How to Stop Worrying in 4 Easy Steps
If you’re anything like me, at some point in your life (maybe many points in your life if you’re really like me), you’ve experienced the hell on Earth called “worry.” Maybe you’ve worried about your relationship, your family, your finances, your health, the list could go on and on.
But what is worry exactly? Let’s break it down so we can clearly understand what we’re working with. Here’s Houghton Mifflin’s definition:
“worry: to feel uneasy or concerned about something; be troubled.”
This is the definition we are accustomed to, but according to Houghton Mifflin, the word is actually descended from the Old English word “wyrgan,” which meant “to strangle.”
I find that sooo interesting because if you think about it, whenever we worry, we are strangling things: we’re strangling our hopes, our dreams, and most importantly, our life force.
Our life force is the energy that’s flowing through us at all times, keeping us alive, and continuously giving us opportunities to experience all of the wonderful things life has to offer.
It normally flows naturally and freely, but becomes restricted when we allow ourselves to worry.
Has there ever been a time in your life where you worried yourself sick, thinking about something over and over, to the point where it consumed you? Where you couldn’t think of anything else, had butterflies in your stomach, maybe even got all nervous and shaky?
I know I have. Now, looking back on it, are you glad that you worried like that? Did all of your worrying really help that situation out? Are you thinking back on it and saying, “Wow, I am so glad I worried myself into that big, hot mess! It was great!”
I doubt it… I know I’m not! In fact, I wish I could get back every moment of my life that I wasted in worry. Because, of course, everything always worked out.
Maybe it didn’t work out how I expected it to, but it did work out.
I’ve come to see that worrying is just a bad habit we’ve been practicing for far too long. But, here’s some good news: you don’t have to keep doing it! You can live your life free from worry. This doesn’t mean those worrisome thoughts will never come to your mind again, but it does mean that you can make a decision right now to take positive action the next time they do try to sneak in and take you on that all-too-familiar roller coaster ride that drops you off in Crapville!
The rest of this post is going to cover my best advice on how to do it. And no, I’m not going to tell you the same well-meaning but unhelpful things other people have told me over the years (but never worked) such as:
“You worry too much!” (Yeah thanks, I already know that.)
“Just relax!” (If I knew how to do that right now, don’t you think I would?!)
and my personal favorite,
“You need to learn how to just say f--- it!”
Usually the person who said that last one had gone by that motto a little too much. Don’t get me wrong here, I LOVE The Dude, but I’m not going to stop taking showers and drink White Russians all day.
No, the techniques I’m going to share with you here are ones that I have implemented in my own life and have actually produced real results.
Ok, first we need to know what we’re working with. We’ve already established what worry is: it’s just a bad habit. It’s a pattern of negative thoughts that once we indulge in one, it oftentimes links to another and another until it seems like they’re out of control.
What’s happening is simple though: We are giving life to a negative thought or series of thoughts through our attention.
The thought in and of itself has absolutely no power. It can only live in our minds if we give it our power, and the way we do that is through our attention.
Your power lies in your attention.
In fact, the most valuable currency you have is not your money, it’s your attention. That which you pay attention to lives, that which you withdraw your attention from, dies. Everything we experience in life is usually because we’ve invested enough attention into it to bring it into reality.
You can observe this truth in something simple, like washing the dishes, or even expand it into broader accomplishments, like graduating from college or getting married. If you’ve accomplished something, enjoyed something, or even became frustrated by something, it’s because you put your attention upon it.
Next is something I learned from the work of Tony Robbins. He explains how our physiology is linked to our emotional states. So, we need to be aware of what our bodies do when we allow ourselves to worry.
I’m not talking about the long-term effects here, as I’m sure you already know that excessive worrying over a long period of time does not make a body happy. What I am focusing on is this:
What do you do with your body when you’re worried?
Do you pace the floor? Do you stare off into space? Do you rub your forehead? What do you do with your hands? How is your posture?
We all have a set of behavior patterns that we express when we’re worried, and everyone’s is a little different. Think about it and write them all down right now. Your awareness of this is key in making the change you’re seeking.
Next we’re going to create your Statements of Truth.
Take a moment to think back on some challenges you’ve had in your life. How did you get through them? What qualities have you developed by going through those experiences? Were you committed to finding a way? Did you pray diligently and receive the help you needed? No matter what it was, you somehow found a way through it.
When tough times come, it’s akin to venturing into a dark forest with seemingly scary things lurking around every corner. The only way for us to make it out of there is to find the light. If there’s no light shining anywhere around us, then the only place we have to look is inside of ourselves.
We have to take some of that light that’s eternally glowing in our hearts and make little lanterns so we can see the path in front of us, and eventually make it through. These Statements of Truth will be your lanterns, and you can use them whenever it starts getting dark around you.
Here are a few examples of my own personal Statements of Truth that have led me through many a dark forest:
“This is happening FOR me, not TO me. I may not understand why right now, but I have attracted this situation so that I can learn and grow. This situation is making me stronger, smarter, and wiser by the minute. Thank you God for this opportunity to grow!”
“I’ve been through a lot more challenging things than this. If I made it through them, I will make it through this. Everything has always worked out for me, and this will work out too. I can feel it in my bones!”
“I might not see how this is going to resolve itself right now, but I don’t need to. All I need to do is stay open and receptive to the solution that is coming my way. I can already feel the solution manifesting and I know everything is going to be okay. Thank you God!”
Ok, did you write yours down? Great. Let’s put this all together so that you have a plan you can put into positive action next time you feel the worry bug tugging at you.
Let’s say you’re going about your day just fine when out of nowhere you hear or think of something that activates the worry bug and now he’s dancing away trying to get your attention.
Here’s what to do:
Step 1: Remember the Truth: Worrying is a complete waste of your time and energy. You’ve been on that roller coaster plenty of times before. It’s never been fun and you know for sure there’s only one stop: Crapville!
Step 2: Activate Your Power: Remember, your power lies in your attention. So, whatever you give your attention to right now is going to live. Whatever you withdraw your attention from is going to die. So, no matter how much that little worry bug dances, you are NOT giving in, you are NOT giving him your attention!
Step 3: Shift Your Focus: Now that you’ve activated your power, you’re going to channel that power and focus your attention on the Statements of Truth you created earlier. Put 100% of your attention on one of these statements. If you’re in an environment where you can’t say them out loud, say them as loud as you can in your own head with vigor and passion! If you are in a place where you can say them out loud, even better! Say that Statement of Truth as loud as you can, over and over again, and really feel the feelings associated with it.
Step 4: Move Your Body: At the same time that you’re thinking and saying your Statement of Truth, you’re going to change your physiology. You’re going to change whatever you’re doing so you can create new neural pathways - new mind-body associations. Instead of allowing your body to follow the old pattern of worry expressions, you’re going to teach it something new and different. Your body is very smart, it will learn! (It’s learned how to express worry, hasn’t it?!) If you’re sitting, stand up. If you’re standing, start walking around or even doing some jumping jacks. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as it’s different.
Repeat those steps as often as needed. The more you do them, the more you will be taking control back from that worry bug that’s been hijacking your body all these years, and getting back into your power.
You should be the one in the driver’s seat of your life, not some unhealthy pattern.
Also, in addition to the steps above, I highly recommend you adopt a daily meditation practice. You don’t have to sit for hours a day or become a monk. Just start off with 5 minutes, then increase to 10, and try to get to at least 20 minutes a day.
To help you with this, try downloading a meditation app. My personal favorite is the Insight Timer app. It’s 100% free and has a huge variety of guided meditations as well as a timer with a bell that you can fully customize. (Friend me on there if you download it!)
The steps above combined with daily meditation have reduced my anxiety and worry by at least 80% over the years - no joke.
As someone who had her first anxiety attack at 7 years old, trust me when I say they work! Now, I am not a doctor and I cannot guarantee anything for anyone because we’re all different. However, if worry and anxiety are negatively impacting your quality of life and you haven’t tried what I’m offering above, give it a try. Commit to doing it for at least 30 days and see what happens.
Keep me posted too! Comment below and let me know if you’re trying it and how it goes.
*Information I share here is meant to be helpful and inspirational, but is not meant to replace professional medical treatment.