Worry is natural. Life holds a lot of unpredictability and it’s hard not to wonder about the future. We might ponder best-case scenarios and worry they won’t come true or dwell on worst-case scenarios, as far-fetched as they may be. The problem with worrying is that it doubles our problems. It creates negativity on top of the existing situation we’re worrying about.
For example, in school I would always feel a deep anxiety when I had to study. I would go to the library and feel so physically and mentally on edge that it was impossible to focus. I would find myself worrying about everything from boys to dinner to cleaning my room. I couldn’t pinpoint what I was so nervous about, but I was nearly debilitated by the feeling. Not knowing why I felt that way only added to my nerves.
At some point I realized how strong the connection was between my anxiety and the actual schoolwork. School had always been such a routine part of my life I never consciously considered it something to stress about, but when I started to pay attention I realized I always felt better right after finishing an assignment. It was empowering to make this connection because I was able to see that nothing was wrong and all I needed to do was focus on my studying as much as I could and not let my world get warped by the burden of one test. Worry was actually robbing me of the possibility of a positive outcome. I was worried about doing well on the test, and in turn all this worrying was keeping me from studying.
This applies to many situations. Instead of using our energy to be proactive about our dilemma, we end up drained by anxiety. We turn to quick fixes and never get results. We become conditioned to being worried and start to see this as the norm. There is a great power in escaping from this cycle. When we can pinpoint the source of our anxiety we can start to find ways to change our circumstances. If the situation can’t be changed, we can learn ways to change our attitude. Here are some of my best tips for getting on top of our worry instead of letting it get us down:
1. Write it down. Try writing down what you’re worried about and specific reasons behind it. As you write them down, consider the actual likelihood that what you’re worried about will happen. For example, if you’re scared of giving a speech, you might be worried that people won’t like what you say, that you’ll forget or stumble over your words etc. But then consider if this has ever happened to you- or anyone else you know for that matter. Most likely you’ll find that your fears don’t have a lot of basis in reality. Writing them down forces us to see our fears on paper and it’s often harder to support a concrete statement than a vague fear floating around in our head.
2. Gain perspective. Think to yourself- what’s the WORST that can happen. Generally, the worst-case scenario is still manageable. You’ve probably survived worst and you can sure bet somebody else has. Ask yourself- will this matter to me in a year? Or even a month? Realize that this moment is yours and you are capable of whatever you need to do.
3. Meditate. Meditation is a great tool for separating our thoughts from the reality of the situation. We can find a space between the worry and the content of the situation. This peaceful space can give us a buffer to push the worry away and conquer the situation head on. It also reminds us that there is a space where we are okay and we are free from any worries we have! This place always exists within us, regardless of external stressors and it’s a great tool for relieving stress.
4. Create a healthy distraction. Many people turn to drugs, food, alcohol, etc. to avoid problems. Instead of hitting the bottle, try hitting the gym, doing something creative, taking a walk, talking to a friend, taking a bath, reading a book, cooking a healthy meal, or visiting a new place. Engaging in something creative or active brings positivity into the situation and shows you that a lot exists outside of your own issue. Exercise also releases endorphins, which help boost your mood.
5. Talk to a friend. Talking to someone you trust is another way to gain perspective and take your mind off your issues. Friends can often give us a more objective view of our situation and remind us that we are powerful, worthy, and able to achieve.
6. Eliminate unhealthy distractions. Alcohol, reality TV, drugs, food… there are a lot of ways to distract ourselves from our problems. These distractions hurt us in varying ways. At the least, they make up a lot of time where we aren’t getting anything done. At the worst, they are actually causing depression and anxiety on a chemical level. If you’ve been dealing with chronic worry, try not drinking for a week. It may seem difficult, but you will probably quickly realize that it’s actually easier to deal with your problems when you have a clearer head.
7. Jump into the problem. Sometimes when we’re worried about something, the hardest part can just be starting to deal with it. You might be worried about getting a project done on time or talking about a difficult issue with someone close. Putting it off only draws out your anxiety and compounds the issue. Just get started with an outline for your project, or telling someone you’d like to talk and you’ll probably feel better right away.
Life is complicated and worry comes up- but it doesn’t have to get you down. Remember that your emotions exist only in you, which means you have the exclusive power to choose how you feel and how you deal with things. Understanding and believing this is key to maintaining a calm, happy state- all it takes is a little practice :) And whenever you’re feeling down, remember there is a place of positivity and light that lives within everyone and it’s always there for you to turn to.