Throughout history, some of the greatest leaders and thinkers have been burdened by worrying. Julius Caesar said, “As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men’s minds more seriously than what they see.” And contemporary poet Maya Angelou observed, “We spend precious hours fearing the inevitable. It would be wise to use that time adoring our families, cherishing our friends, and living our lives.”
Worry is a natural part of life. Our safety, happiness, financial security and relationships can cause many of us to fret. Worries can take up too much time leading to feelings of helplessness, anxiety and sometimes bodily aches and pains.
Yet some worries can spur us to act, creating what mental health professionals call healthy stress. Healthy stress increases the body’s ability to remain alert and ready to perform well under pressure whether making a split-second decision while driving or speaking up for ourselves when necessary.
If you want to reduce your worrying, there are some effective ways to do it. Not all techniques work for everyone, so try these simple ones to see which ones help you:
- Analyze the worry. Can this problem be solved by action? If so, make a plan. If you have no control in the situation, ask yourself what you think will happen. Write down all of the possible outcomes of this worry. Based on your experience and knowledge, put a number next to it that reflects the percentage of chance that you think each outcome is likely to realistically occur. The probabilities should add up to 100%. Most often, when looked at in this way, we see that the thing we worry about the most is not the most likely outcome. If it is, it presents the opportunity to prepare for it, practically and emotionally.
- Talk out problems. Turn to a friend, family member, clergy or a trained therapist. JSSA can send a therapist to your home if you are unable to get to our office.
- Make larger tasks smaller. When working on a stressful task, break it into small steps. Completing each step will make you feel better.
- Set priorities. Differentiate between large and small concerns. Make a to-do list, and act on your less stressful worries first to gain momentum.
- Learn to accept uncertainty. No amount of worrying will predict or influence the outcome. Instead it may rob us of valuable problem-solving time and energy or other beneficial activities. Whether practicing mindfulness techniques or contemplating faith, the only thing we can control is the present moment.
- Melt tension. Engage in fun and relaxing activities that you enjoy. Deep breathing, visualization, light exercise, listening to music and being with people who make you happy are all good options.
Remember, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” ~Leo Buscaglia.