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