I come from a family of worriers. My maternal grandma worried about everything under the sun and so did my mom, and my mom’s sisters. So there’s a lot of worrying that goes on in my family, enough to spread around our respective neighborhoods and two continents where my extended family is spread out.
Looking back at all those times my family members expressed their worries to me and to everyone who would listen, I realize that worrying didn’t change the outcome of anything! When my grandma was worried that my son would break his leg playing soccer, he didn’t. When we moved into this house 12 years ago, my aunt was worried that one of our ceiling fans would come off and decapitate one of us (she really said this), guess what? The fans are still intact, and so are we.
Did worrying change the outcomes? Of course not. Did worrying impact the people around them? Yes.
I laughed their worries off but at the same time, it also caused my younger self some anxiety then. With time and wisdom, I have gotten better at “worry management” because I’ve realized its effects on my family life, relationships and productivity. Worrying doesn’t do me any good. As Leo Buscaglia said, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
Here’s how I cope:
I designate a chunk of time for worrying.
When something is bothering me, I tell myself I will only think about it for 10-15 minutes, before moving on and devising a plan of action. I refuse to give it more time than that.
I decide whether it’s within my circle of influence or if I can fix it.
Early on in my career, a mentor introduced me to the “circle of influence” concept. I’ve learned to accept that not everything is within my control or “circle of influence” and I can’t change or solve those that are outside the circle. I now process my thoughts and concerns that way – they are either inside the circle or outside. I refuse to worry about those that are outside.
I distance myself from people who make me worry.
Of course if it’s a family member or a dear friend, it’s easier said than done. I am a straighforward person and will often say, “Okay, I’ll listen to this story/rant/telenovela one last time then I don’t want to hear about it again okay?”
I found creative and relaxing outlets.
Some people draw, paint, practice yoga, listen to music or work out when they find themselves getting anxious. I hike, take my dog for a walk or read. Find something that will relax you and put your mind at ease.
Remember, worrisome thoughts will pass too, like dark clouds.