How to Worry Less (2 Simple Strategies)

Above photo is from my spectacular trip to Peru!

I’m a regular victim of worry. I worry about my finances, my career trajectory, my relationships. I worry that I’m not doing enough to contribute to the world and that I’ll never reach my personal goals.

And that’s just the short list. Sometimes my fear about the future puts me in a procrastination paralysis, the kind where I have so much work to do and so many things I want to accomplish that instead of making any progress at all I start a new book or open a bag of Trader Joe’s white cheddar popcorn and scroll through Instagram until my eyes blur. 

Does this happen to anyone else?

The reason I cower away from my projects and responsibilities at times is because I’m scared things won’t turn out the way I’d like them to. So instead of just starting, I do nothing. Which then accomplishes nothing and sets me further behind on my journey, leaving me feeling even more concerned and dejected, and therefore less motivated to take action. 

It’s a vicious cycle. 

But the good news is that I’m fully aware of my tendency to sabotage myself with negative thought patterns and inaction. 

So I have the power to stop it. And that’s a beautiful thing. 

Here are the two strategies I’ve been implementing lately to channel my worry and fear into motivation and confidence. 

1) Re-wire negative thoughts. Instead of worrying, which forces me to focus on unappealing, anxiety-inducing scenarios that may or may not ever actually come to fruition, I want to channel that energy into building myself up and setting my sights on things I’m excited about.

The brilliant quote below sums up my feelings on the issue. (Also, I have no idea if RDJ really said this, but he’s the only source of credit I found online. If anyone has more information, I’m all ears.)

Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.
— Robert Downey Jr.

Why, when each one of us is so energetically powerful and capable of attracting what we think about, would we ever spend our energy ruminating on things we don’t want?

When you think about it like that, it actually seems absurd to worry. 

My mom gave me a great little nugget of wisdom a couple weeks ago. “Have faith, not fear,” she said. 

I’ve been repeating this mantra to myself whenever I feel my thoughts start to slip to a bleak place. Have faith, not fear. I don’t deny my fear or squash it or call it silly, though. I acknowledge my fear and respect its role in my life (thanks for the tip, Liz Gilbert!), but at the end of the day I choose to give more of my attention to having faith that things will work out.

Sometimes this means having a quick internal conversation with myself, while other times it means waking up fifteen minutes earlier to meditate or write my goals in a journal so I can see them every day.  

And if something unfortunate or unprecedented does happen in my life, I’ll figure it out. Letting my fear consume me in the meantime doesn’t do a damn thing to prepare me for the worst case scenarios, so I may as well set my sights high for as long as possible. 

Call me irrationally optimistic, but it’s so much more fun to go through life expecting beautiful things to come your way. 

2) Do something. Anything, really. Anything at all that will move me forward and make me feel proud of myself. 

Sometimes that means brainstorming ideas for a new project, sending the email I’ve been meaning to send, writing a blog post, organizing my bank statements, or even just asking myself the questions: Why am I worried about this thing? Is there something I can do right now to help ease my worry?

Because there’s a big difference between helpful worry and destructive worry. Worry, like fear, is something to pay attention to, but only long enough to motivate you to either take control of a situation or release control of the outcome of a situation. 

There’s nothing else you can do. Take action or surrender. Those are our two options. Worry that doesn’t lead to either one of these solutions is fruitless. 

To sum it up: 1) Have faith, not fear and 2) Do something every day to propel you forward. 

How do you deal with worry? I’d love to know. (And please don’t be shy to comment! I love having a dialogue with everyone.)

P.S. How to think less and why it's important to enjoy the process