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Natural Awakenings Fairfield & Southern Litchfield Counties

How to Stop Worrying and Live Life

Jul 30, 2021 11:00AM ● By Meg Reilly
When things are uncertain, we worry. No matter what we call it—projection, ruminating, catastrophizing, conjuring—it is a function of being human. We humans have the unique ability to imagine, which can lead us to picturing wonderful, happy futures, but also to imagining the not-so-wonderful.

We may not be able to predict the future, but we’re really good at worrying over it. Psychologists tell us that worry is the cognitive component of anxiety. While it’s hard to say which is the chicken and which is the egg in that pairing, one thing is for sure: (apologies for mixing metaphors) they cross the road together.

And while we can come up with all sorts of creative, and mostly negative, possibilities for how things are going to turn out, the truth is that we do not know what will happen.

Maybe we are waiting to hear if we made a good impression on that job interview. Maybe we’re setting off on a trip to a place where we don’t speak the language and we don’t know anyone. We could be waiting for test results—from an admission exam to a biopsy to a radon check in the home. No matter what it is that makes us uncertain, from the mundane to the truly scary, worrying can interfere significantly with our happiness. It can range from temporary or transient to chronic and debilitating. Importantly, those who find themselves on the severe end of the scale should seek the help of a trained professional.

The good news is there is something we can do about it. We can stop worrying—or at least minimize it—and start living a happier life.

Some great advice comes from the adage, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best”. When it comes to worrying, this is a good tactic: be prepared. Action can be very uplifting. Progress is visible. Preparation is a great way to get a handle on anxiety. We can do our best, work diligently at laying a sturdy, solid foundation, learn as much as we can and then—and this is the hard part—let it go. We can look back and see that, to the best of our ability, we have done all the things that are under our control.

But, maybe that’s not enough. We might still feel that we can’t control it, or all of it, and at the end of the day, we still do not know what will happen. Don’t despair. We are not able to predict the future, nor are we able to control everything. No one can.

So, what can we do to stop worrying and start living life? Begin with this: Stay in the present moment and abide with what is known—that we are here now, we are breathing, we are choosing what to think, say and do, right in this moment. A few deep breaths always helps. Just…be. Breathe…and be. Give it a try.

In case that doesn’t work, here are a few other exercises that can be helpful to let go of worry.

Make a list of worries
. Keep a small notebook and pen near the bed. When lying awake, thinking of a long list of worries, start writing. Don’t dictate into a phone or use any electronic device to do this. Use old-fashioned paper. Write it all down: the to-do list, the big worries, the fears. Keep going for five minutes, 10 minutes or half an hour if that’s what it takes. Write it all, then put the list in a drawer, shut off the lights, lay back down and rest. If another worry pops up, let it go for now. Let tonight’s list be tonight’s list. Now is the time to rest, to sleep, to let go.

Remember that feelings are not facts
. We can make a game of this one, but instead of truth or dare, call this one “Feeling or Fact?” With a little practice, we will soon be able to sort out the feelings from actual facts. And feelings, like the weather, change regularly.

Five-minute breathing
. Turn off any device that will ring, buzz, vibrate or distract attention in any way. Hang up the actual or figurative “Do Not Disturb” sign. Sit or lie down comfortably. Set a timer for five minutes and take a deep breath in. Exhale. Repeat this a few times and then just breathe normally. Try to focus on the breathing. Let go of any other thoughts that arise and bring the attention back to breathing. Rinse and repeat until the timer goes off. That’s all.

Emotions or feelings are neither good nor bad. They are part of being us—human. When we make decisions solely based on emotions, that is called “emotional mind”. When we call on our reasoning skills to analyze facts, evaluate options, examine details and make a conclusion or decision. This is our “reasonable mind”. Both the emotional mind and the reasonable mind are necessary, but when either one takes over, that imbalance will likely skew our perspective. Think of them as two parts of an equation; adding both together in equal or balanced measure results in “wise mind”.

Mindfulness practices are available widely now, as are apps, books, videos and personal teachers. When we use these practices to tap into our feelings (all the feels) and our reasoning skills (all the thinks), we will become more adept at using our wise mind to stop worrying and live the life we want.

Meg Reilly, MS, CH is a writer and counselor who helps people live with compassion for themselves and others. Sign up to receive her weekly letter at Read more about her there and at See ad, page 24.

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