How to stop worrying with one simple question
Have you ever been so worried about something that you couldn’t sleep, eat, or enjoy life like you should?
Incessant worrying is like a disease. It festers in your mind and robs you of enjoying life. Those of us with anxiety suffer from unnecessary worry all the time. We are constantly worrying about all the things that could go wrong and we go around and around in our own minds.
We worry because we think worrying accomplishes something. We think that if we keep having worrisome thoughts over and over, that we will find a solution, find something we didn’t see before, or know (and be prepared for) all the potential outcomes.
So, in a way, we trick ourselves into thinking that worrying is helping us. It gives us a false sense of feeling in control.
The Stop Worrying Question
Simply knowing that worrying isn’t the right strategy isn’t going to magically stop someone from their habitual tendency to worry. They have to do more than distract themselves or suppress their thoughts. But, for the worriers among us, there is one question that can really set things straight.
You need to ask yourself, is this thing I’m worrying about within my control or not?
Do you have control over the situation or is it completely out of your hands? Or said another way, is this something you can take action over?
Defining the difference between what is within your control and what isn’t within your control will absolutely change your life.
This mentality is actually one of the defining characteristics of Stoicism. They look at what is within their control (thoughts, actions, reactions, emotions) and what isn’t in their control (everything else). If it’s outside of their control, they simply don’t let it bother them.
Other questions to help you define if it is within our control or not:
- Is this problem an imaginary what if scenario? This is the most common. as Tom Petty said, “most things I worry about never happen anyway”. So true!
- If it is an imaginary what if scenario, is it really likely to happen? Are you being realistic?
Is it something in the past and has already happened? If it’s in the past, you have to learn how to let it go.
- Is there anything you can do about the problem? Is there any way you can prepare for it or is it totally outside of your control?
Learn to differentiate between the things within your control (a few things) and the things outside of your control (most things). Once you really nail this down in your mind, you will realize that no amount of worrying will do you any good. Don’t just think this to be true, believe it and internalize it.
Stop Worrying by Accepting or Taking Action
When you worry about something you have no control over, you’re simply just stressing yourself out for no reason whatsoever.
So, “stop worrying”, you think to yourself…
Easier said than done, right?
What’s the solution to get over the things you can’t control? The art of acceptance. You have two options in life – acceptance or resistance. If you have no control over the situation, then resisting is only going to cause you more suffering. The solution is just to accept it.
If you can take action, then do so. Focus that “worrying” energy into something productive. Brainstorm solutions and then make a plan that involves changing the things that you have control over.
Although I am not the religious type, the serenity prayer is a beautiful piece of advice.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.