How to Stop Worrying Unnecessarily

Worry is a natural human emotion. And it has merit. We often worry when facing an unknown or unexpected situation. This can be useful if the worry is used as a trigger for preparation, to allow us to foresee and potentially prevent any pitfalls. But worry can also be a hindrance.

Worrying is a problem when we do it unnecessarily. How do you know when it is unnecessary? The first question to ask yourself is: “Can I do anything to prevent or change what I am worrying about?” If the answer is “no”, then do yourself a favor and stop. The benefit of worry is that it allows us to prepare for and prevent problems. If you are worrying about a situation that you cannot control, then you are simply causing yourself unnecessary stress. That stress is unhealthy and can negatively affect other aspects of your life.

If the answer to the question is “yes”, that doesn’t automatically mean that you should still worry. The next question to ask is: “How likely or realistic is the situation that I am worrying about?” For example, all parents worry about the safety of their children and take reasonable measures to protect them. As a parent you may be worried that your child might be the victim of a school shooting. You hear and read about them in the news and they seem to be almost happening on a weekly basis. But still the likelihood of a shooting happening at your child’s school is extremely small. So just because you can homeschool your child to eliminate the possibility that he will ever be a shooting victim, that doesn’t mean you should. If you want to homeschool your child, it should be for the right reasons and not to avoid some extremely unlikely event that you are worrying about unnecessarily.

Deciding to stop worrying may be simpler said than done for some of us. I have a relative who is very prone to it and worries about things that would never strike most of us as a concern. She once told me she was worried that her grandson was not yet walking at the age of one and a half. I tried to make light of the situation by joking “I guarantee he will stop crawling by the time he is seven.” She responded surprisingly, “Seven? I can’t wait until he’s seven!” (I guess my sarcasm was too subtle…)

So what is the trick to stop worrying about situations that we can’t change or that are unlikely to ever happen? The answer is to be in the present moment. For example, if you live in California and are worried about earthquakes, then prepare yourself. Get a survival kit for your home and your car, and set up a plan with your relatives and loved ones. Once you are prepared, there is nothing more that you can do. At that point, be present and appreciate the fact that you have done all you can to protect yourself and your family. Be grateful that all of you are safe each day that an earthquake has not struck, and be confident that if one does strike you will be prepared for it. Live in the present rather than worry about a future that may never take place.

So the next time you become worried about a potential situation, determine if there is anything you can do about it and also how likely is that situation to ever even happen? Depending on your answers, take the necessary steps (if any) to eliminate your need to worry. But if there is nothing that you can or should do, then decide to live in the present moment and be grateful for everything that is going well right now.

And just in case you were wondering, my relative’s grandson did start walking by the time he was two. Do you see? There was nothing to worry about.

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