Are you a worry wart? Do you fret over your children, money, work, friends or anything–and everything–else? Do you imagine the worst instead of the best?
Some of us suffer from the ‘what if’ disease. We are professional worriers. What if this happens and what if that happens? Is there anything I can do to prevent bad things from happening? Will worrying about my children protect them? What will I do if something bad does happens?
Do any of these questions sound familiar to you? Whenever I think about worry, I am reminded of the song “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” by Baz Luhrmann. There was some confusion about who wrote the lyrics for this song. It was actually an article written by Mary Schmich and Brenda Starr published in the Chicago Tribune in June 1997. In this article, they imagine what it would be like to address the graduates of 1997.
And so the speech begins, “Ladies and gentlemen of the Class of ’97: Wear sunscreen.”
These lyrics made an impression on me and I have found this to be one of the most profound truths in my life. If you live long enough, you may too.
“Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.“
Realizing that most of the things we worry about will never come to pass helps put worry in perspective. We lose sleep, we don’t eat or over eat, or we develop health problems all because we worry about things that will likely never happen.
This is true.
What should we do instead?
Make A List Of Worries
Get in the habit of making a list of the things that are keeping you awake at night. You may do this in the form of a journal. Journaling can be a great way to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. I am a huge fan of journaling and do it every morning.
Not only can you put your worries on paper, you can make a gratitude list, a ‘to do’ list or write down any other thoughts you want to record. You can even make notes about what worries you.
Productive or Unproductive Worries
Once you get your worries on paper, you can take a few minutes and decide which ones are productive, meaning the ones you can take action on right now. Do you need to make reservations for a trip? Write down exactly what needs to be done and then do it now! This also helps with procrastination.
Identify unproductive worries. These are worries that do not have an immediate solution and fall into the ‘what if’ category. What if I get sick? What will I do? No one knows what the future holds. We have to learn to let go and accept the uncertainty of the future.
“It’s all about finding the balance between productive and unproductive worrying,” says psychologist Robert L. Leahy, director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York City. “Say to yourself, ‘Is this worry leading to a To Do list?’ If it doesn’t lead to some action on your part today, set it aside.”
Think the Best
Have you ever been worried about something or someone and found yourself thinking of the worst possible scenario? I wonder how many parents have done this when we can’t get in touch with our children. I know I have.
Try imagining the best. Visualize your children, your husband, your boss or friend doing exactly what you want them to do. Instead of thinking about the worst that can happen, think about the best! So, the next time you are worried about someone, replace your worry by thinking about the best possible scenario.
You just might be amazed at how quickly you will feel better.
You can break the worry habit. After all, it’s just a habit you have developed.
“Worry is a misuse of imagination.”
– Dan Zadra
Question: What do you do when worry is consuming your thoughts? Have you found another way to break the worry habit? I would love to hear your ideas in the comment section below.