When you really think about it, worrying is the most useless emotion we experience. We love to wring our hands, obsess over an event or situation or catastrophize about the future. But what does worrying accomplish? Unless it triggers a positive action or behavior, worrying is just an enormous waste of time.
“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” —Winston Churchill
What if my company decides to replace me with someone younger? Does this pounding headache mean I have a brain tumor? Is my 27-year-old daughter ever going to get married? Can North Korea really reach us with a nuclear missile?
According to the Worry Less Report on getAbstract, a 2016 study from Liberty Mutual Insurance that polled 8,000 people from ages 16 to 74 living in Great Britain, roughly 38% said they worried every day! Worry, of course, is a first cousin to stress. And medical professionals for years have warned that stress can lead to a variety of health problems – ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. That’s why it’s known as the Silent Killer.
So how do we turn down the worry dial and better manage our stress? Though running off to a Tibetian monestary may be an enticing option, those of us grounded in the material world require a more realistic solution.
In the Worry Less white paper, clinical psychologists Simon A. Rego and Jennifer L. Taitz recommend a four-step approach: list all of your worries and determine which ones can be fixed; schedule a half-hour appointment every day to worry about non-productive thoughts; learn to separate thoughts from facts; and focus on the here and now.
“To enjoy our lives, we need to be fully present in the moment. Dinners and celebrations with friends and family can feel hijacked if we’re thinking about ways things might go wrong.” —Simon A. Rego and Jennifer L. Taitz
Finding people who actually practice mindfulness is almost a novelty. Ever try to have a meaningful conversation with the guy who is constantly checking his phone? How about the lady who talks to you while her eyes are darting about, searching for the next … thing?
Anxiety and stress is hardly a modern-day phenomenon, though it feels like an epidemic in a society that worships speed. Some 75 years ago, Dale Carnegie suggested in his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, that we “live in daytight compartments” and “shut the iron doors on the past and future … today … is our only sure possession.”
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living,” he wrote. “We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon – instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”
Yes, it takes lots of practice. But if you stop worrying about things you can’t control, you’ll discover an inner tranquility that even a Tibetian monk would envy.