Okay, so maybe we can’t stop worrying entirely. We are only human, after all. But we can reduce our worry. Are you one of the two out of every five people in America who worry every single day? Do you worry about how much you worry? Worry seems to come from a lack of control. As soon as we feel like we don’t have a grip on something it starts to make us feel like we’re spiraling. When feelings of worry start to increase, it can leave us thinking we are more helpless than we actually are. There are a few tips on how to stop (or at least reduce) worrying that you can do as soon as you start to worry. They will help you focus on what you can control and relieve some of the stress over the things you can’t.
HOW TO STOP WORRYING AND FOCUS ON THE THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL
1. Write down your worries
Sometimes the sheer lack of organization in our minds when we flood it with worries increases our stress. Take a few minutes to do a brain dump. List all of the things you are worried about – big, small, and in between. Take that list and make two new lists. One list of the things you can do something about, even if it’s something very small and seemingly insignificant. The other list is of the things you cannot do a single thing about, aside from prayer and putting it in God’s hands. Putting your worries in God’s hands should always be a first step, regardless, but the purpose of the two lists is to determine your responsibilities in each matter.
2. Decide what you can do
Take your “can’t do” list and put it to the side. It’s time to focus on what you can do. Look at each item on your “can do” list and rearrange them in order of importance. Next, write out the things you need to do beside each item. It might seem like it will be more stressful to see it all listed out in front of you, but it’s actually quite a relief. When it’s down on paper your brain will feel less responsible for juggling all of those things and keeping them committed to memory.
3. Decide how you would cope with the worst case scenario
Part of the reason our worry spirals out of control is that we go straight to the worst case scenario, which typical doesn’t even end up happening. Still, we get obsessed with it and we become paralyzed with fear and overwhelmed. So the best thing you can do when you can’t stop obsessing over that possibility is to do decide how you would cope with it, should it actually happen. Obviously it’s not the ideal outcome and we don’t want to resolve to just let it happen and deal with it when it does, unless there’s nothing else we can do. But having a plan in case it comes down to it is going to free up your mind to take action toward the more likely and less catastrophic possible outcomes.
4. Do what you can do
Once your “can do” list is complete and you’ve come to terms with a worst case scenario, get started on the things you can control. Now you’re just checking off tasks. Some people prefer to get the biggest things out of the way first, while others will do better checking off some small things and gaining some momentum to tackle the big things. The most important thing is to start immediately. If you’re struggling, try Mel Robbins’ Five Second Rule.
5. Let go, let God, and see what happens
At this point you should feel confident that you held up your end of the deal. You have taken care of the things you are responsible for and now it’s time to trust that God has the rest. No matter how it ends, you know you’ve done what you could do and you should feel some relief in that. This is the point that we acknowledge that what little control we did have over the situation has been addressed and it’s okay to have no more control.
What if I can’t take the leap into action?
Worry is just a defense mechanism our brains use to save us from whatever impending threat we’re facing. The problem is, worry is not a solution, it’s a hindrance to a solution. A small amount of worry is healthy. It’s meant to launch us into action so we aren’t so carefree that everything falls apart. But when it becomes all consuming it will eat up every bit of life we have to live. Worry keeps us stuck where we are. When we shift our focus by replacing worry with action, we tell our brains that everything is as under control as it can be and we can relax.
But what if you feel like the weight of the world is bearing down on you? For some people, even the smallest action step seems impossible. But it is possible. You just can’t see it because you are buried under all that worry. The thing is, you’ll have to believe it’s possible before you see that it’s possible. It cannot be proved to you by someone else. You need to see it for yourself. You will have to muster up that last ounce of energy you have and commit it to faith instead of to worry.
There is no easy fix
There is no way around the way you are feeling, only through it. The magic solution is action. One small step, then another, and then another. Dig down deep, pray for the strength, trust God for the things you have a part in controlling and in the things you are just along for the ride for.
A good rule to follow to stop worrying as much is to tackle every problem or perceived problem with these steps before things start to get too heavy. Remember, your mind needs a go-to defense. It can be worry, which creates chaos, or it can be action, which creates solutions. And yes, it can be a little of both. I will likely be both.