Monday, April 8, 2013

How to stop worrying

by rodri555 via Flickr
If you've been following my blog for awhile, you know that I'm a fan of inspirational and motivational quotations. I tend to post at least one a week here. Reading pithy things about how happiness is a choice and how you're in charge of your own destiny is all well and good, but when the going gets tough, do you really take those things to heart or do you resort to your status quo?

If you've been reading my posts for awhile, you also know that I have suffered from depression and anxiety on and off since I was a teenager. Having a broken mother will do that to you. Up until a few years ago, when I was at a mentally low point, I would just allow all of those depressive, self-deflating, worrying, nerve-wracking thoughts to completely run ramped through my head and take over my life. I thought they just had to run their course and then I could get over it. It wasn't until I was at my lowest point that I realized that I could intentionally break the cycle myself instead of just waiting for it to burn out. I managed to do it by appealing to my strong pragmatic and logical side.

What I realized is this: when something is truly out of your control, worrying and having anxiety about it will not change the situation at all. Not even a bit. Whether you are worried sick, desperately depressed, indifferent, or exuberant, the situation is out of your hands and your emotional state will not determine the outcome. So if worrying and having anxiety is worthless, why waste your energy and sanity on allowing your thoughts to drag you though the mud? Accept that it is out of your hands, let it go, and enjoy your life.

I was reminded of this powerful logic just last week when I was starting to feel restless and anxious about a guy I've been casually dating. He's been incredibly busy these last few weeks and so we haven't been able to see each other as often. I began to fear that he's losing interest in me and my brain short-circuited. I felt like I needed to talk to him immediately and see him as soon as possible. We talked on the phone and he told me that he had to go out of town last weekend so we wouldn't be able to see each other for even longer. He was also feeling incredibly stressed from everything that's been going on in his life lately. When I got off the phone, we hadn't made any solid plans for when he got back (a big no no for my planner self) and I could feel myself getting even more agitated.

I took a deep breath and thought about the situation logically. Nothing about what he was saying indicated that he was specifically unhappy with me. Quite simply, I had to stop making the situation about me. He's dealing with a lot right now and I would be feeling the same way if I had the same things to deal with. Instead of being something extra he has to worry about, I needed to take a chill pill, be understanding, and give him the space he needs. Being clingy, desperate, and self-centered would make my fear of rejection a self-fulfilling prophecy. I also realized that there was no way we would be seeing each other until this week at the earliest. No amount of anxiety or worry could change that. Did I really want to spend all of that time feeling sad and disgruntled because a guy was honestly too busy to see me? No, of course not. I chose to let it go. Boom. Instead of sulking all night, I had a cup of tea, watched a comedy on Netflix, and checked some things off my to do list. I was happy and productive!

Short version: when I realize that I'm feeling anxious or beginning to worry excessively, I stop and ask myself why I feel that way. Once I evaluate the why, I ask myself if what I'm feeling is rational. If it's not, I talk myself out of wasting my time and energy feeling out of sorts and do something that'll make me happy instead- life is too damn short to be unhappy and a slave to self-destructive thoughts. If my anxiety and worry is rational (there's something I can do to change the situation), I decide on a course of action to make things right. I've found that the more you practice this exercise, the easier and more second nature it becomes.

What tricks do you use to keep your anxiety level low and keep from worrying excessively?


  1. Your posts are so motivating when I'm feeling down!