Mostly we worry because we care, because we’re invested—in our children, our families, our futures, and ourselves.
But sometimes—like when it’s 3am and you’re tossing and turning with anxiety about next month’s bills, or when you’ve questioned for the millionth time if your outfit looks ok—you just want that little voice of worry that’s constantly nagging at your brain to SHUT UP ALREADY.
When those moments of debilitating worry strike—when you’re desperate to figure out how to stop worrying—try asking yourself these three critical questions about whatever’s bugging you.
How to Stop Worrying: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself
Question 1: Is there anything I can do about it?
It’s one thing to worry about stuff we can actually do something about. Worrying about things that are entirely outside of our control, however, is a whole different—and completely futile!—ballgame.
It’s not just the fact that all that worrying is useless, a total waste of your time and energy, although it is.
But also consider the possibility that worrying about something over which you have no control can actually make the situation worse.
How? By diverting your attention away from what really matters, from those aspects of life that you do have the power to positively impact.
For example, if you’re so stressed about the fact that your one-year-old isn’t walking yet—even though the pediatrician has assured you it’s totally normal and there’s nothing more you should be doing to encourage those first steps—all that worry is just taking your focus off the precious, fleeting moments you have with your little crawler.
Question 2: If there is something I can do about it, is now a good time to work on it?
Let’s say you have an important interview coming up, and it’s totally stressing you out, to the extent that you’re having trouble sleeping.
There are certainly things you can do to help that interview go smoothly, like researching the company and preparing your answers to common interview questions. But is the middle of the night really the best time to take those steps?
To squash your inner worry wart, narrow down what you actually can do to deal with an issue—what concrete actions you can take to improve the situation—and then pick an appropriate, effective time to do them.
Then put the problem up on the metaphorical shelf until that time comes.
Question 3: Will it matter a year from now? What about five years from now?
This question is all about keeping perspective.
So much of what we worry about ends up as no more than a fleeting concern we quickly forget about. Rarely are our worries tied to actual longterm problems.
In that case, they simply are not worth our time and energy—both of which are probably being pulled in a million other directions anyway!
On the other hand, if our fears truly are related to issues of everlasting impact, it’s still not worthwhile to sit and worry about them. Talk about unproductive!
Instead, it’s best to return to question 2 and determine which aspects of the situation you have the power to control or impact—and then do just that at an appropriate time.