We all worry about some things. Our kids, our health, the economy. But the truth is, there is no upside to worry. None at all! It doesn’t do us any good, and it doesn’t do anyone else any good either.
When we worry, we often tell ourselves a catastrophic story, of the worst possible case scenario. We get in to mind loops that end up with us having the same thoughts over, and over, again. The result is that we feel miserable, and we have no new, more productive ideas, thoughts or feelings. We are just hurting ourselves.
If we want to manage the amount of worry we have in our lives, the first step is to ask ourselves ‘what can I control?’
The amount of worry we have is usually connected to how much control we have (or think we have) over a situation. There are only 3 types of situations.
- Those situations we have control over,
- those situations we can influence, but can’t control,
- and those situations we have no control over in any way.
Everything falls into one of these three categories.
The truth is, the only situations we have total control over are ones that are directly related to us. Our thoughts, words, actions, behaviors, decisions, attitude, and mood. For instance, we can control whether or not WE eat a piece of cake.
By comparison, we cannot control whether OUR FRIEND, Sarah, eats a piece of cake. We might be able to persuade or inspire her not to eat it. But we can only influence Sarah, we can’t control her. This is the difference between situations we can control and those we can only influence.
The things we can influence, but can’t control, are things such as other people’s actions, and choices, who follows us on social media, weather people like us or not, how much our partner loves us, weather we get promoted or not, our children’s future etc. These types of things are all something that we have some influence over, but we can’t actually control.
Every other situation may be of concern to us, but it is out of our control. Totally. The past, the weather, death, stranger’s comments on social media, world peace, threats of war, traffic, the economy etc are all totally out of our control.
When we find ourselves worrying, it is helpful to write down what is bothering us. Then decide which category it actually falls into. Can we control it, can we influence it, or do we have no control over it what’s so ever?
If, it is something we have no control over, then we need to practice letting it go. It may be helpful to remember the Serenity Prayer while we do this exercise: It is commonly quoted as:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference. (Reinhold Niebuhr)
If, what we worry about, is something we can influence, then we can change our methods of interacting with the situation: for example if we want our partner to love us more, rather than just worrying about it, maybe we can spend more quality time with them sharing their interests. Or, if we want the National/Labour government to get in to power, rather than worry about it, we could become supporters in some way and help campaign.
The thing is, we cannot get attached to the result of something we can influence, but can’t control. If our husband doesn’t love us more, then he was never going to. If our preferred party doesn’t become the government, they were never going to. We need to practice, just giving it our best effort, and then let the result be, what it was always meant to be.
If, what we worry about, is something we CAN control, then instead of worrying, we can focus on changing our thoughts, feelings and actions so that we get different results in our life. If (for instance) we are worried about our weight (which is something we can control), then we need to work on ourselves to change our thoughts and feelings around such things as food, eating, exercising, rewards, etc. This will give us a better result in our life, that we no longer have to worry about.
One of my favorite quotes is from a man called Viktor Frankl who was a Holocaust survivor with an amazing story. His quote goes, “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves”.
Written by Lynda Timperley BTCH, Dip psych, Cert Life Coaching
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