“Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” - Henry David Thoreau
Worry can be mentally and emotionally exhausting. Your kids haven’t been abducted, you’re happily married and a month ahead on the rent – so what’s the problem? Why can’t we stop worrying?
We worry about everything and nothing. Most worriers are aware that there is no logic in the act of worrying – it is shutting it off which proves to be the problem! And it can be exhausting.
Dr. Walter Cavert did a study of the things we worry about. He discovered that:
40 % of the things we worry about never happen,
30 % of our worries concern the past, 12 % of our worries are needless worries about our health, 10 % of our worries are insignificant or petty (things that will really not make much of a difference in our lives one way or another).
We have spent 92 % of our emotional energies over things that won’t happen or things we can’t change.
Identifying why you worry is a suitable starting point to dealing with this cycle. For some it might be physical; they have had too much sugar or caffeine (it is surprising how much of a difference this can make!) or they haven’t worked out at the gym in a while and feel a bit restless. Or it could be mental, like stress or dysfunctional thought patterns.
Getting to the root of the worry is essential in breaking the worry cycle. Find out what is triggering the anxieties, and avoid those triggers. But how do we figure out what they are? The problem is, worries don’t always have a reason. It could simply be the fact that everything is going so well which makes a person nervous as they are expecting it to change! Sometimes, worrying about something can be reassuring, as if it might solve the problem when the problem isn’t even there yet. Confused? Us too.
The trick is: Just sit back and relax. Take a minute to laugh at yourself – worrying about things that don’t exist or running too many 'what if' thoughts? Try mixing up the associations with the worry- imagine it being like a movie or a comic strip where you can put a funny soundtrack to it or canned laughter. Do whatever makes it light hearted or silly and see what happens!
Avoid the caffeine if you can. It’ll increase your awareness and that fretful part of your brain will be kicked into overdrive.
Try and figure out if you can take any action against what’s worrying you. Chances are it’s something so miniscule and irrelevant that when you moan about it to someone, they’ll tell you to “find some real problems”. But if there really is something, you DO have a bill due soon – think about ways in which you can deal with that. And if it’s all under control and you worry anyway? STOP. Cue the laughter.
A useful process to follow is to write down all your ‘worries’ and write down all possible solutions to each problem. Don’t analyse, just brainstorm. Then go back and assess which ones are the best and the pros and cons of each. Next, decide on the most practical solution. This helps engage the rational side of your brain and enables you to see the worry from another perspective. If you struggle with this exercise, think about what advice you would give a friend if they had the same issue, or ask another for some ideas for solutions. Lastly, ask yourself what is the first step to changing this? Take action and remember to review your progress.
Life is too short. Kick back, put your feet up, and enjoy the ride. Worrying will get you nowhere and it won’t allow you to have fun. Relax and take some time to think about what’s good in your life. Break the cycle today.