One of my most common teachings is the need to stop worrying. I see friends and clients worrying all day long and ask them: how does it help you? Their most common answer is that it lets them plan ahead. That blows my mind. Plan ahead? Can you really plan any better by worrying yourselves sick? If they were PLANNING, that is, actually establishing a plan to deal with a situation, I would agree that it might help. But worrying and planning are not, unfortunately, synonyms at all.
- Consumes energy. Devote all that energy to yourself instead of investing in creating and accumulating adrenaline and cortisol.
- Results in sleeping problems. You need the rest to face whatever it is that really ends up happening in the future.
- Focuses on the future. Instead of living here, today, you’re so focused on the future that you have no time to enjoy the now.
- The future is unknown. Therefore, you’re focused on something that doesn’t exist. How many times did you worry about something that never ended up happening, at least the way you feared it would?
- Consumes time. You spend many hours worrying. By the time you manage to return to something that is not worrying you, a lot of time has elapsed; time that could have been used more productively or to have more fun.
- Blocks you. When you try to redirect your mind to something else, your mind goes back to the issue that’s worrying you over and over again, thus blocking you from doing anything else.
- Distracts you. By diverting your attention from other things, you can’t fully focus on them. The issue that worries you distracts you from other, more immediate topics.
- Produces anxiety. Focusing on something that has no solution (and nothing in the future really does) only leads to increased levels of anxiety from a lack of resolution and uncertainty.
Next time you find yourself worrying over something, ask yourself what you’re achieving. Isn’t there anything else you’d rather be doing or thinking about?
If you really need to PLAN, there are better ways of doing it. These are a few of the tips I recommend you consider when planning in order to stop worrying:
- Set a goal. What is it that you need to plan? What will you make you feel you actually have a plan? Define what your real objective is and what steps you’re going to take to reach it.
- Set your limits. What level of detail do you need to plan? How much improvisation and adaptation will you allow yourself? One can plan and plan and plan, always looking to define more and more details. But there comes a time in which that level of detail is not realistic anymore, as chances are that our plans will not happen the way we’re imagining. So, how far into the details do you want to go?
- Allocate a fixed amount of time. What is the maximum time you’re giving yourself to plan this? Set a fixed time and don’t go over that time, even if you didn’t finish your plan. If more time is needed, decide when you will work on your plan again, and for how long. In between working times, no planning is allowed. You will only plan during those pre-assigned times.
- Then relax. Once you have a plan, accept that life might change it. After all, we can’t look into the future and life has this habit of surprising us… But for now, you do have a plan. It’s the best plan you could make. Follow the steps you planned and allow yourself a little improvisation on the way. The rest of the time, just relax. Whenever worrying thoughts come to your mind again, remind yourself that you already have a plan.
Enjoy life… ALL of it.