yourself that worrying won’t make it any less likely to happen. It will only make you anxious and afraid for no good reason. (Examples: What if I get a brain tumor and die? What if someone kidnaps my kids? What if my husband gets in a car accident? What if someone breaks in to my house and hurts me?)
Learn to live in the present moment.
Buddha said, “The secret of health for both mind and body is to not mourn for the past, worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” If you’re feeling anxious or worried, chances are what you are anxious or worried about hasn’t even happened yet. Anytime you find yourself dwelling over the past or fretting over the future, remind yourself to be mindful. Be fully focused on whatever you are doing here and now, allowing yourself to live freely in the moment.
Make an effort to stop thinking ‘What if…?” followed by possible negative or undesired outcomes.
If “if” happens, you can deal with it then, instead of stressing over something that may not even occur. Being stuck in the “What if?” mindset is great waste of your energy and will you leave you feeling fearful and uneasy. When caught in a storm of worry, gently remind yourself, “If it happens, I’ll deal with it then.”
Keep a worry journal.
Anytime you’re feeling unusually anxious or are consumed in concerns, jot down your thoughts. This exercise has been extremely helpful and beneficial to me. As your pen scribbles onto the paper, tell yourself, “I am releasing the worries from my mind and onto this paper. They no longer live inside of me.” After you write them down, take a few moments to look over your list. Doing this will put your worries into perspective, and you may realize that while some stressors may be legitimate, many of them are probably pointless, useless, and just plain silly.
Recite positive affirmations.
You can’t always control what thoughts pop into your head, but you can control how you react to your negative thoughts. If you have a fearful, anxious, or insecure thought, immediately combat it with a more constructive and positive one.
Acknowledge your worries, accept them, and then let them go.
Have you ever noticed how when you try to fight something, it becomes more prevalent in your mind? Fearing or dwelling on them gives them power over you. If positive affirmations aren’t working and your worry seems to want to hang around for a while, let it. Acknowledge it, accept it, and then move on with your day. It may even help to say out loud, “Worries, you have no power over me. You can stay here but I am not letting you get in the way of my day.”
My hope is that these tips serve you well when dealing with worry and anxiety. Please keep in mind that what works for me may differ from what works for you and vise-versa. For further inspiration, here’s a few of my favorite inspirational quotes about worrying:
“Worry is a misuse of imagination.” -Dan Zadra
“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.” -Benjamin Franklin
“People gather bundles of sticks to build bridges they never cross.” -Author Unknown
“Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.” -Glenn Turner
“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” -Swedish Proverb
For additional help for dealing with anxiety, I suggest these books:
The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worrying from Stopping You by Robert L. Leahy, PhD
The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques by Margaret Wehrenberg, PsyD
Hi there! I'm Jordan Brown. I have a fun and rewarding job in Southern California and write simply for pleasure. I am a soon-to-be author (The Girl’s Guide to Loving Life coming summer 2012), creator of Shining Stars (self-esteem enhancement program for young girls), and am a member and speaker with Toastmasters International.
Visit my blog/website here: http://whoisjordanbrown.com/