Taking the Worry out of Worry

December 12th, 2012

There are two things I struggle with after 7pm these days; sugar and meetings. Feed me sugar AT meetings, and I’m a goner, destined for a night of restless sleep. Sugar leaves me feeling like the neighbors are having their late night party inside my head. Knocking on the door to shut them up just makes it worse.

When it comes to meetings, I have a bad habit of replaying scenes and conversations in my mind. Just your basic 3am post mortem. I know rationally that I can’t change anything in the past, but still I go there. After a few nights, it’s like watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond. Come to think of it, the post mortem voice even sounds a bit like Marie.

Worry is not all bad, but it’s not all it thinks it is. The upside is that worry is your brain’s way of processing the past and troubleshooting the future. You can bring the past to some sort of closure, maybe reframe some language, maybe just accept you could have handled something better and commit to doing better. Worrying about the past may lead to making amends, forgiving yourself, and learning valuable lessons. All important, to a point. There comes a time to “move to adjourn.” The meeting is done and you may finally be ready to be done with the meeting. Everything is as it is now. Time to move on.

Worry about the future also serves a purpose. It helps you to trouble shoot potential pitfalls. You can play them out in your mind, almost like rehearsing the future. Then you can either dismiss the worry because you’ve seen how irrational it is, or you can plan for it, or you can just accept it if it’s something you can’t control.

It’s all about mastery; letting worries work for you, not being run by worry. With awareness of what’s playing out in your mind, you can steer worry in helpful directions. If you let worry run your life, it will do so with glee.

Mastering worry has a lot to do with timing. Decide to address issues IF and when they arise, but not a moment sooner. As Atticus Finch often told his kids in To Kill a Mockingbird, “It’s not time to worry yet.”

It’s a great phrase to bring yourself back to the present.

Ask yourself some questions to focus your mind.

Is everything ok in this moment? Is the world still spinning on its axis?

Do you know for sure that what you’re worried about will come to pass?

Do you need to figure out tomorrow’s problems right now? Is it enough to just start thinking about them?

Do you need to answer ALL the questions right now? Is there a chance, time will change the questions?

Live like the seasons. Winter doesn’t rush to become summer, no matter how much we wish it would. It just “does” winter well. Summer will be here soon enough.

And keep in mind what Dale Carnegie said, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”

I’m laying off sugar at night for a while. That’s very much in my control. After meetings, I’m going to set the agenda for my mind. I’m going to ask my mind some pointed questions. I might even try a game on my mind like this one from Max Lucado,

How can a person deal with anxiety? You might try what one fellow did. He worried so much that he decided to hire someone to do his worrying for him. He found a man who agreed to be his hired worrier for a salary of $200,000 per year. After the man accepted the job, his first question to his boss was, “Where are you going to get $200,000 per year?” To which the man responded, “That’s your worry.

So when your mind is obsessing about the past or the future, and the voice of the worrier is trying to drag you into its drama, tell it “that’s your job.” Let me get on with being here now, where everything is exactly as it is and exactly as it needs to be.

As Corrie Ten Boom said,

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.

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  1. Kenneth Vogt says:

    I’m not much of a worrier myself but when it happens I like to tell my mind, “Thank you for sharing.” Your mind is like a precocious pet — all it wants is a little attention. That momentary focus is often enough to satisfy it.

  2. AH says:

    Many thanks for this.