You’re human, so you worry.
But there’s a way to worry less.
A good place to start is by noticing what exactly you’re worrying about.
As the contemporary spiritual teacher Ekchart Tolle points out, it helps to ask yourself if there’s a “problem” – right now. Literally, right now, and in reality, not in your mind. If there is, you can tackle it – right now. Then it’s not a “problem” anymore; it’s a situation that can be addressed.
While you’re addressing it, there’s not much room to worry because your mental and physical resources are focused on handling the situation itself. Interestingly, the more extreme the situation, the less room there is for worrying. For example, if you’re at the beach swimming, and a huge wave swells, there’s no time for you to worry. You’ve got to deal with that situation immediately, and you do, probably with laser focus because your survival depends on it.
So that’s step 1.
Step 2: If you’re worrying about something you have no control over or a “what if” scenario, acknowledge that – and then acknowledge that there is nothing you can do about it, at least for now, and let it go.
“Worrying does not change one thing,” says Tekeela Belk, a registered nurse and health coach with Colonial Life. “It’s bad for our health because it adds stress. Stress is our response to a situation. Choosing to respond differently helps.”
Stress causes your body to release cortisol, and that interferes with your immune and digestive systems, Belk points out.
According to a study Dr. Robert Leahy discusses in his book The Worry Cure, 85% of what people worried about turned out positively. As 16th century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne put it: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune, most of which never happened.”
If you’re finding it tough to handle an issue or it requires strategy and time to resolve, it might help to break it into parts. Like in high school, create an outline to identify each part, what you plan to achieve for each part and what you plan to achieve overall. Then, start brainstorming. Consider talking it through with someone. They might have perspectives you don’t.
It’s important to note that worry, a mental process, isn’t the same thing as anxiety. Lots of worrying can lead to anxiety, an emotional state. Excessive and uncontrollable worrying, called generalized anxiety disorder, is much less common than plain-vanilla worrying. Don’t makes matters worse by worrying you’ve got that going on. But if you think you might, check with a health specialist, so you can tackle that situation – right now.
Journalist Mitra Malek writes about wellness, fitness and innovation. She’s taught yoga regularly since 2006 and was a senior editor for Yoga Journal magazine. Learn more at mitramalek.com.