How To Make Worrying Work For You

Editor’s note: the original version of this post was first published in 2010.

Recently, I was caught up in worrying about life again. It frustrated me because I thought I had conquered all the worries I had about my book, about my writing career, about my future, but no, these worries kept coming back.

I’ve heard it said that in order to stop worrying you just have to stop the habit of worrying. As if The Worrying was some sort of bad cigarette addiction, a habit that comes from outside of you, that was introduced to you at a young age, and not an innate part of your biological structure. “You worried? Oh, no problem, just smack No-Worry Patch across your shoulder, stick a slip of No-Worry gum on your tongue, and little by little, that bad case of worrying you picked up long ago, will gradually slip away.”

Well, doesn’t that sound nice?

But unfortunately, our worries, just like our nagging fears and doubts, are a part of us. We can’t get rid of them, and our energy is only wasted trying to shut them out.

Trust me. I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work.

The worries remain, no matter how hard you try to kick them out, and they can easily snowball and get in the way of your writing.

What Worrying Is Really Trying To Tell You

I used to think my worries were useless. That they were just there to cause me more anxiety and pain. But now I realize that the reason I saw worry in that way was because I hadn’t learned how to deal with worry in a productive manner.

I didn’t understand that a “worry” is just a signal. It’s your mind saying: “Hey, you should do something about this.” You respond to The Worry by saying: “But I can’t do anything about it right now, leave me alone!” Then The Worry returns with: “Hey, you should do something about this.” You retort: “I told you already. I can’t do anything.” The Worry shoots back, as if he didn’t hear you: “Hey, you should do something about this.” You shout back in rage: “I ALREADY TOLD YOU! DIDN’T YOU JUST HEAR ME? I CAN’T DO ANYTHING! IT’S HOPELESS! LEAVE ME THE FRAK ALONE!”

Then, there is a long silence.

You let out a sigh and think you’ve beaten The Worry. But then you hear–

“Hey, you should do something about this.”

AAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!

It’s annoying, right?

But what if, instead of ignoring that worry. You listen to it. So this time, let’s take a listen to what The Worry is saying. It’s a pretty simple message actually:

Hey, you should do something about this.”

Did you finally get the message this time? Like I did?

The Worry isn’t saying what you think it is saying. For instance, it isn’t saying: “Hey, freak out about this!” or “Hey, get really scared and anxious about this!”

No, all that The Worry is saying is that you should “do something” about this. It’s not specific about what, nor does it demand that the action be big or small, it is just requesting that you do something.

A Worry, as you now see, is not a call for you to become paralyzed with fear, it is instead, a call to action. A Worry is your mind telling you that you need to do something about a situation so you that you can feel at ease about your future.

How To Make Worrying Work For You

Today, I recommend listening to your worries, instead of trying to shut them out. First, find out what specific situation The Worry is most concerned about. Then, write down a small, easy, and immediate action you can take in the next week or so to address every, single worry. When you do this, I promise you will feel much better afterward. Why? Because instead of ignoring or shouting at The Worry’s request, you are thoughtfully listening to The Worry and giving it a practical answer.

The Worry: “Hey, you should do something about this.”

You: “Okay. Got it. Thank you. I’ll take care of that right now.”

You might be wondering: “Ollin, what about the worries that seem COMPLETELY out of your control?” Well, my go-to actions in those situations are either:

1. Write about it, or

2. Try to spread more love and goodness in the world.

No, it’s not like you’ll cure cancer by doing this, but hey, it’s something. And that’s all your worry is asking you to do:something. You may never get rid of your old pal, Worry, but now that you know how to deal with him, he won’t bother you so much anymore.

Why?

Because you’ll be way too busy taking care of yourself.

much love,

Ollin

How do you deal with Worry? How do you address those BIG worries that seem to be way out of your control? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!

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17 comments on “How To Make Worrying Work For You

  1. Christina Kit. says:

    It’s interesting how some people make deadlines and stress work for them but others are totally paralyzed by it.

    Great tips Ollin:)

  2. Of course, women of all stripes NEVER worry. I’m one of them. Sleep, who needs it?

    It all boils down to what the worry is about.I do my best because that’s what I do and lose sleep anyway. No, I am not being flip. Great post.

  3. ansuyo says:

    Interesting take on worry. I’m glad this works for you. Angie

  4. stubbytate says:

    I deal with stress and worry every day these days. You’ve given me some things to think about. Thank you :) (I’ve also blogged about it, too)

    http://tatetwo.blogspot.com/2012/04/dealing-with-worry-sordid-truth.html

  5. Arisa says:

    I can worry about things for a long time, but I learned that the worry is usually just reminding me of something I have yet to take care of. It always nags me at the times I can’t actually do anything about that. (for example, I’m at work and I simply can’t leave to go shopping)
    However I found out how to deal with this. I write down exactly the thing I need to do. No action plans or anything, just exactly what the worry is asking of me.
    Then it’s sure I won’t forget about it and leave me alone.
    I should keep that practice up more often, but sometimes I’m either overwhelmed with lots of worries (like right now that I’m moving out of my parents’ house) or I’m just too busy and forget to write it down. I say “yes, I should” but don’t actually do anything with the thought.

    • Ollin says:

      You know, I think you only need to do that exercise if worry is really getting in the way of your writing. If it isn’t getting in the way then the exercise is not necessary.

      • Arisa says:

        My worries are only worries when they get in the way of my peace of mind :) And I need that peace of mind for writing.

  6. So here is the thing about my worrying. Anxiety issues run in my family and honestly if I listen to my worries the obsessive tendencies that also run in my family emerge. Let me tell obsessive anxiety is no fun. For me my best strategy has always been to acknowledge the worry, accept it and then move on – as in forget about it because there is nothing to be gained by giving it any more thought. Of course anyone who worries knows that is not always possible. I try my best but the worries often get the better of me–keeping me awake at night by making my mind busy with thoughts or distracting me during the day when I need to be concentrating on other things. And sometimes in the worst cases they would give me panic attacks.
    Now these are not your typical every day worries. I always knew they stemmed from a chemical imbalance, but I am not one to run out and hook up with all the various drugs out there meant to help chemical imbalances. For my panic attacks I learned to relax as they came on and just wait for them to pass. For the rest I just dealt with it. But recently my doctor suggested a few supplements for me. I was low on vitamin b12 so she gave me a B-complex vitamin and she also suggested something called Zen, which is an herbal supplement with GABA in it. Now I take the B in the morning and the Zen at night and I tell you I can simply ignore my worries and the busy night time thoughts are just gone. Its been really great.

    • Ollin says:

      A healthier diet and exercise definitely help. As my therapist once said, it’s good to have an “outlet” for your emotions, including those nagging worries.

  7. Andrea Lewis says:

    Great post Ollin! I’m learning to make friends with worry or I refer to it as EGO. The same tips you recommend I have implemented and it can be quite freeing.

    • Ollin says:

      Ah yes, Eckhart Tolle fan, eh? I would refer to it as ego but not everyone is familiar with Tolle’s work. But for those who are familiar with the power of now, you can substitute ego for whenever I speak of the mind getting in the way of your writing.

  8. Good stuff ! Just addressing a worry with a small amount of thought on how you deal with it helps to silence that nagging voice. I totally agree. Sometimes the thought of just facing the worry is overwhelming, but it’s so worth it in the end. When there is a worry that I can do nothing about, I pray, and also remind myself that worrying does no good, so I might as well do something else with my time.

    • Ollin says:

      Yes, Elise. Part of the reason this works is because it is like a meditation. You are becoming aware of your worry–and so it weakens the worry instead of strengthening it.

  9. Janet says:

    Regarding your question as to “How do you deal with worry?”, I pray, which is a form of meditation. Then I revisit the nag called worry and see if what’s its touting is all that dang important. Usually, it isn’t. Worry issue is smaller in scope and more manageable. Great post. Very pleased to have found you.

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