I have a bad case of the worry warts. Always have. I was that panicked kid at the mall that irrationally grabbed onto the railing of the escalator and swore the second floor was collapsing every time I felt it bend and move from the weight of shoppers. I cried on my first day of school. Both in Kindergarten and college.
If you’re a worrier like me, you know how crippling it can be. I’ve missed parties, birthdays, and weddings all because I couldn’t take my own advice and chill the fuck out. But that’s the thing about worry. It doesn’t have to make sense in order to be effective. In fact, most things we worry about are completely out of our control and often irrational. And we know it. I’ve stood in place on more than one occasion mentally talking myself through my unrealistic fears. Sometimes it works. Other times, I crawl back under my covers and hide.
But there’s hope. By following a few simple principles that are so obvious it may make you feel silly for not thinking of them before, you can quell those internal fears and start living.
Don’t Worry About Things That Are Out of Your Control
The weather. Other people’s behavior. The winning lottery numbers.
There are just some things in life you can’t control. If we could control every waking minute of our existence, our lives would be pretty darn boring. And if you spend countless hours worrying about how the weather will impact your travel plans or an upcoming party, you’ll mentally exhaust yourself for no good reason. Unless you have a secret “in” with Mother Nature, accept the fact that you can’t control the weather and move on.
You also can’t control other people’s behaviors. But what you can control is your reaction to them. Don’t worry about how someone might perceive you or your life choices. It’s easier said than done but you have zero influence on how others behave. But you are in complete control of how you do, so focus on that. Having this control should help you feel empowered.
Stop Trying to Be a Mind Reader
This stems from the last point. Not only can you not control other people’s behavior but you also can’t read their minds, so stop trying. Don’t worry about what the neighbor thinks about you or if your coworker was offended by the comment you made over lunch. People that suffer from the worry wart syndrome often create complete, unrealistic scenarios in their own minds. And once you start playing out these irrational events in your mind, it can quickly spiral out of control.
The best way to avoid this is to communicate. If you’re wondering about something, open your mouth and ask. Chances are, whatever the answer is can’t be half as bad as the off-the-wall “truth” you’ve created in your own head.
Ask Yourself How Many Times You’ve Been Right
No one likes to admit they’re wrong. But in this situation, it’s the best thing you could possibly do. Step back and examine all those times you kept yourself from having a good time due to irrational fears about something. Did you miss your cousin’s wedding because you thought you might trip over your dress and make a fool of yourself? Did you pass on a great Airbnb deal because it was in a city you’d never visited before and new places freak you out? Think about how many missed experiences you’ve had based on fear alone.
Okay, now how many times did what you were worried about actually come to fruition? Probably very few, if any. And of those worries that did materialize, were they nearly half as horrible as you’d imagined they’d be? This is where being realistic comes into play. Be objective. Compare your worries to your reality. You’ll be surprised at what you find.
Talk About It
Sometimes the best way to kick worry in the face is to speak it out loud. Our minds are an amazing and wonderful thing but when it comes to creating irrational fears, they suck. Correction. Our minds are actually amazing at creating unnecessary worry, therefore, they suck. When you play the same thoughts in your mind on repeat you’ll eventually convince yourself that they’re true.
Try calling a trusted friend or family member. Even a coworker who’s willing to lend an ear will do the trick. Mention what you’re worried about. The simple act of saying it out loud may be enough to help you realize how irrational your fear really is. If not, a little objective reasoning from a third party just might do the trick.
You Won’t Know Until You Try
If you’re sick of living inside your head where worry rules and fear has you by the balls, it’s time to start making some changes. Don’t let worry lead to one more missed opportunity or experience.