Clicky

Stress-busters


“A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.”

There are two sources of stress, external and internal. Much of the available advice only looks at the external sources. Here’s how to face up to a major internal source of stress and start to lessen its power over you.

When people give advice on how to deal with stress, they usually concentrate on the kind that comes at you from the outside: overwork, bullying bosses, threats to job security, and lack of control over your life in the workplace. There is, of course, another source of stress that is equally powerful. The stress that comes from within, usually driven by anxieties, insecurities,and—most common of all—a divided self.

A kingdom divided

Nearly everyone has the experience, at one time or another, of living a divided internal life; of experiencing the painful dissonance that comes from doing or saying one thing while believing another.

In a trivial sense, we all do it when we tell a white lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings; or when we say or do what is expected for the sake of politeness, even though our real wishes are quite different. None of that matters much. The type of internal division and dissonance that causes stress is more deep-rooted and painful. It happens when the demands of the outside world come up against your deepest beliefs . . . and you still go along with what the world wants.

For example, you know that working late yet again—or taking still more work home for the weekend—will upset your nearest and dearest. Yet you prefer that over facing the scorn of your macho boss. You know that what you’re being told to do is unethical, even dishonest, but you still do it. You can’t bear to be called a “goody two-shoes” and excluded from the fashionable clique. To do what it will take to beat all rivals and secure that coveted promotion sickens you. But you still ruin your rivals and betray your friends to come out on top.

Emotional and spiritual haemorraging

Giving in to external pressures often seems the easier course. Certainly it’s the one that brings least immediate danger to your prospects and pressure on you. But there’s still a cost: somewhere inside you will have inflicted a deep wound that bleeds away in silence, sapping your energy and undermining your self-esteem.

Such wounds to personal integrity don’t heal easily. If the division between inner and outer imperatives becomes too great, the dissonance may become so bad that it causes all the classic symptoms of destructive stress: headaches, sickness, depression, irrational anger, lowered immune reactions. Eventually, such extreme inner turmoil will become so intolerable that only violent action can relive the pressure. I wonder how many cases of domestic violence have their roots in such inner divisions?

To live with a dehumanizing and demoralizing gap between your true self and the one that collaborates with “the system” is to slowly strangle your integrity as a human being. There are ohly two ways out: to give into the external demands completely and crush your inner self; or to re-establish wholeness by following your personal integrity, whatever the cost. One leaves you as an empty shell of a person. The other will set you free, though it may involve great pain first.

Here’s what it takes to become whole again.

The steps in the process go something like this:

  • You must face the truth. You chose to deny your inner needs to make money, be popular, come out on top, avoid exclusion, or whatever. Now you have to reverse that choice.
  • Whatever you “bought” with the price of your integrity has to be given up. you won’t be able to have ti both ways. That may mean significant losses of power, cash, standing, influence, and credibility.
  • You’ll have to admit to yourself and those whom you hurt that you were wrong. Your choice was made in the outside world, so it has to be reversed there.
  • You’ll likely lose some face and various so-called friends. Mostly, this will be a benefit. Any friend who doesn’t value your integrity over his or her convenience isn’t worth having.
  • There will be considerable pressure to recant. Seeing you choosing inner integrity over outer advantage is going to make some people feel very queasy. You’ll need to be determined.

I’m sure all this sounds like considerable pain for little gain. In reality, the gain is massive. Internal, psychic dissonance is both extraordinarily painful and brings with it a slew of harmful effects, mentally and physically. The lowering of stress alone is likely to be worth it. That’s without the positive effects on your mind, your physical health. and your life expectancy.

Choosing integrity is choosing a good part of what makes life worth living. The earlier you can make that choice, the easier and less painful it will be. After all, if you never compromised your values for external gain, others would neither expect it nor be disappointed when it didn’t happen. In all likelihood, they would admire you for it too, however grudgingly.

Start now, before you do yourself still more damage.


Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Popularity: 66% [?]

How to stop your worries running you ragged.

When people are stressed, they either focus myopically on the closest source of their stress, or they focus on the stress itself. Either way, the result is to establish a cycle that produces still more anxiety. Here’s a way out.

Many people focus most of their attention on their worries, the risks they’re taking, and the troubles they face. One whiff of trouble and they let their minds run wild, imagining all kinds of pessimistic and fearful outcomes. Then the stress and anxiety feeds on itself. You become stressed about being stressed. It’s like being a hamster in a wheel, running as fast as you can and getting nowhere.

The first and most important step to take to get out of this mess is this: stop running. Slow down and give yourself time to think. Don’t just let your attention wander wherever it likes. If you direct your attention consciously and deliberately, you can focus it where it will do most good.

Okay, that maybe sounds too easy. It certainly won’t happen overnight, but it can be done—and done by anyone. What it takes is a firm refusal to go on feeding your anxiety. Every time the temptation arises to go over your worries for the thousandth time, don’t give in to it.

It’s your attention, isn’t it?

Most of us forget that what we pay attention to is under our control. You cannot stop thoughts, emotions, or worries from coming into your head. But you can—and should—decide which of those thoughts and feelings you are going to allow to stay in your field of attention. Whatever you “feed” with attention will take root and grow. Whatever you continually set aside and starve of attention will diminish and wither away.

If you’re stressed, don’t let your fears control you. Don’t dwell on your worries and problems, so that you become more and more distracted and stressed.
Try looking carefully at one problem, and one option for helping to solve it, at a time. Follow it through and see where it leads. Then take another option and do the same, directing your attention where you want it to go. Think about your next step to get out of the mess. If you can’t see one, set that problem aside for a while and consider a different one.

If you don’t let your fears make you confused, you can stay focused more of the time on positive possibilities and avoid giving in to anxiety and stress. What opportunities are you aware of right now? What do you plan to do about them? Don’t wait. They may never return.

“Who’s in charge here?”

Awareness and conscious choice are as closely intertwined as thorns in a briar patch. Without awareness of yourself, what’s going on in your mind, and all the ways that you contribute to your own anxieties, none of your choices will be fully conscious. Every problem has some causes that you can try to deal with, even if all the others are out fo your control. Focus your thinking on the one’s that you have some responsibility for and can do something about. It’s your attention, use it as you want.

When someone asks you to deal with a problem or make a decision, you’re going to bring all your prejudices, opinions, likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, antagonisms and knowledge along. Your mind is like a committee—and a pretty bad tempered and cantankerous one too! Like all committees, your mind has some members who have greater clout than others. They hog the floor and shout twice as loud as the next person. They get together and rig the committee elections so they’ll hold all the power. And once they have a taste of power, like politicians the world over you won’t easily part them from it.

Who is in charge? Who is running your life to their agenda, not yours? Are you just going with the flow? Doing what you’ve been assigned? Or are you making your own choices?

Keep asking yourself who or what is really controlling your life. Is it your conscious choices and focused attention? Or is it whatever fear, worry, or concern happens to be newest or uppermost in your thoughts in the current moment? Are you happy about that? If not, what do you plan to do to change it?

Worries go along with each of us like fleas on a stray dog. However much you scratch, you can’t get rid of all your passengers. Ignoring them altogether doesn’t work either. instead, use your ability to make conscious choices about where and how to direct your attention. Take action where you can and send your attention onto other matters where no action is possible. By slowing down, focusing your mind, and refusing to be sidetracked by random distractions, you’ll get more done, feel less stressed, and develop a powerful technique that you can use to help yourself through any troubles you may face.

It’s your attention. Don’t let anyone or anything else hijack it.


Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Popularity: 60% [?]

A potent source of stress is taking everything too personally. It’s easy to see criticism as a personal attack, or a setback as some kind of malice aimed directly at you. Neither viewpoint is going to help solve the problem. Both will send your stress levels soaring. Here’s an alternative.

I’m writing this article with a sense of trepidation. On previous occasions when I’ve turned to this topic, it’s generated quite amazing levels of abuse from a few people. So I’m going to start with an explanation. It seems that some people equate detachment with emotional coldness, standoffishness, and a kind of superior disdain for normal human feelings. That isn’t what detachment means for me. I’m not suggesting people turn off their feelings (it’s impossible anyway) or adopt some sort of lofty disregard for others. To understand detachment properly, you have to understand attachment first.

The common phrase “I’m attached to it/him/her” may imply liking or love, but people don’t become attached to stress, worry, overwork, obsessive competition, or always being first because they love it. Attachment, in the sense I’m dealing with, means being “stuck on” something. You can’t let go of it, however much it’s hurting you. You’re clinging to it because of some kind of habitual or past emotional bond. Usually these aren’t positive emotions either.

Attachment is an obsession. People half kill themselves with overwork and stress because they believe they must, not because they enjoy it. So . . . to be detached means to be able to step back from events and see them in their proper perspective.

The simplest way to define greater detachment is to see it as the freedom not to be “sucked in” every time—whether that’s into feelings that hurt you, actions that make you feel worse, or responses that don’t help.

Why detachment is desirable

There’s something delightful about being able to stand and look at events and remain in control of your feelings and reactions. If you want to, you can jump in. If you choose not to this time, you can stand aside. It’s your choice. You aren’t at the mercy of an internal “reaction reflex” that is just waiting to be set off by the next setback, the next jerk who pisses you off, or the next unreasonable demand from some idiot on high.

You are just you: conscious of what you are choosing and free to act in whatever way seems best to you. You’re in control of yourself and armored against most of the petty irritations that build into a serious stress load.

How to become more detached

Here are some ideas that can help you to become a little more detached; to let your own wishes and thoughts take precedence over the shouts, opinions, and commands from the outside:

  • Know what is most likely to suck you in. Take some time to consider the patterns in your life. What sets you going? What causes you to “lose it” and do things that you regret later? How can you recognize them before they draw you in? Make a list and memorize it. Then work at avoiding whatever’s on the list.
  • Build a habit of pausing and giving yourself time to think. It may take a long time to make this stick, but it will pay huge dividends. Instead of jumping into action, or snapping out a response, say or do something neutral: “I’d like to think about that a moment,” or “Let me get back to you on that one.” Buy yourself time to get past your first response and start considering the options. Try to make more conscious choices whenever you can.
  • Build a new self-image. Instead of being someone who’s quick to react or speak, start seeing yourself as the quiet person who rarely jumps in first, but who everyone listens to when he or she does say something. At first it will seem false and theatrical. But if you stick at it, it will mix with the rest of your personality and produce a new, calmer, more influential, and more popular you.
  • When you feel your emotions on the boil and your hackles rising, ask yourself whether what you believe at that moment is really true. Force yourself to stop and question your beliefs and feelings fully. You’ll be surprised how often you discover that you’re all fired up by something you’re assuming, something you’ve been told (on what authority?), or something that isn’t even real.
  • Watch others. See how simple it is for people to get sucked in—and how easily they’re manipulated as a result. Watch how a simple, trivial situation is turned into a drama, then a Hollywood disaster epic. Consider whether that’s how you want to live.
  • Ask yourself whether what you’re doing right now is your own choice, or the result of being sucked in by something that you’ve got hooked on. Notice how each one feels. Compare stress and frustration levels. Decide whether you want to be swept along or make your own decisions.

The best antidote to getting snagged into negative situations and responses is always to be aware of what’s happening inside and why you’re doing whatever you’re doing.

Being more detached means giving yourself more space and time to be aware. It means freeing yourself from compulsions that don’t serve your best interests. It means being master or mistress of your own mind, controlling your emotions, and choosing your actions with care. And it means only accepting the amount of stress that you are willing to suffer, instead of what events or other people want to unload onto you.

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon
Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Popularity: 21% [?]

Religious people have long used retreats—time totally away from the world and its distractions—as a way to deepen their understanding and refresh their spirits. Those are goals that can benefit anyone. You don’t need to be religious to use the idea yourself to ward off stress.

The religious retreat is a specific period completely away from the world and worldly things: a time set aside for religious practice and that calm and quiet that many people feel that they need to get their view of life back into perspective. Many Jewish people, for example, keep the sabbath as one day each week free from work of any kind; a time for family-based rituals and a reminder of their cultural origins. Indeed, their ancestors so revered this time set aside from the world that they believed it to be both a commandment and a blessing from their god.

Such a good idea need not belong only to the realm of formal religious activities. Most of us would benefit from regular breaks away from all the pressures and distractions of our lives; taking time to refresh ourselves, enjoying peace and quiet, thinking and renewing our perspective on life, or just catching up with sleep, family, and friends. Best of all, it could be time devoted mostly to resting and letting our minds wander into paths far away from the daily stresses and pressures of work.

I think we would all do well to take such regular one-day “retreats” in this way; preferably every week, but at least as often as we are able to do so. You could, of course, combine it with religious practices of any kind, if you wish. But that isn’t the essence of the idea. The purpose that I have in mind is a specific period of rest and relaxation to help deal with stress and the many ways that it distorts our thinking and undermines our health and peace of mind.

Here’s how a purely secular and non-religious version might work.

  • You set aside a clear period of 24 hours for your retreat. That time is sacrosanct. Nothing must disturb it short of a national or personal emergency.
  • You remove all possible distractions. No telephone calls. No e-mail. No use of computers, not even to surf the Net. No TV, radio or newspapers.
  • You must not do anything connected with your work. Nothing, however small or seemingly insignificant. And that includes golf with potential customers, “talking shop” with friends, reading anything work-related, or simply thinking about work problems. You can make physical effort (playing sport, walking, gardening, painting the house), or mental effort (spending time at some hobby, playing or listening to music, reading some challenging book, writing on non-work subjects, watching serious programming on TV), but none of it must be related in anyway to your job.
  • There’s no need to be serious or “worthy” in what you do. Probably the best way to spend the time is playing, relaxing, and generally having fun. My only suggestion would be not to “veg out” and waste the whole time on the couch in front of some mindless TV program.
  • If you have visitors or go out to visit friends, try very hard to make sure that they aren’t directly connected with your work or you’ll be tempted back into talking shop. If you do have some work contact with them, gently ask them to stay away from conversations about work topics while they’re with you. If they can’t, invite them on another occasion instead.
  • At least 8 full hours must be set aside for sleep. No excuses.
  • All meals must be leisurely and relaxed. If you enjoy cooking, cook. If you don’t, eat out.
  • At least half the non-sleeping time ought perhaps to be devoted to being with family or friends. This isn’t a rule, just a suggestion. Some people enjoy social time. Others find greater refreshment in time alone. It’s your choice.
  • Try to get plenty of fresh air. Nowadays, most of us spend far too much of our time indoors. Walking or cycling is good.
  • If work-related matters (or people) try to intrude, they really must be ignored. If you aren’t strict about this, your attempt at a retreat is doomed. Nothing must be allowed to spoil it. No exceptions. Allow just one in and all the rest will push through the crack you opened. It’s only 24 hours. Almost nothing is truly so urgent that it cannot wait that long.
  • It’s best to hold retreats like this regularly, on set days. That way, everyone else gets used to your schedule and knows that it’s pointless trying to interrupt.

The benefits are, I think, obvious. Aside from the rest, refreshment, and re-establishment of perspective, just the self-discipline involved is likely to be extremely beneficial. So is the process of reminding yourself—regularly—that it’s your life and you should be able to set aside some part of it for yourself.

So consider this: if you can’t do this, how are you different from a slave who lives continually at the whim of someone else’s agenda?

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon
Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Popularity: 13% [?]

Many people find that they have reached a serious state of stress before they even notice that anything is happening. On the basis that prevention is better than cure, here’s an idea to help you stay aware of what is going on and take action well before anything unpleasant happens.

Stress, overwhelm, anxiety, obsession: all of these creep up on you. They don’t arrive in an obvious way. One moment all is well, more or less. You probably know that you’re pushing yourself a little too hard, but it’s not something that you can’t cope with. Then you go one step too far. What was normal concern becomes anxiety; what was just a little extra effort becomes more than you can handle safely without doing yourself any harm.

It’s the same with extra working hours. You can handle them at first. Maybe it’s only only a temporary effort to deal with a crisis. Then, gradually but inexorably, working 9, 10, 12, 14 hours a day becomes normal for you. You don’t notice the effect until it’s way too late.

The one-minute check-in is a simple and practical way to get a handle on what’s happening. Here’s what you do:

  1. At regular intervals throughout the day, you stop for 60 seconds to bring your attention back to yourself.
  2. Each time, you ask what you are doing, how you feel, and —most important of all—what your patterns of work are. How long are you going without a break? How early did you start and what time is it now? How tired are you?
  3. You don’t cheat yourself. You make it a genuine inquiry into what is happening. No quick, superficial, comforting responses are accepted. That’s why it takes 60 seconds: 30 seconds to give yourself the edited version, then 30 more to get at the truth.
  4. Ask yourself where you are and what you’re doing. How long you’ve been doing it. How long until you can take a meaningful break or stop altogether. How you feel physically and mentally. What’s happening inside you—and where, if anywhere, it hurts.
  5. Don’t prejudge. Don’t make assumptions. Check yourself out carefully and notice what is going on. The purpose of the one-minute check-in is to allow yourself to be aware of your own functioning on a regular basis.
  6. Finally, act on what you find. If all is well, press on until your next one-minute check-in, say in an hour or two. If you need a break, take one. If you recognize that you’re long past being effective and only your stubbornness and anxiety are keeping you in place, pack up and go home right away.

Many of the stress-based problems people cause themselves are overlooked; dismissed as nothing to be concerned about. People take almost no vacation time and expect to be able to go on functioning at peak ability just the same. They skimp on sleep and imagine they are still fully alert. They drive themselves through a physically crippling schedule and imagine they’re tough enough to suffer no ill effects. Until pain or disaster strikes.

By checking in regularly, you can avoid all of this and stay on the right side of your personal limits. It will cost you perhaps 5 minutes a day to do it. It might save your health, your relationships, your career—and potentially your life.

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon
Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Popularity: 10% [?]

Sometimes you can’t simply avoid stress or make it go away. How can you handle it when there’s no other alternative?

I often write on this web site about ways to avoid workplace stress or stop it happening in the first place. That’s obviously the best course of action, but this isn’t a world where you can always find the ideal situation, however hard you try. You need options to help you when stress cannot be avoided. Here are some suggestions.

What can you do when you can’t avoid a stressful situation or escape from one that has already grabbed you? Is the only course to try to tough it out?

I don’t think so. Here are some other approaches that you can try when prevention or avoidance aren’t available.

  1. Never neglect the obvious. Nothing will elude your attention as consistently as whatever you take for granted. Before you give up, or try some exotic remedy, try considering whether there are some totally obvious aspects of the situation or your working habits that are producing some of the stress. Perfectionism is a common one. Another is neglecting your physical needs for periods of rest, What are the most obvious (and therefore most neglected) actions you could take to improve your situation? Close your eyes and take a break from the world. Get up every 45 minutes for a brisk walk, even if it’s only around the office. Stop going over and over the same thoughts and simply move on.
  2. What ways of coping are hidden by convention or supposedly obvious “truths?” What aren’t you seeing because someone told you in the past that it won’t work, or wouldn’t be allowed? Are you maybe contributing to your own stress by following conventional working patterns, when the situation needs an unconventional style? What are you assuming won’t help, without even trying it?
  3. Which of your unconscious habits might be part of the problem? Worrying is a mental habit that can pile on the pressure. So is feeling guilty for feeling stress at all. How you work may also be part of the difficulty. Perhaps you always work directly on your computer, when some time making hand-written notes might help to break up the monotony and give your eyes a rest. We all become so used to our habitual way of doing something that we can’t even conceive of handling it differently. Try. It may feel odd and uncomfortable at first, but it might produce ways that can lessen the pressure.
  4. What distractions can you remove? Turn off the e-mail notifier. Close down IM. Decide not to answer phone calls for the next hour. Find somewhere to work away from your desk, where casual callers won’t find you. Distractions are terrible thieves of time and ruin your productivity. If you’re under pressure, especially time pressure, constant distractions will raise your blood pressure quicker than almost anything else.
  5. Slow down. Yes, I know that seems like the last thing that will help, but if that’s what you think, you’re wrong. Pressure tends to make you speed up, try to cut corners, jump to quick conclusions and snap judgments, go faster and faster. All of these increase the rate of mistakes and the need for re-working. Then that makes you feel even more stressed, so you speed up some more. It’s a vicious cycle that continually adds to the pressure. So slow down. It may feel counterintuitive, but it’s often the best way to save time overall.
  6. Don’t assume that you don’t already have the answer. Often the best way to produce a mental breakthrough—the kind that lets you jump right to a solution, without needing to spend half the time you thought it would require—is to take all the bits and pieces of ideas and thoughts you have already and play around with them. Shift them into new patterns. Try fitting pieces together that don’t seem to belong. You’ll be amazed at what will pop out. Best of all, since all the pieces are familiar to you, it may not take much time to craft the new combination into a workable solution.
  7. Eat regularly, but lightly. Drink often, avoiding alcohol or caffeine. This is simply commonsense. You’ll need energy to cope with the stress, so that means sufficient food. But not too much at a time, or you’ll start to feel sleepy and sluggish, which is the last thing that you need. Caffeine in large doses will keep you awake but send your mind buzzing like a hamster on a wheel. Alcohol will numb your brain.
  8. Move around as often as you can. Our brains and bodies are linked. If your body is stiff and cramped, your back aches from hunching over your work or sitting in a bad chair, your head aches from poor lighting or just the continual tension, and you feel lousy, you aren’t going to be able to produce your best work—and now, when the pressure is on, is when you need that most. Movement is good for you. Use it to help lessen your physical and mental tiredness.
  9. Get a regular change of scene. It’s easy for some place to become so associated in your mind with the pressure that you start to feel stressed and anxious just by going there. A change of scene can refresh your mind and help you lighten up. Anxiety makes you grim, and grim isn’t going to help you.
  10. Get as much sleep as you can. Anxious people often tell themselves that they won’t be able to sleep, so they stay up late working. But almost any sleep is going to help and it’s easy to over-estimate how long you’ve been lying awake in the dark. It may feel like hours, but it could be just a few minutes, while the rest of the time you were sleeping. It’s worth a try anyway. Depriving yourself of sleep is going to make the pressure worse. And, since one of the keys to getting to sleep is sticking to regular habits, make sure you go to bed at your usual time. Burning the midnight oil is best avoided if at all possible.
  11. Know when you’ve had enough. Sometimes, the only sane thing to do is give up and get some rest. Do it. Don’t kid yourself that you can keep going when all the others have given in. Knowing your own limits is the best way to preserve your health and avoid making mistakes you’ll regret bitterly. Whatever anyone else says, when it’s time to quit, just do it.

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon
Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Popularity: 18% [?]

Today’s world creates anxiety like never before. It’s time to fight back.

I have to start this article with a confession. For most of my life, I have been a world champion worrier. I was able to worry about almost anything. And, if I didn’t have anything specific to worry about, I would worry that I must have missed what I ought to be fretting over. The workplace, of course, provides an endless menu of possible sources of worry, which is why it’s often so stressful. Anxiety produces stress and stress produces anxiety. They feed off each other, making a perpetual motion machine of worrying. If anything good can come out of all that anxiety, it might be this: my experience-based ideas on how and why to quit worrying so much.

Most worriers believe that they either must worry (they have genuine reasons to do so), or that they cannot stop themselves, even if they see it doesn’t make sense. Let’s begin with understanding the causes of worry and whether it might be of some use. Until you are convinced that worrying is of no benefit to you, you won’t give it up anyway.

  • Worrying is a form of superstition. A great deal of worrying is driven by the unstated fear that, if you don’t worry about some issue, you’ll somehow be punished for your slipshod attitude; that some universal force will spot your dereliction of worrying duty and bring you back into line by making all the bad things happen. Of course, once you recognize that this kind of crazy, childish behavior lies behind much of the anxiety you’re plaguing yourself with, it’s tough to go on doing it without laughing.
  • Worrying is totally useless as a way to solve whatever the problem is. As Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich once said (not Kurt Vonnegut as I was told originally) “ . . . worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 pm on some idle Tuesday.”
  • Worrying takes a heap of energy. Despite being useless in any practical sense, worrying absorbs a great deal of mental and even physical energy. After a day spent worrying, you will be as tired as if you had tried to calculate the value of pi to 300 decimal places while running a marathon. And you will still have achieved nothing.
  • Worrying is amazingly distracting. While you are worrying, your mind cannot settle on anything else. The worrying constantly gets in the way of whatever you try to do. People tell you things—sometimes important things. You don’t hear them or you forget them within seconds, because your mind is totally taken up with that wretched source of anxiety.

If you’re now convinced that worrying offers no benefits and considerable drawbacks, let’s consider some ways to give it up.

  • Don’t accept that you are helpless. I won’t say it will be easy to give it up, but worrying is just a habit. Perhaps it would be better to call it an addiction. Like all addictions, it’s going to be tough to quit, but you can do it. There will likely be some “cold turkey” to get through, but just think about all that extra energy and enjoyment of life that you’ll have once you’re no longer a slave to continual anxieties.
  • Practice letting go. Worrying is all about control. People worry because something is threatening to happen that they don’t like. If they can do something to stop it happening they will. There’s no cause to worry then, it’s over. But, in all too many cases, we aren’t able to stop whatever it is threatening us: we aren’t able to be in control. So we worry instead. It’s a form of quasi-control. By worrying about whatever it is, we imagine all the ways we would control it, if only we could. The more you are able to accept things the way they are, the less you will worry. No one ever worried about anything they simply accepted. And accepting whatever it is will probably be the best way to start responding to it positively as well, so you’ll get a double benefit.
  • Most worries are totally imaginary. We can all imagine truly terrible outcomes. They rarely happen. One way to curb your worries is to sit down and deliberately imagine the very worst that your mind can come up with. Two things will likely result: you’ll realize how ridiculous the whole thing is; and everything else will seem pretty tame by comparison.
  • Worries don’t exist. So you don’t need to waste time over them. It’s obvious. If a problem exists, it isn’t a worry, it’s a fact. You have to cope with it some way and that becomes an exercise in problem-solving, not worrying. Worries are always about what may happen, but hasn’t yet. Therefore, they don’t exist. When, and if, they do, they’ll be problems to be solved. Until then, they are nothing but rogue neurons in your brain.
  • Try planning instead. Planning is considering what might reasonably happen and getting yourself ready. It’s practical and useful. Even if events don’t work out that way, you will probably have learned something useful in the process. Worrying is imagining what will almost certainly never happen, and then imagining how you would fail to deal with that imaginary outcome.
  • Never feel guilty about not worrying. Not only is guilt a totally useless and entirely negative emotion, but you have nothing whatever to feel guilty about. To feel guilty about not worrying is like berating yourself for not thinking about ten yellow goldfishes balancing on the nose of an alligator. Both are simply thoughts, and ridiculous ones too. Why should you feel guilty about not thinking them?
  • Don’t think too much about what other people have achieved. It will only make you feel dissatisfied and start you worrying again. At least 50% of the good things that happen to people is pure chance; the rest is a mixture of solid effort and unexpectedly good outcomes from what began as mistakes. Do what you do and be happy.
  • If you start to take yourself seriously, take two aspirin and lie down in a darkened room until the fit passes. What do you know about yourself for certain? Most of your ideas don’t work, most of your hopes and plans fail, most of your triumphs were luck, and most of your choices were either made for you by others or happened by default. And you take a person like that seriously? All that stuff is just to impress other people, right? There was an old saying that went: “No one is a hero to his valet.” Hardly anyone has a valet nowadays, but you get my drift.

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon
Sign up for our Email Newsletter

Popularity: 20% [?]