Worry seems to be an issue for the ages, and it isn’t reserved just for our work projects or for leaders in the most powerful positions. Most of us have discovered that we can worry about any number of topics; just pick anything, really.
No one likes to worry, and yet, it seems to overtake us. So what to do?
First, let’s start with the benefits of letting go of worry. (I know, you probably don’t think that you can let go of it, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) It’s helpful to first have a sense of what would be possible of we weren’t spending a lot of our time worrying.
One of the main benefits of letting go of worry is that we experience a greater sense of calm and relaxation. We have more ease about ourselves and our lives. This isn’t just an experience that occurs in our mind, it also occurs in our body. Additionally, when we can experience more of this state of being, we are in a better mood with the people around us, which helps those relationships enormously.
Second, we are more present to what is actually occurring in our lives versus concerning ourselves with things that haven’t happened yet and reacting from that place. When we aren’t in a reactive state, we can respond to what is actually happening rather than to what we imagine is happening. Oh and we tend to sleep better, too.
So, how to actually stop worrying? First, think of it as letting go rather than stopping. We can do this by fully acknowledging that worry is present in the thoughts that recycle. We don’t need to deny our experience to ourselves, or control it, or stop it and – we don’t have to be caught up in it either.
We might have a thought that says, “We won’t hit our targets this month. I’m going to look like a bad manager.” Note this to yourself by simply saying “worrying.” There isn’t any reason to try to get the thoughts to stop or to push them away or to examine them further.
We often think that thoughts are bothering us, but really we spend too much time bothering our thoughts. If we see them clearly, we notice that they come and go just as easily as they arrive. Don’t bother them too much. Just let them be by noting them and continuing on your way. Note it and then take a breath.
Next, notice when you aren’t worrying. I bet you didn’t even realize that this was possible? It seems like our worrying is a permanent thing because when we are pushing it away and arguing with it, it lasts longer. We don’t even notice that the thing we were initially worrying about has actually vanished and now we’re on to wondering about that next cup of coffee. Notice the moments that you aren’t worrying and put your attention on what else is present. Note this and then take a breath.
Our next step in letting go of worry is to put our attention on the body. Think of this like changing the channel for a few minutes. The channel we tend to tune into most often is the channel of our thoughts. Sometimes this is helpful, but more often than not it’s compulsive and we do it without even realizing. Take an active role in directing your attention elsewhere and pay attention to the body for a few minutes. You can do this by noticing your breathing and the in and out rhythm of the breath, or by noting different body sensations as they arise in your hands or feet.
After you’ve noted your range of thoughts and focused on your body for a bit, consider the fact that everyone worries; this is part of our shared humanity. Worry comes and goes for each of us. We aren’t the only one that is contending with the machinations of this incredibly impersonal universe we live in. The worry isn’t just our worry, and seeing the impersonal nature of the whole thing allows us to source greater compassion for ourselves and others. You can even recite silently to yourself, “May I be free from worry. May we all be free from worry.”
Finally, plan as best you can for the thing that is your worry. I call this the Worst-Case Scenario plan. When have a plan and know we can take action if our worst-case scenario occurs, it helps us relax. One time I was worried about quitting my job. How would I make ends meet? How would I pay the bills? I simply mapped out a plan that said, “If this occurs, then I will do that.”
These are the steps for letting go of worrying. And don’t worry, you can return to it any time that you like. 🙂