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Home » How To Stop Worrying About Everything All The Damn Time

How To Stop Worrying About Everything All The Damn Time

Intro

I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which have never happened.

– Mark Twain

Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, wrote: “Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they’re yours.” This post is about overcoming one kind limitation that we all know all too well: worry.

Worrying is …

Futile – In the whole history of mankind no one has ever remedied what worried them by worrying.

Masochistic – Worry increases the intensity and duration of our suffering, usually far beyond any pain the things we’re worrying about could ever cause.

Irrational – For the above reasons, but also because the things we worry about exist only in our heads, and more often than not never materialize in reality.

I’m not saying we can’t find good “reasons” to worry, if we want to. But I am saying that when we do so we’re arguing for our limitations. Futile, masochistic, and irrational limitations, no less.

I spent years in a cycle of worry, fear, and anxiety that I could only dull by drinking almost every night. Then I made a decision a to no longer settle for that, but instead strive for peace of mind and heart . . . to no longer allow worry a permanent roost in my mind. I’m by no means entirely there yet, but I’ve come a long way since making that decision. The tools and techniques below are what have helped me no longer be a slave to worry, and I’m confident they can help you too.

Affirmations

I do not fix problems. I fix my thinking. Then problems fix themselves.

– Louise Hay

If you don’t tend to a garden it will soon stop being a garden and will quickly degenerate into a bed of weeds. The same goes with your mind, and the thoughts that occupy it. If you don’t deliberately and conscientiously tend the garden of your mind by planting, and nurturing positive and empowering thoughts, it will soon be overrun by the weeds of negative thinking and worry.

Repeating affirmations is a time tested, easy, and effective way of tending the garden of your mind. I have used them almost every day for three years to dig out the weeds of worry and replace them an increasingly lush optimism, resilience, faith, and peace of mind.

Does worry still crop up? Of course! I haven’t affirmed my way to being some unflappable zen master, or the like. But before I started using affirmations my internal monologues were dominated by worry, with moments of optimism and positivity being the exception. Now it’s the other way around: My default internal monologue is highly optimistic and positive, and worried thoughts are the exception.

Search online for affirmations that address any specific areas of worry that preoccupy you, or for those that more generally affirm peace, calm, faith, safety, happiness, or optimism. Pick one ore more affirmations that appeal to you, an repeat them throughout the day. Be relentless in owning your own thoughts rather than allowing them to default to negativity and worry.

I also recommend this classic on affirmations by the late, great, wonderful Louse Hay: You Can Heal Your Life.

Lose The News

To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.

– Henry David Thoreau

Do you watch or read the news regularly?

Are you also prone to worry?

Well . . . News Flash! The two are very probably connected.

While my instinct is to write a scathing indictment of news media here, I’ll save that for another post (or maybe not). Instead I invite you to consider how restlessly negative the news is. How could anyone expect to find peace of mind while regularly gorging themselves on a hysterical litany of fear, doom, and gloom?

Peace of Mind and the news just don’t mix because the news IS worry. Just worried headlines with worrisome commentary by a bunch of worried jackasses who are paid to worry you to death.

*Breathe*

Okay, maybe I accidentally slipped into the scathing indictment I hoped to avoid, so ignore that if you like. But don’t ignore the advice, because it’s good advice . . . Lose the news.

Aim for a month news free, to start. Don’t worry, the world will be hysterical when you get back.

To the degree that your Facebook or other social media feeds are flooded with people ranting politics and spewing memeified ideologies of rage, I recommend that you ditch those too. Again, for at least a month.

Let everyone else in the world worry about things they have no control over for a while. Luxuriate in a month of worry-free activities instead. Here’s one …

Meditate

“Meditation and concentration are the way to a life of serenity.”

– Ram Dass

Can you imagine this guy being stressed out?

I can’t.

What’s his secret?

Just a guess, but I’m going to say it’s meditation.

It is now pretty well established that meditation reduces stress and anxiety, which are the kissing cousins of worry. My own experience is that meditation somehow builds up my resistance to worry. Worry happens far less often than it did before I took up a meditation practice, and it takes more to worry me now, too.

If you’re new to meditation I recommend searching youtube for mindfulness meditation, guided meditations for calm, or trying out a meditation app like Headspace or Calm.

I also recommend the following books:

Real Happiness: The Power Of Meditation is a good option too. It’s a 28 day program that eases you into a daily practice, while letting you try a few different meditation techniques on for size to see what fits.

The Miracle Of Mindfulness, by Thich Nhat Hanh. A classic and must read.

Express Gratitude

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorns have roses.

– Alphonse Karr

Worry can feel suffocating because it’s (usually) so self-centered. Shifting your focus to reasons for being grateful draws your attention outward, thereby easing the claustrophobia of worry. But the power of gratitude to remedy worry go much deeper than that . . .

Gratitude puts our worries in perspective: every day of life is an extravagance of blessing. Excessive worry blinds us to this. It turns our attention to all the things that might go wrong in an imagined future, causing us to ignore all the things that are perfectly right in the living present.

Try feeling grateful and worried at the same time. You can’t.

In life we can count your blessings or count on worry. I for one prefer to count my blessings.

Walk It Off

Every day I walk myself into a spirit of well-being, and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.

– Soren Kierkegaard.

I’m a big believer in walking away worry, and more: walking into joy.

When we are constantly worried nervous tension builds in our bodies an minds. Walking helps dissipate this tension, while also releasing feel good dopamine. That’s probably why some days I may start my morning walk weighed down with worry, but by the end of it I feel light, and am brimming with optimism.

Walking also has a way of untangling the knots of worry in our heads. As our feet wander, our mind is freed to wander. The Subconscious is given room to breathe and will often suggest novel solutions to what’s been troubling us.

Finally, you can combine some of the other ideas from this post with walking for even greater anti-worry results. I take meditation walks, affirmation walks, gratitude walks, release walks, and prayer walks.

Play

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

-George Bernard Shaw

Rediscovering the importance of play came late for me. Like so many others, somewhere along the line I started taking everything, including myself, too seriously. My laughter, which once came loud and easy, became less frequent, and more constrained.

“I have goals to achieve, damn it! I already wasted too many years being a feckless drunk, so I need to buckle down and get shit done. Play can wait.”

That was my attitude.

And if I’m honest, I can still default to this way of thinking if I’m not careful. I’m teaching myself to rediscover play because I know that play can’t wait. I know you can’t be happy without it.

In the Viashnava tradition of Hinduism this entire material reality is called Lila, God’s divine play. I love this. It gives me high falutin spiritual permission to simply have some guiltless fun from time to time. “I’m not wasting time that would be better spent being productive,” I can remind myself. “I’m being playful, just like God!”

And when I’m being just like God, I don’t have time for worry.

Whether or not the spiritual part of that appeals to you, the play part should. Being worried all the time is a sure sign you’re overdoing the adulting, and need to take a play break. So take it, and set aside regular times to have some carefree fun.

Release It

Recently I quit vaping, cold turkey. An unexpected side effect of nicotine withdrawl was a week of nearly crippling anxiety, and full on panic attacks. The first panic attacks I’d had in over a quarter century, and by far worse than anything I’d ever experienced before.

A tool that saw me through this hellish period was a book called, The Sedona Method. which I used along with my other tools like meditation, walking, and EFT. It’s a deceptively simple, but freakishly effective method that involves asking and answering a series of questions, over and over, until the feeling has been released.

Here’s the basic method in a nutshell, applied to worry:

Question 1: Could I let myself feel this worry (or fear/anxiety)?

Question 2: Could I let this feeling of worry (or fear/anxiety) go?

Question 3: Would I?

Question 4: When?

With questions one through three just answer Yes or No. Don’t indulge in debates. Just answer and move on.

With question four asking when you’d be willing to let go of the felling, your answer is usually going to be “Now,” but it it could be anything: “I don’t know,” “Later,” or even “Never, damn it!” Go with your first instinct.

Whatever your answers, keep repeating the questions until you feel the worry has passed.

The idea here is, essentially, that there are three things you can do with feelings. Experience them, Repress them, or Release them.

Experiencing worry isn’t ideal, because worry feeds on itself.

Repressing worry isn’t good either, because then it only comes back stronger (and scarier), later.

That leaves Releasing worry, which is is done by going through the above questions over and over until you feel the feeling of worry has been released.

In a future post I may discuss the hows and whys of the Sedona Method at greater length, as well as my experiences with it. For now, I’ll just say: If you’re worrying, try it. It helped me immensely and it may help you too.

Turn Around And Face It

I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.

– Louisa May Alcott

We’ve all had those nightmares of being chased by a monster, or something else dark and terrifying. Often we don’t even see what it is; we just sense a malevolent presence, stalking us. We run and try to hide, but to no avail. Eventually the dark thing corners us. At the very moment we know it’s about to strike from the shadows, we wake up in a cold sweat.

I once read in a book on Lucid Dreaming that you must never run from these dark manifestations in your psyche or they will continue to haunt your dreams. Instead you must turn around and face them. When you do, promised the author, you will always find that they have no power. The only power they ever had was your fear, and your flight.

I have yet to test this in the world of dreams (I’m not yet a lucid dreamer, but it’s on my list). But I think we can all recognize that this is often true in the waking world. We know in our gut that if we could just muster the courage to face many of our fears we’d very probably find they are mere paper dragons.

But it’s that “probably” we get hung up on.

I can be told, and even rationally believe, that there’s a 99.9999% chance I won’t die in an airplane crash. But fear fear is often irrational, so that 0.0001% chance that I will die keeps me running from the airplane monster. I know, though, that the day is coming when I’m going to want to travel. To do that I’m going to need to turn around, face the fear, get on a plane and keep getting on planes until my aerophobia is defanged.

The same holds for many–probably most–of our worries. Instead of ignoring the debt collection calls, we just need pick up the phone and call a credit counseling service to learn what our options might be. Instead of trying to swim away from our relationship woes in an ocean of whiskey, we just need have the talk we’ve both been avoiding. Instead of constantly worrying about the future, we just sit our ass down and start planning for it.

Every time we turn around and face a specific fear, three important things happen:

  1. Our self-confidence increases as we prove to ourselves that we have more courage and resilience than we imagined.
  2. Our world-confidence increases as we start to realize that most of our suffering is self-created; the result of making doom mountains out of uncertainty molehills. Life isn’t out to get us. It’s actually pretty benign.
  3. Our threshold for worry increases as we begin to see that most of the things we had been worrying about weren’t worth worrying about at all. So it takes a lot more to ruffle our feathers.

So ask yourself if there are any specific worries that have been chasing you lately.

Stop running.

Turn around and face them.

Talk It Over

It is not so much our friends’ help that helps us, as the confidence of their help.

– Epicurus

As the old adage goes, “A worry shared is a worry halved.” If you have specific worries that are preoccupying you, consider talking it out with someone you trust will be both supportive, and honest. A friend, clergy member, a life coach, or a therapist.

Externalizing our worries is sometimes all it takes to start dissipating them, while an outside perspective can help us view our situation more rationally and objectively than we can on our own. And sometime we just need a good friend to assure us that, “I don’t think you need to worry. Everything is going to be fine.”

Pray

The sovereign cure for worry is prayer.

– William James

I used to pray a lot, then I had a nasty break up with God and we stopped talking. Now we’re back together and I pray more than ever. I’m not here to press a kind of prayer on anyone, or even a belief in God. Pray however you want to whoever or whatever you want: the Universe, Life, the Goddess, Shiva, Krishna, Jesus, Your Higher Self, the Sun.

I don’t care, just pray. (I don’t believe God cares, either. Prayer isn’t for Him, it’s for you).

So open your thoughts and heart to A Big Something and you’ll soon enough feel how small most of your worries really are. Compared to The Big Something they’re really little nothings.

Gratitude makes for good prayer (see above). So too a good old fashioned chat about your worries, and request for Divine help.

Final Thoughts

Some of these tools may appeal to you more than others. That’s fine. Use what works for you and discard the rest. Though I do suggest you don’t dismiss any of them before at least trying. I once dismissed Affirmations as idiotic, for example. But at my wits end I gave them a whirl, saw and felt the results, and now do them religiously.

When it comes to overcoming worry, I think the most important thing is to never accept worry as inevitable. It’s not. We CAN weed out worry. When we do we make space in our heads, hearts, and lives for peace and happiness to take root and grow. But we have to tend that garden diligently, and pull those worry weeds out whenever we find them.

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