Those who know me well might, on occasion, refer to me as a worrywart. I’m the what-if? girl. The what-bad-thing-might-happen-tomorrow? girl. The could-this-headache-be-a-brain-tumor? girl. My mind, for whatever reason, is a fertile breeding ground for a whole host of catastrophic thoughts.
I am, admittedly, a chronic worrier.
I’ve ruined many a happy occasion over of some irrational worry that got trapped in the vortex of my overly-imaginative mind. I worry about things that the vast majority of the population wouldn’t even allow to cross their minds let alone waste time obsessing over.
But as with all aspects of my emotional health, I’m working on it. Every day, I strive to find the inner calm that will settle my irrational thoughts. Though I’m making progress, I’ve still got a ways to go. I still have setbacks where I find myself getting sucked into that destructive pattern of worry. But rather than beat myself up over my perceived failure (which is ridiculously easy to do), I try offer myself the following advice:
Stop worrying about tomorrow and start enjoying today. Be more conscious of what you are doing right now rather than worrying about a future that you do no know. Submerge yourself into the fine points of your surroundings. If you’re outside playing catch with the kids, notice the cool breeze on your face, the sound of your children’s laughter and the ball that’s coming your way. When you are fully conscious of the details around you, you will be in a more present place; Your mind will be less likely to meander off to that worry ditch in your mind.
Recognize that you cannot control things that happen to you, but you can control how you react to them. There is so much in this world that you simply cannot control. But your own thoughts and perceptions—those, you can control. So don’t worry about some thing that may or may not happen to you in the future. Rather believe that you will be able to create productive emotional response to whatever comes your way. With this thought pattern, you will feel more in control of your destiny and less like a victim of the unknown.
Create a worry period. While you may not be able to rid yourself of the worrying altogether, you can put some restrictions on it. Designate a set time every day to allow yourself to stew over your concerns. Any other time throughout the day is off limits to the worry beast. If you find a worrisome thought popping into your head, write down to get it out of your head. Table it until your designated worry time. Then when the time comes, go for it. Worry to your heart’s content—but only for that set period of time. Once the worry period is over, move on. Remind yourself that you will have another chance to worry tomorrow—but until then, no dice. With this, you’ll slowly train your mind to spend more and more of the day in a worry-free zone.
Be okay with failure. Take the pressure off. You and you alone are the one holding yourself to an unreasonable standard of perfection. Time to let that go. Lower the bar and let yourself off the hook. You may at times succumb to your anxiety, despite your best efforts. That’s okay. Your setbacks are all part of the journey. Remember that with each step backwards, you are presented with a huge opportunity to learn something new about yourself. Your failures are necessary pit stops along the path to success.
Know that you are not a slave to your fears. You have more control than you think. Encourage yourself to see your progress—even tiny, minuscule, itty bitty progress. And take note. When you feel discouraged, remind yourself of all the little glimpses successes. When you recognize your forward movement—any forward movement—you will feed your confidence and you will see that your anxiety does not define who you are. It does not own you.
Some of us are more prone to worry that others, just as some of us are more prone to high blood pressure or obesity than others. Our own personal challenges don’t make us any less of a person. They are simply obstacles that we must learn how to manage.