When we worry, our minds are focused on our problems or fears without constructive thoughts toward resolution. Worry is a repetitive thought process. It keeps us stuck in an unproductive loop and can dull our enjoyment of everyday life. It can even manifest as physical symptoms of anxiety.
For all these reasons, worrying is an activity we should try to keep to a minimum! But with everything going on in the world and in our personal lives, it’s virtually impossible not to worry. We are human, so we are usually going to have “something on our minds.” The idea is to figure out how to put our worrying to the best possible use. That starts with putting our worries in perspective by asking the following questions:
- Is this a life-or-death situation? Does it have the potential to harm you or someone you know? Are you or someone else currently in potential danger? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, seek support from someone you trust. Make a list of the people or services that can help ease your concerns surrounding this issue, and then contact them.
- Can it change my life? If your worry doesn’t fall into the above category, that’s great news. This is certainly something to be grateful for. However, if it is a worry that has the potential to change your life in some way, that’s still a pretty big deal. This worry is actually a fear of the unknown. While we never know what the future holds, we can guess and make the potential outcomes not such a mystery to us. This turns worries into constructive thoughts. Try this activity:
- Make a list of all of the potential outcomes resulting from this change, including the best-case and worst-case scenarios. To make this fun, you can even include ridiculous things that could happen but probably won’t. When considering the worst-case scenario on your list, ask yourself how you might be able to use that particular outcome (if it happens) to make you a stronger, wiser person in the long run. When considering the best-case scenario, think about steps you can take to make that outcome more likely.
- Am I worried about someone else? Does your worry fall into the category of concern for someone else’s well-being—maybe your spouse, child, friend, or even a group of people? Of course, if you have the opportunity to support or assist the person or group by taking an action, seize the opportunity. However, if this isn’t possible, the next best thing you can do is send loving thoughts to the individual or group you are concerned for. Imagine that person or group in your mind’s eye feeling happy, content, and fulfilled. Imagine they have everything they want and need to thrive. I think you’ll agree that this is a better activity for your mind than ruminating about how helpless you feel!
- Am I still worried? Even when we take steps to put our worries in perspective, sometimes it seems as if our minds have a mind of their own. We might know that something is not a big deal or that worrying isn’t going to change anything, but we just can’t stop thinking about it. If that’s the case, stilling the mind through meditation can help. Watching the worrisome thoughts come and go without engaging them can help you find peace of mind. With continued practice, you might even discover that you are worrying less and seeing the actions you can take to reduce your worries more clearly!