My friend Jenny is a world-class worrier.
Things going well?
She worries it won’t last.
“We met our goals at work and that’s just going to make it so much harder for next quarter.”
Things not going well?
She lists and then hones in (with incredible commitment and astounding focus) oneveryway stuff could get even worse.
Jenny is also great at creating things to worry about for other people.
“They’re so naive about their new marriage. They haven’t even considered all of the challenges and hardships they could face in the future.”
Her mind is a minesweeper–constantly looking for things to worry about.
When I ask Jenny how all that worry is working for her, she’s defensive.
“It’s not a choice.”
“It would be irresponsible to just stop worrying about things.”
“I can’t help it. I just care too much.”
And, my favorite label for worry justification?
“I’m a realist.”
But, Jenny is paying a price for all of that worrying.
She’s earned a rep as a downer to be around. So, she’s finding herself missing from invite lists for parties with old friends (another source of worry for her.)
She has trouble sleeping.
She’s got chronic headaches and neck pain.
When her doctor mentioned stress might be contributing to her health issues, she balked.
“I’m extremely organized and I get stuff done ahead of time. I’m not stressed.”
But, here’s the deal. Chronic worry is a form of stress and anxiety (albeit a sneakier one than full-on panic). Worry triggers stress hormones in your body– the kind that aren’t good for us to have coursing through our veins all day.
We all do it.
But, there’s a difference between an occasional situationally-induced worry and the chronic habit of worrying.
For Jenny, it’s a way of life.
It can become a really destructive habit.
- Worry is not loving. As my therapist friend Susie likes to say, “Worry is not caring. It’s over-caring.” It’s projecting your fear onto someone you love. It’s the opposite of helpful.
- Worry does not keep bad things from happening. When things go wrong, we still feel like crap. Worry robs you of peace, joy, or just plain-old contentment by focusing on things that may or may not happen in the future. I love the quote from Nazi war camp survivor Corrie ten Boom “Worry does not empty tomorrow of it’s troubles. It empties today of its strength.”
- We tend to subconsciously create the things we worry about. A friend who is worried about money is hyper-focused on the part of her business that isn’t currently creating revenue. She’s completely ignored the other ways she could be making money. So, she’s earning less money.
- Worry is a fake way to try to control things you can’t control. It allows you to believe you’re doing about something you really need to either:
- A) Change
or (if you can’t change it)
- B) Accept.
- Worry is a cover story for a deeper emotion that wants to be felt. Can you pause and let yourself really feel the fear that’s underneath the worry? Can you let it move through you instead of staying locked inside, poisoning you under a lid of worry?
Letting go of worry is a process.
If you’ve been good at it for a long time, it will honestly be a little uncomfortable to break the worry habit.
But, it’s worth that discomfort.
When you release worry from your life, you make room for so much more fun, meaningful connections, peace, and a boatload of great ideas and solutions.
Steps for releasing worry:
- A) Notice it. We can become so accustomed to worry, we wear it around like a pair of uncomfortable shoes that we’ve forgotten we can take off. Get curious with yourself. Notice situations that trigger worry. Notice what worry feels like in your body. When you notice worry, you give yourself the chance to release it.
- B) Practice strengthening your trust muscles. Trust that things will work out, or at least can get better than they are. Trust that support is available to make the best of the situation. Trust that things can be learned or growth can happen from every experience.
- C) For every 1 thing you worry about, list 3 ways things either actually are okay or could be okay. Worry is stickier in our brain than good stuff. Research shows things we worry about have 3 times the staying power in our minds than positive stuff (Google negativity bias for tons of info on this very subject.) Retraining your brain away from worry takes noticing more positive stuff.
You got this.
I’m not worried about you, at all.