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How to Stop Worrying

When you were small, your parents told you “You need to think about your future. What are your plans?” And when you were pretty relaxed in your response, the folks said something like this, “Aren’t you worried about how your life may turn out to be?”

At least that’s what my parents said. No offense Mom, Dad 🙂

Being parents, they were probably doing what they were taught to do. They were learning by example all these years of their growing up. They followed what their parents said and were merely “worried” for you, their beloved child.

Or think back when you were supposed to sit an exam. Friends and well-wishers most often said, “Don’t worry, you’ll do alright”. That implied you must be worrying before they soothed you.

I often think why humans give such a damn about worrying. What is worrying and how does it manage to take away 6.5 years of an average person’s life? And what would it take to stop worrying?

The Fake Connection between Worrying & Being Responsible

Somehow, culture has brainwashed us to believe that if you don’t worry over something, anything, you’re not being responsible. You’re doomed as one of those who live an aimless life where life is just play, nothing serious.

Or maybe you’re someone who is low on confidence and has given up entirely. A quitter frowned upon by passers-by who are on the treadmill of instant worry. Any happiness that worries have is “earned” happiness, whereas you don’t deserve it at all.

In reality, your worrying has nothing to do with your level of responsibility (or happiness). In my profession, I see clients every day who are chronic worriers but hardly take 100% responsibility for their life.

More often, it’s the opposite – people who are driven, goal-oriented, smart and optimistic choose to focus on things within their influence and turn them around if they are not happy with what they see. If that’s not being responsible, I don’t know what is.

And guess what? These people don’t have the inclination or time to worry too much because they are busy sculpting their life as they want it to be.

Worrying Serves a Secondary Gain

All behaviour is based on reason. You’re doing, acting, thinking, believing in things because that works for you on some level. It may not be conscious, but it’s there.

Because think about it: If worrying gets someone the attention they crave, why would they stop? On a conscious level, they may genuinely want to stop. But unless they realize worrying is a barter for their attention-craving behaviour (“attention” being equivalent to “love” in some people’s dictionary), they won’t let it go. It’s going to be a classic case of war between the conscious and unconscious mind.

This person will bring their story with them everywhere they go.

Awareness is 95% of the journey. Become aware of the secondary gain you’re getting out of worrying first. Is it support from others? Sympathy? Getting problems solved? Look beneath the surface – you’ll know when you’re there.

As you become aware of the secondary gain, it becomes easier to take conscious action. Your conscious and subconscious mind will work together like charm. It’s like getting everyone in your team to like each other – finally!

How to Stop Worrying: Delay Instant Gratification from Worrying

Now that you understand two key reasons worry is so popular, let’s focus on how you can stop worrying.

It feels you’re doing the right thing by worrying about things. You get this satisfaction that you’re doing something to achieve your goal. This feeling of worthiness after worrying (because it somehow “proves” that you care about stuff in your life) is only an illusion.

By worrying, you’re actually spinning your wheels. It would make sense then to fool your subconscious – that is conditioned over the years in believing worry is good – and promise it the lolly if it behaves as a good girl. So you delay the instant gratification of the illusive feeling of worthiness by promising yourself you’ll worry about it later.

Many people use a “Worry book” for this. This is how it works: When a pesky thought hijacks your mind and prevents you from being productive and confident, you write that thought down in the worry book and promise you will come back to it at such and such time. You set aside a “worry hour” where you can worry your heart out, but not just yet.

This tricks your subconscious mind into believing you are still being the good girl or boy by continuing to worry, thus keeping the old belief intact that worrying yield good. But really, you’re training it to be someone that’s confident in their own abilities and don’t need the crutches of yucky thoughts!

Come back to the notebook at a time when you’re feeling extremely good about yourself and you’ll find these past worries don’t really matter. You overpower them! Or perhaps you can simply choose to forget coming back to it. But hey, you are still taking notes so technically, you’re committed, yes? 🙂

Are you a worrier? How do you stop it? Share your personal tips on how to stop worrying in the comments.

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Image by visualpanic.

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