All of us worry, but not all of us worry the same. For some it can be as constant as breathing or existing and for others it arises occasionally from certain stimuli or situations. Whatever role it plays in your life, there is a lot that worry can teach us.
The reason for our worry can vary just as much. We may fear judgement from others and fret over how we are perceived, believe that if we worry enough we will be prepare for any outcome, or feel a superstitious pull that if we don’t worry then something bad will happen.
I’ve been a worrier my whole life. I have fretted over everything from the big “how do I know what I want from life?” to the smaller “what flavor of chips should I get this week?” As a born overthinker my brain gives every decision or future event immense importance which leads me to spending exorbitant amounts of time planning and fretting.
What I had not looked at was why I worried, what was the outcome I hoped would occur through my consistent worrying? I had attempted to overthink my way through each worry that arose as opposed to figuring out why these things were making me worry and how I could better understand myself.
By taking the time and effort to look into what we worry about and how we worry, we can learn a lot about ourselves, including the inner strength and determination we did not know we had.
We cannot stop worrying completely, but we can work to delve into the reasons behind our thoughts and use that knowledge to make positive changes in our lives. There is a lot can learn a lot from ourselves when we are open to looking into what makes us worry.
Write Down Your Worries
Get it out of your head and onto paper.
Throughout the day as you find your mind taken over with concern and stress, write down your thoughts. Keep a piece of paper handy or a note open on your computer, whatever you need to make it easy for you. Don’t feel that your notes need to be fully formed thoughts as we may not always be aware of what is causing us stress or why.
Writing can help to express what is making you worry and get it out of your head. It also gives you the ability to take a deeper look at why you are worried so you can make a plan and take control when worry overtakes you.
As you begin this process, it’s important to keep in mind that you need to be honest with yourself. Allowing ourselves to consciously think about what is bothering us as opposed to just scratching the surface or hiding it away can be daunting.
Be kind to yourself and give yourself the time you need to be fully ready to look deep and to be prepared to make changes.
I am worried about something happening to a loved one
I do not feel I am being productive enough
How do I get a job in a different field?
Should I invest money?
Categorize Your List
Determine what you have control over.
When you are ready, sit down with your list and think about how you would categorize each one in terms of something you have control over or something you have no control over. Many things may not fit neatly into one category or another, so consider creating a scale, this allows for items which you have some control over.
You may not be able to categorize everything and that’s OK. This is your own journey that you will undertake in your own time. Remember that nothing is set in stone so allow yourself to change your mind and move items around on your scale. You are continuously growing and learning as a person, let the scale you create reflect that and change as needed.
Things I have control over
Job interview, productivity, job in a new field, eating healthier
Things I have some control over
Money, investing money
Things I have little to no control over
Something happening to a loved one
Work to find the root of your worry.
Now that you have a sense of the control you have over your worries, look at each item and take a deep dive into why it is causing you worry. Consider allowing yourself to write a stream of consciousness to get at the many factors that are contributing to that worry.
Be honest and open with yourself and do not censor your writing, you always have the ability to go back later and revise.
The more detailed you can get as you write down your thoughts, the more you are able to address specific parts. Understanding why you are worrying about something can help you figure out what changes you can make to reduce your worry.
As a place to start, here are some things to ask yourself:
- What would have to change for me to stop worrying?
- What information could help me be less stressed?
- Is there something I could do to reduce my worry?
- What would I tell a friend if they came to me with these concerns?
- What assumptions have I made in what I am worrying about? Have I added extra to my worry?
- What if something I was concerned about came true, how would I handle that situation, where would I look for help?
- What questions would better help me understand why this is making me worry?
Worried they are going to ask questions I don’t know the answer to, what if I forget what to say during a job interview?, worried I do not have enough experience.
I am worried something will happen to a loved one, I worry I won’t be there to help them, I worry I do not know how to help them.
Worried that I do not have enough money, worried that I do not know how to save money, worried I am spending too much
Worried I am not getting enough done, how do I become productive?, worried I am not as productive as others
Find resources to help address your worries.
Once you have broken down your worries into some of their core components and come up with specific questions or information you need to help you move forward, begin the journey of looking for answers and understanding.
Start by talking to friends or family or searching the internet. You may not know exactly what information will help, but the most important thing is that you start somewhere.
It can be intimidating to look into what makes you worry, it forces us to confront hard truths about ourselves and the unfairness of life. Be patient and allow yourself to feel emotions and be unsure.
As you look further into each item on your list, keep track of what resources and information you find and make note of what additional questions come up. Asking questions and searching for answers can help us learn to think critically about what is making us worry.
Make a Plan
Use the information you have gathered to make your next steps.
You have now gathered information to better understand the multiple components that make up each worry. The hope is you can get to the heart of what you have control over and use that to make a plan to reduce your worry.
Use the research you have done to address as many components as you are able to. The reality is that you won’t be able to address every aspect, but you have given yourself a place to start, this is the process.
Next to each worry on your list, write down your plan on what you can do to help reduce that worry. Include resources of websites, books, articles, or notes you have compiled so you have easy access to the tools that will help you.
Write down what actions you can take based on the information you have collected. As best you can, use the energy that is being put towards worry and redirect it towards what actions you can take to counter those concerns.
Things to think about
- What specific actions can I take to address what is worrying me?
- Who or what can I turn to when I start worrying?
- Where will I keep my plan so that I know where to find it?
Go through the list of basic interview questions you found.
Research the company.
Go through your resume and be prepared to talk about aspects of your old jobs that are relevant to the position you are interviewing for.
Put in your planner to reach out to your loved one routinely.
When spending time with them give them your full attention.
Download a program or create a way to track your spending.
Budget your paycheck when you get paid so you know how much you have to spend.
Read articles about different methods of productivity and see if any of them work for you.
Keep track of what you have accomplished to better see how productive you actually are.
Worry can teach us the importance of slowing down, what we have control over, and the value of taking the time to look inward.
The end goal is not that we will never worry again, but rather that when you do worry you have the tools available and a plan of action.
Over time as new concerns arise you will be able to critically look at the roots of your worry and continue to formulate new plans to handle the stress and worry so it does not overwhelm you. You will learn that not all worry needs to be constant, intrusive thoughts that you have no control over.
It is an ongoing process that can be difficult but rewarding.