“Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.” This quote by Glenn Turner says it all and still, we lose our sleep, compromise our health and relationships worrying about all kinds of stuff. Your worries can be generally divided into three categories:
- something that could be indeed an issue but you can act on it,
- something that could be an issue but is completely out of your control no matter what you do,
- something that is not an issue, doesn’t deserve your attention, yet you worry about it.
Things you can control
An example of the first category is worrying you are gaining too much weight. You worry, you lose sleep over it, but not your appetite. You can obsess about it every day and every night but for some reason you aren’t ready to do what it takes to control your food intake and energy spending.
There are two possible solutions to this worry:
- you decide it’s okay for you to become overweight, hence you stop worrying,
- you decide to act upon it by improving your diet and concentrating on exercise.
Problem solved. You either keep enjoying your meals and get yourself larger clothes or you do whatever you need to do to slim down. What you shouldn’t do is to continue consuming large quantities of food while worrying about it so you kind of lose both – your attractive body AND enjoyment that comes from ingesting delicious food. Makes sense?
Things you can’t control
While in the first case you actually have control, there are many other situations in our lives where we are completely helpless. This type of worries include worrying about weather, war, stocks and currency exchange rates. These can be hard to deal with, but the issue is your worrying won’t make things any better anyway. In fact, you may make things worse as the fears tend to grow in our minds and this can affect our health negatively.
You will be relieved to know there are two possible solutions for this too. You can either
- Jump off the ship,
- or imagine a positive outcome, aka happy ending.
A little more than a year ago I invested in gold. Prices were very high and everyone expected gold to rise even more. Unfortunately it began to drop about a week after my purchase. Each gold ounce became about $100 cheaper and I had seven of those. I was sad day and night. I was afraid. But I decided to stick to my decision and keep that gold until it rises again. This didn’t happen and the price stayed about the same for an entire year. Eventually, I made peace with that and convinced myself that I didn’t lose unless I sold off my gold. As long as I had my gold bars I didn’t lose anything, right?
Well, it worked for a while. Then one day gold market crashed and each bar became $300 cheaper. That is in addition to my initial loss. Now I had a real problem. I didn’t know what to do. Selling it would mean to lose about $3000. Not selling was also scary because it could fall even further. I would observe gold prices each day, and it was making me sick. It felt terrible. Then a friend told me: ‘Your gold isn’t worth your health. Sell it, accept your loss and enjoy what you have left’.
Suddenly, I realized how ridiculous the whole thing was. Next day I sold off that gold, lost $3000 and immediately felt better because I was able to move on. I had to sell it earlier. Or I shouldn’t have bought it in the first place — this type of investments is not for everybody. Gold continued to fall, and after a month it began to rise. Do I regret I sold it now that it rose again? No. My peace of mind is more important to me. I only wish I sold it earlier or didn’t buy it in the first place.
By selling my gold I jumped off the ship. Once I did, my health and peace of mind were restored. But what do you do when jumping off the ship is not an option? You imagine a positive outcome.
All these negative events you are worrying about didn’t happen yet and it’s actually your imagination that makes you worry. If this is true, you could as well use your imagination to “fix” the problem. It doesn’t have to be realistic or based on facts. Almost any scenario will do. Because your fears are the product of your imagination, an imaginary fix will help you relax and stop worrying. For example, you could imagine you won a big price or found a treasure in your garden. You could imagine a crazy business idea that worked. It doesn’t have to be realistic, but it has to be detailed. Try this, it works!
The same technique can be used for the third type of worries where your worries are exaggerated or when you worry about irrational things. An example of exaggerated worries is like worrying about people staring at you and judging you. This creates anxiety, which indeed makes you look and behave in an awkward way. Imagine a positive scenario instead and play it in your mind to help yourself relax and feel more confident. If your imagination could make you miserable, it could also make you feel great. All you need to do is to be consciously aware of what’s happening and take control of your imagination to channel it where you want it to be.