I remember watching a video as a child about a kid who lived a miserable life because all he did was worry about things. We’ve all come across people like that and some of us are even guilty of it from time to time. As outside observers, we might see that things are often not as bad as people make them out to be. In general, unless someone is dying, there’s usually a way to recover from any tough situation and sometimes we can even come out stronger than ever.
There are a lot of systems out there that say they can help you stop worrying. Some take a psychological approach while others a motivational approach. I’ve found a three step approach that has worked for me:
Step 1: Identify what’s worrying you.
Write down “I’m worried about…” and finish the sentence. Sometimes things don’t seem as bad when you verbalize them or write them down. When thoughts are floating around your mind, they’re abstract, difficult to get a true grasp on and can appear to be more severe than they need to be. The act of putting it to paper (or your word processor) demystifies it — it gives you clarity (just like writing down a goal) and forces you to see it like it is. One trick that I like is to write it very small and very plain so it doesn’t look as intimidating.
Step 2: Determine why you’re worried.
Ask yourself what’s the worst that can happen. How will your life change? What are the consequences? Again, sometimes they’re not as bad as they seem. I remember once waking up in the middle of the night worried about forgetting to pay a credit card bill on time. It turned out that I had paid it, but I felt foolish about being up half the night worried about something that would have cost me $30 in fees.
One of the problems with worry is that it’s like garden weeds — if you don’t take care of them right way, they’ll grow and grow until they take over everything. Worry eats on your fear and by getting to root of what’s causing your worry, you’ll not only find it easier to resolve, but you may also learn something new about yourself such as you’re concerned about your health, your finances or a decision you made.
When I work with my public speaking and networking classes, I ask them what’s the worst that can happen if they give a speech or introduce themselves to someone new. This helps them put their fears in perspective and start focusing on their goals.
Step 3: Decide what actions you can take to rectify the situation.
Sometimes, this is a lot easier than you think. Let’s say you have a client that spends $10,000 yearly and you make a mistake that endangers your relationship with them. You could give them a perk that costs you $500 (which is probably less than it’ll cost you to get a new client), they’ll be happy and you can consider the experience tuition.
Asking yourself questions such as “what are my options?” or “what can I do to fix this?” will put you on the path for finding a solution. Putting them to paper either in the form of an action plan or a simple to do list is often enough to lift the weight off of your shoulders.