Ep 50: How to worry less and figure out what to let go of

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Worry always seems to be with us. I hear from people every day who ask me how they can simply worry less.

There’s no magic technique, I’m afraid.

Worry is a hard habit to break, and you might wish you could just let go of it like a red balloon at the fair.

But part of working to figure out what to let go of is to know what healthy things can replace your worry.

I have a little exercise here that might help you. It includes a Worry Less Action Plan downloadable exercise you can work through over the next few days. This episode will take you through the exercise.

You can listen to this episode right here! 👆

If you missed my series a couple of weeks ago on how thinking errors can stress you out, check them out all in one place.

And don’t forget to subscribe to hear future episodes of Mental Health Moment wherever you are! 

Full transcript 👇

Ep 50: How to worry less and figure out what to let go of - person sitting against a wall with a red cardboard frown face placed over their face

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

Worry creates a mess inside your head.

You can take a perfectly nice day, with vibrant sunshine, birds singing their very first songs of the day, the beautiful glisten of morning dew on the grass, and you can mess all of that up with your worries.

Give yourself five minutes to start thinking about what’s not working in your life and:

  • those birds will sound warbled and annoying,
  • the sun will get too hot, and
  • the dew will have now attracted mosquitos who can’t seem to stop feasting on you.

How did you get here so fast?

I mean, haven’t you heard all the quotes about worry?

  • “You’re borrowing from tomorrow.”
  • “Robbing yourself of joy.”
  • “Worry is like letting birds build a nest in your hair.” I don’t know what that means but I kinda get the visual.

We know worry isn’t helpful. We don’t need to learn that.

But how do you let go of worry each day?

How does that work in real life?

How do you face the day knowing there are a million possible scenarios out there that could take you down any road?

Worry is a decision you make.

And if worry is a real problem for you, then it’s probably the FIRST decision you’re making each day.

  • Before you get out of bed, you’re already wondering what your boss is going to throw on you today.
  • You’re worried that if you don’t leave home on time you’ll get caught up in the crazy traffic.
  • You’re worried that your kid’s teacher will call you AGAIN today because Johnny just won’t sit still in class.
  • This week you’re already feeling overwhelmed and you’re worried that you won’t get it all done.

None of these worries are things you control.

But making the decision to give those things space in your head before you brush your teeth?

That’s all you.

And what follows this first decision to worry is the feeling of dread about the day.

Not about any one thing in particular. Just an overall sense of dread that you can’t shake.

Does that feel real to you?

You can change this, but you have to make a deliberate effort to believe you can change it.

And YOU have to be the one to make the change. No one can take this one for you.

If it’s Monday, maybe you heard in church over the weekend about how God doesn’t want you to worry, that you can just give your worry and anxiety to Him.

Or maybe you read a great book from one of your favorite influencers about how your thinking shapes everything. Change your thinking, change your life.

Sounds easy enough, right?

You can interpret either of those as some magic formula where one grand effort gets you where you want to go.

  • If you give God your worries on Sunday, then Monday will magically be worry-free.
  • Or you close that influencer’s book and feel pretty amped up about seeing all that great success just from changing your thinking.

But by the next day, you’re right back to hot sun and mosquitoes.

Both God and that influencer would tell you that you need to do daily work to free yourself from that worry habit.

You won’t nail it on day one or maybe even day 12. In fact, you may very well still be worrying on day 12.

Because worry is a habit that you have to change, not a condition that you can improve.

And just like any other habit, you have to decide you will change it and come up with a plan for what that looks like.

The answer is simple but not easy.

Here’s one way to deal with worry and find ways to let go of some stuff.

Start your day with a Worry Less Action Plan.

Fancy name, I know, right?

Write down and list exactly what you’re worried about today.

In detail.

Give yourself something visible to look at.

One of the hardest things about worry is how it creates confusion and chaos and sends random thoughts bouncing off the inside of your head.

After a while you’re not really sure what you’re worried about. You just know you’re worried.

It’s all jumbled together in one big, giant hairball.

Give that worry some space and a voice so you can actually see it.

So look at that list you created.

  • Where are the areas where you feel responsible?
  • Do you feel like you could be doing more in some area that you’re just not engaged in right now?
  • Can doing that action take away some of that worry?
  • Or are you taking on responsibility that doesn’t belong to you?

This is important to figure out. Many of the things we worry about we may not even have a role in.

It sucks to worry about things we can’t actually do anything about.

After you have a visible idea of what your worry looks like and what you actually own, write down a few statements about who you are.

What do you bring to this situation?

This takes your focus off of what’s not happening and how you can influence what’s actually going on.

Are you a good problem solver?

Then use your capacity to find solutions to generate some possibilities. Start applying your problem-solving skills to those things.

Are you reliable and steady?

Write down specific statements to remind yourself that even though you’re not sure how things will turn out, your ability to show up matters. Write down a few ways how your SHOWING UP could change the situation.

Think of as many things as you can about who you are. This is the best way to defeat worry.

You are countering those worrisome thoughts, which may or may not be true, with what you know to be true about you.

So letting go of worry feels a little less like a faith leap into the unknown, and more like a lever you can pull that’s right in front of you.

Do this every day. Yeah.

Write down what you’re worried about, which of those worries you can actually do something about, and document how you can influence your situation.

Every day.

That’s it. That’s the Worry Less Action Plan.

If you’re really jazzed about doing this, you can download this exercise in a printable format on my website at LoriMiller.me.

Just click on the blog post titled “How to worry less and figure out what to let go of.”

I’ve also thrown in a worry scale at the back of the exercise so you can rate your worry over the next week.

⬇ DOWNLOAD: Worry Less Action Plan

Here’s the deal. This isn’t a plan to address the actual things you’re worried about.

Right now just get in the daily habit of addressing your thoughts about your worry and your ability to handle it.

Do this when you first wake up.

You don’t have to get up at 5 AM. But it may mean you get up 15 minutes earlier.

Do this before you turn on any other input for the day.

In fact, I would suggest while you’re working through creating this new habit, maybe you don’t watch that morning news show while you’re getting ready for work or catch up on the news on your phone while drinking your coffee.

There are a million things the news people will tell you to worry about and almost none of them involve you. This isn’t gonna be helpful.

Try this for a week and chart your level of worry today and every day for the next week. You can use a basic scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning worry is off the rails.

Again, you can download from my website a page of seven worry scales to use over the next week.

Worry Less Action Plan - Click to downloadDownload the Worry Less Action Plan

 

Every fiber in your being will tell you that this is stupid.

It won’t work. Worry is worry, and that’s how it goes.

Well, what would you say to a random stranger who walked up to you and told you, completely unsolicited, something you knew wasn’t true?

You would either ignore them because you think they might be crazy or refute their statement with what you knew to be true.

You can do the same here.

Don’t take your unsolicited thoughts at face value.

You get to choose who you will be this day and what you’ll believe about yourself and your world.

No matter what happens to you today, this one is all you.

We’re not generating any grand epiphanies here. Just creating a day-in and day-out habit to learn to trust yourself and believe that who you are can make a difference in how your life turns out.

Don’t forget to download the Worry Less Action Plan on my website at LoriMiller.me and to read more articles on mental health.

You can catch Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit LoriMiller.me for info on how to subscribe.

Thanks for listening!

I’d love to hear what you think!

  • Leave a note below or ask me a question in the comment section below.
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