If you’re a worrier by nature, you know how easy it is to be lost in worry in today’s culture. It’s easy to get caught up in needless worry.
Turn on the news and there’s enough to keep you occupied with worries for a lifetime.
We worry about social and economic unrest. We worry about our children. We worry about our own health and well-being.
Our days are filled with worry and anxiety even as we enjoy the best standards of living and the greatest technological advances in human history.
Why do we worry?
In order to get to the bottom of our worry, we need to understand why it happens.
The reason can be summed up with one word:
Unlike other animals, we humans are blessed with the ability to contemplate the future. We can anticipate what the future might be like based on the past and plan to meet potential opportunities and challenges. It’s one of the things that has allowed us to be so successful as a species.
Unfortunately, there’s a shadow side to this gift. As we contemplate the future, we often focus more on potential threats than potential opportunities. Worry has become a coping mechanism for dealing with the uncertainties of life.
When taken to the extreme, these negative thoughts can cause severe psychological distress.
We become frozen by fear and anxiety. We overreact to everyday circumstances. And we just feel downright miserable.
Worry is powerless in the present
Have you ever noticed how we’re virtually incapable of worrying in the present moment, even if what’s happening is very unpleasant?
For instance, you may worry about getting into a traffic accident but if you find yourself in the middle of a minor fender bender, you just deal with it.
Yes, you may still be worrying during such an event, but the mind quickly and seamlessly switches to new future scenarios such as, “How long will my car be in the shop?” or “Will my insurance go up?”
We don’t worry about events as they are happening, only future possibilities.
This is something you can use to your advantage to eliminate needless worry from your life. How? Here are some strategies:
1. Eliminate time to eliminate needless worrying
Needless worry is created by anticipating some negative event in the near or distant future. So what if you could simply eliminate the future?
The truth is that you don’t have to because the future does not exist, only this present moment. Yes, you can think about the past or future, but you can only live in this moment.
Let that sink in for a bit.
Contemplating this is how you eliminate time…and worry right along with it.
There’s only one problem, staying in the present is simple but not easy.
However, if you commit yourself to staying present, it will become more automatic over time. Most people achieve this by practicing mindfulness meditation.
The simplest mindfulness practice? Notice your breath.
When worry is threatening to suffocate you, become aware of your breath. Take a few deep ones to wake your brain from worry.
It works every time.
3. Take action
If you can’t shake your needless worry about something in the future, take action now, even if it’s very small.
Worried about not having enough for retirement? Make a small increase in your contribution today.
Worried about a wayward child? Offer a prayer for them or send them a quick text just letting them know that you’re thinking of them.
Worried about the negative effects of weight gain? Get up and take a five-minute walking break.
As David J. Schwartz once said, “action cures fear.”
Action allows you to do something in the present and shift your thinking away from a future that does not exist.
You can beat worry
Your worry may feel invincible, but it is not.
You know its secret weakness. The present to worry is like kryptonite to Superman.
So live in the present and it will give you the greatest present of all…a worry-free life.