Learn how to not be worried when things are falling apart with these five simple steps.
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Definition of worry (Entry 2 of 2)
1a: mental distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated : ANXIETY
b: an instance or occurrence of such distress or agitation
2: a cause of worry : TROUBLE, DIFFICULTY
According to Merriam-Webster, worry is mental distress or agitation resulting from concern usually for something impending or anticipated, which means that learning how to not be worried requires a shift in focus from the future to the past.
What do we worry about in this day and age of comfort?
Well, if you’re lucky enough to be enjoying life above the poverty line and you think the way we do, then you probably worry about the things that could go wrong with your life:
- where your career is going
- the bills you have to pay
- how you raise your kids and the kind of people they will become once they’re all grown up
- the credit card interest rates that just keep getting higher
- your retirement which is zooming towards you a lot faster than you want it to
- the state of the environment (and how we seem to keep on destroying it).
- And in these uncertain times, how we’re going to get through the pandemic that’s shutting down each and every country in the world seemingly one by one.
Thinking about the many things that could go wrong in any of those scenarios make us restless and afraid.
Enslaved by these worrisome thoughts in general and the act of worrying itself in particular, we are unable to sleep or focus on the present moment.
We can’t enjoy the good things that we create because we end up focussing on the bad things that could potentially happen.
It’s also possible that you’re worrying about how others perceive you – something that can be just as potent as those things that could go wrong because of the social nature of our lives. This is exacerbated by social media’s ability to paint the very best pictures of someone’s life, whilst ignoring the negative.
We end up needlessly comparing ourselves to others, which makes us envious and greedy.
Our insecurity and low self-esteem make us think that the water is always bluer in another ocean and we end up resenting and envying the people who show us what we think we want but can’t or don’t have. And because this is the measure we use to gauge other people’s success, we are often fearful that they will do the same.
But what does worrying do for us? Worry is like the thick Highland mist that clouds your vision, forcing you to slow your momentum down to a crawl. When we worry obsessively, we fail to move on in life.
Discontentment, frustration and dissatisfaction soon follow, magnifying our weaknesses and our fears.
The act of worrying – thinking about the worst that could happen over and over again – causes stress and anxiety. Our physical responses to worry are well-documented.
What makes this worse is that we know that worrying is useless and so we try to control or attempt to manage our worries. But sometimes, we can’t seem to do anything about it.
We are trapped in a vicious cycle that we can’t seem to break.
What can we do to escape?
“There is nothing so wretched or foolish as to anticipate misfortunes. What madness it is in your expecting evil before it arrives!” – Seneca, Epistulae Ad Lucilium. XCVIII
Disclaimer: Please remember that this post is not intended to replace proper medical guidance or medication. If you suffer from anxiety or chronic worrying, then please see your doctor to obtain a diagnosis. Alternatively, you can get matched to a licensed therapist online who is available 24/7.
How to not be worried step #1: Embrace the fear.
Accepting that you have fears is the first necessary step.
This is especially important because most people deny the feeling.
I’m not really afraid, we say, just a little worried. We say this even when we’re tossing and turning at night and don’t get to sleep until 5 AM because we can’t stop our minds from thinking of what we’re worrying about.
In its essence, fear is what worrying really is. You’re afraid of what could go wrong.
What if this virus hits and you can’t work?
How would you provide for your family?
Is your partner able to singlehandedly provide for everyone?
How can you meet your financial responsibilities now that the country is on lockdown?
Who will pay your mortgage, your kids’ education, your grocery shopping and whatever else you’re currently having to pay for just now?
Can you feel your palms start to sweat and your heart start to race?
These are the threats that we face now.
It’s true that we don’t have to worry about sabre-toothed tigers primed for attack anymore. We do however, worry about losing our ability to provide for ourselves and our family – which incidentally, is kind of what attacking sabre-toothed tigers used to do.
Do you see?
The things we think about when we are worrying are all thoughts of fear.
It’s only when we embrace the fact that we are afraid of a particular outcome that we can then identify what we are most afraid of and face it squarely.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” – Susan Jeffers, Feel The Fear … And Do It Anyway
How to not be worried step #2: Identify what worries you the most.
Once we finally accept that we are afraid of this one thing that could go wrong and destroy our comfortable life as we know it, the second step we need to take is to identify what worries us the most.
Honesty is key here.
The question is simple, but your answer may be life-changing.
Are you really afraid of losing job? Or does the thought of not having to go back to that insane, dead-end job with the crazy, Devil-Wears-Prada-esque boss sound like your kind of bliss?
If so, why is that?
Could it be that what you’re actually afraid of is not you getting fired but what could happen because you got fired?
In most cases, chances are high that the first point of worry (i.e.: getting fired) is actually not what scares us the most. It’s what could happen as a result of it.
In the getting fired scenario, what’s actually most worrying is the fact that if you do get fired, you probably won’t be able to live the lifestyle you dream of or, at least, have gotten accustomed to.
You won’t be able to provide for the people you care about. You won’t be able to pay for the roof over your head. You won’t be able to keep the ones you love safe and secure.
That’s what’s so terrifying that it robs you of sleep.
So, what do you do?
Based on personal experience, this is one of the best things you can do:
Take a journal, open it on a blank page and do a massive brain dump. Write down everything that you’re worried about.
Avoid bullet points where you only write a one-word description. Flesh it out as best you can in all its gory details.
Don’t filter anything out. Just keep writing.
During this process, remember the one question you’re answering: What is it exactly that you’re most afraid of?
“Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen…envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? … Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen?” – Tim Ferris, The 4- Hour Work Week
How to not be worried step #3: Weigh the pros and cons. Balance the probabilities.
Everything that could happen – yes, even the ones that has your mind all topsy-turvy right now – has positives and negatives. Silver linings exist even in the darkest clouds.
The second step involves weighing the pros and cons and balancing the probabilities by asking a few more questions. Question number two: What’s the absolute worst that could happen? Write down the benefits as well as the consequences, the cloud and the silver lining.
Question number three: How probable are these outcomes?
Seriously, what are the odds that you really would die if it happened? Because let’s be honest here, most of us worry about whatever we’re worrying about as though it were fatal.
Mind you, it could very well be. But we all know that most of the time, things are not at all fatal.
Embarrassing and utterly humiliating? Yes. When things go wrong, they almost always are.
But fatal? Not always, no. That’s actually very rare.
And that’s true even with this virus that we’re currently facing down. There are ways to contain it even when we can’t really prevent it. And ways we can maximise our chances (and the chances of the people we love) to survive it.
Side Note: For more information on exactly how you can do that, check out the information in the resource list in this section.
So, comfort yourself with the knowledge that yes, you might need to radically change your life, tighten your belt a little bit, maybe take a few hits to your pride but you’d still be alive to try another tactic to reverse your fate.
It ain’t over till the fat lady sings, remember?
Question number four: How long will things stay the way they are?
Assuming that your worst nightmare did happen, will you be suffering the consequences for the rest of your life? If you were to get fired today, would you stay fired forever?
Wouldn’t you start looking for a new job immediately? Maybe even start your own company?
Come to think of it, wouldn’t you have already started looking as soon as the rumours started flying that you’ve got an auditor coming to look at the books and see where the company could save some money?
Whilst you’re looking for a job, couldn’t you start moonlighting? Maybe take a freelance gig here and there to tide you over?
If push comes to shove, couldn’t you apply for benefits whilst you’re getting back on your feet?
There are endless options. What would you be prepared to do?
“I don’t want to stay in the bad place, where no one believes in silver linings or love or happy endings.” – Matthew Quick, The Silver Linings Playbook
How To Protect Yourself – World Health Organization advice for the public. Get the information from a reliable source.
How To Be Productive During Quarantine – A list of concrete ideas on how to be productive during quarantine & make the most of your time at home.
How To Be Productive When You’re Not At The Office – Useful tips when you have to work from home.
The Best Skills To Learn During Quarantine – Particularly relevant if the current global situation has made you want to transition to another job that you can do remotely.
How to not be worried step #4: Make a plan.
The third step flows naturally from question number four. What would you be prepared to do? In other words, what sensible plan can you make to help you address those worries if they happen?
We have to emphasise how important making a (pre-emptive or even corrective) plan is, if you worry. A plan means you don’t freeze when something bad happens because you know what to do. This, in turn, helps alleviate anxiety.
You cannot do without it.
We gave a few sample options in the previous section for when you’re afraid of losing your job. So, if you’re worrying about getting fired in the future – near or far, now is the time to make a contingency plan.
Let’s take a look at the example below.
MY CONTINGENCY PLAN
1. Look at the skill and experience I already have and use them to spruce up my resume and write cover letters. Consider learning new skills.
2. Register in a relevant job board and upload my resume.
3. Make sure I get notifications for new jobs that are advertised.
4. Apply regularly to jobs I like. Send at least 10 applications a day until I get invited to interview.
5. If I do get offered a job, I am now in the enviable position of choosing to move now or wait for better news from my company – either way, I have choices. Yay me!
6. Email contacts to let them know I am interested in another opportunity.
7. Start doing other money-making activities whilst applying for new jobs.
8. Consider a new business venture. Maybe set up that blog I’ve been thinking about?
9. Look into the world of online business. Is this something I can or would love to do?
10. Start looking at possible benefits from the government that I would be eligible to apply for in case sh*t hits the fan.
11. Design and execute a financial plan.
“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself.” – Jim Rohn, The Seasons of Life
How to not be worried step #5: Let go of expectations.
The last step is to let go of all expectations for a particular outcome.
Yes, we know that this is easy to say yet very hard to do but letting go is key to overcoming worry and all the stress that comes with it.
We’re not saying that you now need to give up in resignation. That’s defeatist and would not help you at all.
Letting go simply means accepting that you have done everything that you could and now, all you’re doing is waiting in anticipation for whatever (wonderful!) surprise life decides to throw you next.
The best thing about this part is that this usually happens naturally and almost automatically when you have a plan in place. There’s a sense of relief because you now know what to do if the worst were to happen.
You see that there is in fact, a way out, and you automatically feel calmer, more at peace. You lose the sense of urgency and panic that tend to accompany the act of worrying.
You can let things go and you finally relax.
This is the letting go that we encourage you to do.
Side Note: Sometimes, when we feel ourselves letting go of our expectations or our fears that bad things can happen, we resist and start clinging to our worries even more tightly.
For some reason and usually at a very deep subconscious level, we feel compelled to do this. It’s as if worrying means we’re assigning great importance to something.
For example, we worry about our loved ones because they are important to us. We don’t worry about a bus delay in a nearby town because it isn’t important to us. Therefore, we need to worry about our life because our life is important.
When you feel this urge to resist, look at it and examine it carefully. Why are you resisting is a valid question. Yes, worries are not necessarily logical or rational but they need to be acknowledged, examined and released (see our resource list for more information on how to release negative emotions).
In the end, a worrier must really decide for himself to start and complete the journey to freedom from worries, from fear.
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” – The Dalai Lama, The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness
How To Let Go Of Hurt And Anger – A post that gives you effective ways to acknowledge, process and release negative emotions.
Final thoughts on how to not be worried
Worry, the mental distress or agitation resulting from concern that something bad can happen, is pervasive and sometimes compulsive. It has a negative effect on our physical and mental health and we sometimes find it difficult to stop.
Thankfully, there are actually just five simple steps to freedom from worrying.
First, you need to embrace your fear. Forget denial. Instead, acknowledge what you are feeling and reassure yourself that worrying is normal.
Second, identify what worries you the most. Paint a picture of the devastation that can happen if the worst comes to pass. Don’t hold back and don’t do it haphazardly. Write everything down in all its miserable glory.
Third, weigh the pros and cons of the event. There is no such thing as darkness without light. What are the benefits and the consequences? Look at the probabilities. How probable is it that the negatives will outweigh the positives? How probable is it that you’ll remain in this state of negativity for the rest of your life?
Fourth, make a plan. Some people make two: a plan to prevent the feared scenario from happening in the first place and a contingency plan to tackle the after-effects after the scenario has taken place.
Finally, move past the resistance and let go of all expectations for a particular outcome. If you’ve done all you could both to avert and to handle what you’re most afraid of, then let go and adopt the Invictus attitude.
Based on our own experiences, we can attest to the effectiveness of this method and can therefore, highly recommend it.
Remember the saying though: we can lead a horse to water but we cannot make it drink. All we can do is give you the information you require, the rest is up to you.
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul…
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”
– William Ernest Henley, Invictus
Full list of resources
These are the tools we use to accomplish each step. Some are free and some have a nominal fee but all of them we have personal experience of and can recommend as truly effective – sometimes life-changing.
How to not worry resource #1: Audio & Videos
Stop Worrying – Rewire your mind to stop worrying and start living your life the way you really want to, with powerful subliminal messages.
Tapping Therapy for Anxiety – The best of Brad Yates’ tapping videos that will help with anxiety and fear.
Discovering Your Worthiness Guided Meditation – An amazing meditation designed to help you fall in love with yourself and remind you that you have the power to change your life.
Let Go of Anxiety, Fear & Worries – A powerful meditation that helps your mind dissolve 80% of your worry.
Release Worry Guided Meditation Hypnosis for a Deep Sleep & Relaxation – If your mind has the tendency to resist new thoughts and changes that you want to implement, then I recommend meditating when you’re sleeping and plant the seeds of powerful new thoughts in your subconscious.
Stop Overthinking, Worry & Stress – A track containing the Solfeggio 528 Hz Miracle Tone that will help you stop overthinking, worry and stress. I use this to help myself fall asleep at night when fear of the future starts to crowd my mind.
Release Anger and Worry – A Qigong-based routine that is part of a practise to combat depression, this gets your body moving and your worries with it.
Reiki for Worries | Release Worry and Fear – Based on the ancient Japanese practice of Reiki, this video is a potent energy healing session from a Reiki Master Teacher.
Easy Qi Gong Routine for Anxiety and Stress – Another Qigong routine, this one will is designed specifically for dealing with anxiety and stress.
How to not worry resource #2: Books
Epistulae Ad Lucilium. XCVIII – Seneca’s Letters is a masterpiece of classical literature that offer a compelling and accessible introduction to Stoic ideas. Seneca uses these ideas to offer practical advice on a number of real-world problems, and his guidance remains as relevant today as at the time it was written.
Feel The Fear … And Do It Anyway – Written by Dr. Susan Jeffers, this fun-filled guide to self-empowerment, inspires us with dynamic techniques and profound concepts that have helped countless people grab hold of their fears and move forward with their lives.
Learn how to become powerful in the face of your fears–and enjoy the elation of living a creative, joyous, loving life.
The 4- Hour Work Week – The blueprint to a life of freedom, The 4-Hour Work Week helps you forget the old concepts of retirement and a deferred life plan.
The Seasons of Life – A true classic from the master business philosopher himself, this book is where Jim Rohn explains the parallels between life and the changing seasons. Based on the parable of the sower and the reaper, he gives excellent ideas on what to do in one season to ensure success in another season.
The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Kindness – The best introduction to the life and teachings of the Dalai Lama, this book contains two full-length interviews that contain the Dalai Lama’s thoughts on everything from his stature as an incarnate bodhisattva to how he manages the tragedies of his people, his political ideals, and even his hobby of gardening.
Invictus – A book that contains not only William Ernest Henley’s most powerful poem but a few select others, Invictus is my go-to book for when I feel like giving up.
The Anxiety and Worry Workbook: The Cognitive Behavioral Solution – Grounded in cognitive behaviour therapy, this book will hep you gain lasting relief from out-of-control anxiety.
You will have access to carefully crafted worksheets (you can download and print additional copies as needed), exercises, and examples which reflect the authors’ decades of experience helping people.
On top of that , you’ll learn practical strategies for identifying your anxiety triggers, challenging the thoughts and beliefs that lead to distress, safely facing the situations you fear, and truly loosening anxiety’s grip-one manageable step at a time.
What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety – An interactive self-help book for kids who are dealing with anxiety.
How to not worry resource #3: Others
How To Use A Journal – A post that contains all the lessons learned from Jim Rohn’s powerful secret: the journal.