How To Stop Worrying

From the Harmony Habit Tip Archives (January 2012):

“Some of my biggest
disappointments never happened.”
~ Mark Twain



I’m a recovering worrier. I am. I don’t always like to admit it, yet it’s true. I’m not sure if I was born a worrier or if I acquired a special talent for it along the way!

I’ve recently come to really recognize the futility of my worrying. It gets me nowhere, it’s not useful and in fact it restricts my ability to relax and drop into myself, which is usually where the answer to what’s troubling me can be found.

what if questionRecently I found myself worrying about the future, which is what most of us worry about – an event that has yet to take place, some worrisome thing that has not even happened – and may never.

I was even defending my worry!

I was using phrases like “yeah, but what if that plan doesn’t work?!”, or “suppose x, y or z (you can fill in almost anything here!) happens?”, or “what if this person does that?!”

My friend Cin, who was very patiently listening to me, said, “How about playing the ‘what if’ game in your favor?”

“The ‘what if’ game in my favor?” I asked. “Yes!” she said. “How about asking, ‘what if I won the lottery?!’ or ‘what if I met the love of my life?!’ or ‘what if everything worked out even better than I’d ever imagined?!'” I laughed out loud! It felt so much better to imagine great possibilities rather than dreadful ones.

It’s a choice. I saw that so clearly in that moment!

So now when I start to worry, well, first of all I commit to naming my habit. “Look at that!” I say, “I’m worrying again! Isn’t that amusing!” That creates a much needed distance between me and my worry. I’ve even given my worry a name. I call it “Stella”. I don’t know why I chose that name, yet it works. “Come on in, Stella,” I say. “Have a seat. Let’s talk.” Now I treat worry like an old friend. My friend Mark says he calls his worry “Ralph”. They’re very good friends, too!

The point is, like Mark Twain said, “Most of my biggest disappointments never happened.”

So why worry? It’s certainly not helpful and it’s definitely not fun. Instead, when you find yourself in a worry pattern again, see if you can lighten up around it. Give it a name, invite it in, and make friends with it.

With practice, I believe you’ll discover that your worry lessens. It likely will show up again, yet you can choose to have a brand new relationship with it!


This week’s practice:

Notice any tendency to worry that you may have. We all do it, yet we’re not always aware that we’re on auto-pilot with it. Next time you find yourself worrying, just observe it. Name it. “Oh, look at that! There I go again! I’m worrying!” Don’t judge yourself for worrying that only makes it worse.

See if you can observe yourself from a neutral place and then watch what happens. Does that help you lighten up? Relax a little more? Create some distance? Any one of those positive outcomes – and even more are possible. And relating to your worry like that is far more likely to help you access your inner wisdom – the place where your best solution undoubtedly lies.

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