How to Deal With Your Worry and Stop Worrying Today


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“If the problem can be solved then why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” – Shantideva

Worrying has always been a special trait of mine. I like to worry about family, deadlines and serious illnesses that I might have contracted from using a public restroom. It if fair to say that a lot of my mental energy is spent on worry.

A few years ago (after a month long worrying episode) I decided that I had had enough of worrying so much and looked for some practical solutions to beat this stupid emotion. While I cannot profess to have defeated my worrying habit (my friends reading will attest to this) I have certainly learned a few good ways of dealing with it. Now I want to show you.

How to deal with worry and stop worrying

Worry consumes a lot of people. I am not the only one. The thing about worrying that is so crippling is that it lasts and lasts and lasts. Even though the event might be weeks or months off we still worry about it. Take the example of the dentist. People who are afraid of the dentist will think about it for weeks before their appointment. It is quite draining.

Here are some ways you can teach yourself to beat worry and live a more relaxed and happy life.

1. Learn to train your mind
One of the first things you need to realize is that you are in charge of your mind. It is NOT the other way around. Right now, as you are reading this post, I want you to realize for yourself that you are in control of your own mind. From this very moment on you will not let worry control you, you will now control the worry.

This is a small but very important detail to understand. Once you make the shift from “helpless” to “in control” there is a lot more you can do about the situation. Learning that you control you mind is the first step to beating worry.

2. Use logic to internally debate the worry


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In Buddhism they have a very important text called The Seven Points of Mind Training. This text is all about using short “slogans” to train your unruly monkey mind. The idea is that whenever a disturbing emotion arises you use a slogan to combat that emotion. Over time your mind becomes so familiar with the slogans that the negative emotions are replaced with healthy ones. Masters of this text have complete control over their thoughts and emotions.

Let me give you an example. One of the slogans in the text is “Condense all blames in to one”. The idea behind this slogan is that whenever something bad happens you should consider that it is your own fault. At first you might think that this is a little strange. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic you might want to yell and scream at them. But this slogan is telling you that it is your own fault. Gradually, as you apply this slogan, you will start to see that even though someone cut you off in traffic it is your own fault that you got angry. There was nothing inherently “angry” in their action. The anger originated in your own mind. So, condense all blames in to one.

Back to the worry. There are many ways to overcome your worry by using logic. One of my favorites and the one that has helped me the most is the quote at the start of this post:

“If the problem can be solved then why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” – Shantideva

There is something very real and practical about this quote. It almost laughs at you for worrying.

“Hey! Why are you worrying fool? If you can solve the problem then there is no point in worry. And, if you can’t solve the problem then your worrying is really not going to help you. So just forget it.”

The more you remind yourself that your worrying is not helping the easier it will be to overcome those thoughts. Use a bit of logic.

Let’s go back to the example of the dentist. You might be at the dentist for an hour and yet you spend two weeks worrying about it. Why? The dentist might cause you a tiny bit of pain for a few moments but you have spent two weeks being cranky and stressed over it. Why? The dentist, although uncomfortable, is actually making you healthy and well. So why worry? This type of logic is very good at fighting off the worry.

For more mind training slogans from the book The Seven Points of Mind Training check out this site.

3. Accept the worry and then let it go
Worry is probably there for a reason. I have a feeling that worry is something humans do to keep us alive. If we didn’t worry about germs and disease we wouldn’t get our children immunized. If we didn’t worry about car accidents we wouldn’t have driving lessons for six months in high school. The problem is that we have taken the worry too far.

A certain amount of worry is healthy but we have got an unbalanced sense of worry. We give a very unequal weighting to events when it comes to worry. Our proportions are wrong. For example, we spend the same amount of time worrying about an everyday thing like an assignment grade as we might about a potential health problem. We spend far too much time worrying about things that really don’t need to be worried about!

4. Don’t play out situations in your head
Something that a lot of people do is play out scenarios and situations in their mind. They think that by playing it out they are going to be able to sort it out. Wrong.

Let me give you an example. In high school I was in big trouble for something I didn’t do. It looked like I was going to get blamed for a pretty serious event that I had nothing to do with. And it took its toll on me. The worry set in and I stressed about it for days. I would sit at home and play out all the elements of the scenario in my head again and again. I would think to myself of all the different ways I could get out of it. I would think about all the possible reasons I had been blamed for it. Some part of me thought that the more I thought about it the more likely I would be to come up with a solution. Big mistake. In the end I turned up to school one day to be told that I was no longer in trouble, someone had confessed the had lied about me doing it. Problem solved.

We all do this. We all think that if we think about something a lot we will be more likely to think of a solution when in actual fact all we are doing is making ourselves sick and stressed.

Don’t play out situations in your head. It isn’t going to help.

5. Stop procrastinating and take action now


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I reckon about 95% of all worrying is due to procrastination. We all tend to put things off until the last minute and then spend all our time worrying about the event.

Take the example of a lump a woman might have found in her breast. It is probably nothing but she is worrying that it is breast cancer. Does she go to the doctor immediately? No. She worries about it for days and weeks. Finally a stressed and tense bundle of nerves she heads off to the doctor to find out it is a benign cyst. Sound like anyone you know?

Of course, like I said before, it is a good thing to worry in certain situations. But procrastinating should never be a cause of worry. If you think you have a serious illness then go to the doctor and get it sorted out tomorrow. Don’t let your fear and laziness and procrastination become the source of more worry. It really is quite illogical.

Conclusion

Worry is something that leads to stress and stress can make you sick. It impacts on the way you live your life and how you relate to other people. The great thing about worry, however, is that it can be a great object for your meditation and your personal progress. If you can get on top of worry you can get on top of anything.

14 thoughts on “How to Deal With Your Worry and Stop Worrying Today

  1. I used to be a big worrier too. I’ve learned to curb this bad habit by doing most of the things that you talked about in this article. Yoga was also one of my favorite tools. It showed me where my mind was at the moment and how to let go and just relax in the situation I was in.

    Like you said, worrying is good to help us stay on top of troublesome situations, but for the most part we over do it. When we give ourselves the tools to improve our emotional strength that’s when we can really be proactive in not letting the little things bother us.

  2. Wonder what a “worrywart” is and if you truly are one?

    The job of worry is to anticipate danger before it arises and identify possible perils, to come up with ways to lessen the risks, and to rehearse what you plan to do. Worrywarts get stuck in identifying danger as they immerse themselves in the dread associated with the threat, which may be real or, more likely, imagined. They spin out an endless loop of melodrama, blowing everything out of proportion. “What if I have a heart attack?” “What if there is an earthquake?” “What if someone breaks in when I’m asleep?”
    While worrywarts insist worrying is helpful, little is solved. Stuck in thinking ruts, they stop living in the here and now–the present moment. Worrywarting is torment–a kind of self-imposed purgatory that makes you feel bad, stresses you out, and wastes precious moments of your life.
    Worse yet, worry begets more worry, setting into motion a vicious circle of frightening thoughts and anxious response. It is self-perpetuating, pushing into greater anxiety and more worry. Allowed to continue unchecked, chronic worry can evolve into panic attacks and, in extreme cases, agoraphobia, which is a paralyzing fear of having a panic attack, especially in public. It can be so severe that, in the worst cases, the sufferer can’t leave home.
    For how to stop worrywarting and start worrying smart, visit my site.

  3. worry article…wow, how did u know that i needed to read this..i am a big worrier and its a constant war!!
    i keep playing back things that happened in past…esp since i got married. How and what my mom-in-law said etc…it is such a burden and i wish someone would take it off my head. it keeps troubling my mind untill i get tired and sit at one place numb.
    I have started to ward off such thoughts, the minute i see such worrying thoughts coming in my mind i divert my mind, play a nice song in my head, call my mum or my sis and talk all nonsense, light stsuff to make me happy again.. and its working so far. I cant chose my relatives, or colleagues or situations…and as u just told…these are emotions fabricated in my mind..so i will be even more careful and be the boss.
    Thank you so much.
    Shivani

  4. I think the best, and most difficult part to do, is to stop procrastinating and take action. I find that the longer I procrastinate taking action on something I worry about, the more the worry grows, and the harder it gets to do anything about. Even if the action is something small to start with, like confiding the worry to a friend to get support in taking the next steps, or writing it out in a journal, it is a start towards finding a solution.

  5. Love the blog, I went all the way through the archives! In case you didn’t know there are several other Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche videos on YouTube. I have this same one on my site. I figure if a future high lama can experience panic everyone else might feel a little better about it.

    I’m proudly displaying TDM on my Blog List!

    Best,
    Staci

  6. Shivani – thanks for dropping by again. Good to see you. I am glad you have some strategies for dealing with worry. And remember, you can always come to TDM for some relaxation!

    Kristi – I agree with you about procrastination. However, once we can over come that the rest is really easy. I think…

    Staci – Mingyur Rinpoche is one of my most important teachers. He is such a lovely guy. Have you met him?

    TDM

  7. No, sorry to say. He seems lovely. I’ve only recently learned of him but enjoy his teachings so much I’ve devoured what there is online and am waiting for a few books (including “The Joy of Living”) to learn more of him and some basics on Buddhism 🙂

    It’s funny, I found him because I was researching anxiety and panic to help others with my blog. I feel I may have started a journey where I’ll learn much more than I expected.

  8. Staci – I brought that book back for my brother from India about a month ago. He is a medicine student who wants to specialize in neuroscience and is new to buddhism. He loved the book – the mix of buddhism and science makes it so easy to understand and extremely compelling. Good luck with it!

    TDM

  9. Regarding #4:

    Sometimes it DOES help for people to act out situations in their heads. It is able to give preparation and reassurance for the person, thus potentially lessening the worried feeling.

    Through acting out situations, such a person might be more able to figure out backup plans (assuming the problem was made clearer through acting the situation out in his head), don’t you think?

    However, surely there HAS to be a balance or a threshold, I might say, for worrying as well as for playing situations out.

    Great article, BTW!

  10. Adzimin – I agree with you. I usually tell people to give it a cup of tea. Sit down for a tea and then after that forget the problem and don’t allow it to take over your thoughts again.

    What do you think?

  11. Sounds logical. should just remember to apply in everyday life this all,and stop all that damn worrying which I seem to be doing all the time.

  12. Thanks for this excellent blog, it’s really helpful and offers insights I’d never thougth of before. I especially like your section 4 about not playing situations in your head. I am currently recovering from Generalised Anxiety Disorder and one of the things that has most surprised me is that my trusted methods of analysing problems to find solutions is actually part of the problem. In a way analysing is just another distraction from enjoying life. I’ve written a ditty about this with a zen quote on my own blog, you may wish to take a look http://generalisedanxietydisorder.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/distractions-and-anxiety/

    Keep up the good work, I’ll certainly be back!
    J

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