But just because a little worry is normal doesn’t mean you should let stress and anxiety consume you. Except in the direst of situations, there is no reason to be so consumed with worry and stress that you cannot enjoy a good book, an afternoon with your children or a trip to the beach.
How to Stop Worrying About the Wrong Things
One of the big problems I see with most personal development tools is that they don’t differentiate between things you should and shouldn’t worry about. It’s not healthy to worry constantly about your health if you feel otherwise healthy.
However, it is perfectly normal to worry about the health of your child if he has been lethargic for a few days.
The key is to draw a line with realistic expectations of yourself. It’s impossible to remove stress and anxiety from your life entirely because some things deserve your concern.
However, by sitting down every day and reviewing exactly what is bothering you, it will be much easier to cut down on unnecessary worry. Start by asking yourself these three questions:
- Is This Something I Ultimately Have Control Over?
- Can I Do Anything About This Right Now?
- What is the Actual Chance of this Problem Occurring?
If you recognize that you don’t actually have control over something that you’re worried about, it becomes easier to let it go – not necessarily easy, but much easier.
If you can control the outcome of a situation, the next question to ask yourself is whether you can do anything about it right now. Most of the valid concerns people carry with them start to back up because they stop breaking them down into times when they can actually be solved.
Worrying about how your child will behave on a cross-country flight that you’re not taking for five weeks is pointless because there’s nothing you can do about it right now.
Finally, when you’re concerned about an outcome that you feel you can control, how likely is that outcome? Most of the time, the things we worry most about are the least likely to occur.
Relearning to Appreciate the Little Things
Relaxation and appreciation are learned behaviors and it’s a bit like riding a bike, except it takes a lot longer than five minutes to remember how to do it. But, trust me – you will remember how to do it.
Sometime between birth and your first report card you were a blissfully happy child without a worry in the world – recapture that state through steady practice to learn how to stop worrying for good.
To do this, spend every day – at least 3-4 hours per day – thinking about what makes you happy. Write it down, do it, spend time with it, and most importantly, remove any of the stressful objects in your life. If you go to the park with your children, leave your cell phone at home. If you’re on vacation, don’t take your computer.
You might feel like it’s impossible to leave those sources of worry behind, but you’ll be surprised by how well your coworkers get along without you and how a missed email won’t self-destruct if ignored for a few hours.