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“What happens if we get sued?”
“What happens if I have a terminal illness?”
“What would people think of me if I do this?”
If these are constantly the thoughts running through your head, then you probably feel worried and stressed out!
Why Worrying Is Bad
When you worry, you are essentially directing all your thoughts towards a possibility that you dislike. You imagine yourself standing in a court room and getting sued. You imagine yourself lying on a bed with a terminal illness. You imagine people disliking you for doing something you want to do.
When you do this, you start to form memories of all of these situations as discussed in the passage of time. If you do this long enough, then most of your memories will be of these situations. After all, those are the most recent and most thought about things, so it’s only natural that your brain holds on to them.
So what happens the next time you encounter a grey situation (which most situations are)? Your brain will fetch the most related scenarios from its vast store of memories. Since most of your memories are of these unpleasant situations though, you’ll probably just pick one of these. For example, say you went to the doctor and some tests came out inconclusive. If you had been thinking for weeks at a time about all the possible diseases out there, then the most natural reaction is for your brain to retrieve all these possible diseases and wonder if it might be one of them!
How would you feel then? If your brain keeps going over images of these bad things, wouldn’t you feel sad and worried and stressed?
Not only that, but this is a spiral process. Because you are worried and stressed, your brain will probably conjure up even more images of these things as you think about them more! Then, as you look over your life, the positive memories are all dim and vague, and life suddenly seems like it’s full of worry and stress!
When Worrying Is Bad
If worrying is so bad though, then why do we do it? Well, it’s not all bad. Worrying does have a purpose! It alerts you to possible negative situations that might happen so that you can adequately prepare for them.
The problem occurs when it’s a situation you can’t do anything about, when it’s trivial, or when you already have an adequate solution but continue to dwell on it.
When you can’t do anything about it – In this case, the worrying serves no purpose. For example, if you’re worrying about how the sun will go supernova in a few billion years and all the things you do now might not matter, that’s very pointless. The time spent worrying could have been put to living your life! It’s going to happen and you can’t change it, so focus your energy on something you can actually control!
When it’s trivial – Maybe you’re worried about losing a quarter, so you go around thinking up ways to prevent quarters from falling out of your pocket. Maybe you’ll constantly check your pockets to make sure the quarter is there. Maybe you’ll make sure all your pants don’t have holes. Sure, you have increased the probability that your quarter won’t be lost, but all that time and emotional energy could have been better spent elsewhere. You might lose the quarter, but do you really want to live life worrying about that? The same thing goes for dying actually – that’s another thing that might happen at any time, but don’t you have better things to do while you’re alive than worrying about the end?
When you already have a solution – This is situation that is a combination of the two above. When you already have an adequate solution, then the problem has already been solved and there’s really nothing more you can do. Therefore, further time spent worrying, like the first scenario, serves no purpose.
However, there is a possibility that you might come up with an even better solution. In that scenario, it’s more like the second case. The other solution might be better, but it’s probably only marginally better if the current solution is already adequate! Is that small marginal improvement really worth your time? Don’t you have other more important things to do?
How To Stop Worrying
Since worrying is just for the purpose of coming up with solutions for potentially unpleasant situations, the way to get over it as fast as possible is to focus on just that! Instead of turning the situation over and over in your head, only think about it long enough to identify the issue and come up with some possible resolutions. Once you have one, just pick one that works and focus your attention on something else.
If you can’t seem to think of something else to focus your attention on, then you should find out what you want. After all, there’s always something you can do if you have some long term goals. Once you decide on your resolution and your focus shifts, the negative feelings associated with the worrying should go away, leaving your mind free to tackle other problems.
It is worth emphasizing that you should make a habit to be decisive. If you continuously flip flop between your resolutions, then you essentially haven’t picked, and you’ll have to continue worrying! If indecisiveness becomes a habit, then issues never really get resolved, and your days will be filled with seemingly countless problems!
So to stop worrying:
1) Identify the issue you are worrying about
2) Think of resolutions quickly
3) Pick one and stick to it.
Hopefully, these three steps will lead you on your way to a happy and stress free life!
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