It’s human nature to worry. What’s on your mind right now? Chances are you’re worrying about something. Am I right? Sure I am. I know because I’m worrying about something right now, too. To worry is to be human. It’s inevitable; unavoidable.

So rejoice, in a sense. Your worries are simply an unavoidable and common reaction to events in the outside world and how you expect them to affect you. Now, I’m sure those words don’t alleviate your incessant anxiety, but I ask you, if you knew beyond all doubt that you were going to worry about something no matter what, would you keep falling down the same negative thought loops, worrying over and over again about things that typically never end up happening, anyway?

Rather than telling yourself that all your anxiety will dissipate as soon as you overcome the thing you’re worrying about, understand that worry is something you have to live with and work to become content with you current situation. In this article, we discuss the three primary ways you can learn to deal with your worrying so that you can live a life of stress-free happiness.

The three ways you can stop worrying about things that may or may not happen include:

1. Learn How to Stop Worrying About Things You Can’t Control

Worry and anxiety were positive survival traits back in the day. Think about it. When we were a foraging species, with natural predators who could kill us at a moments notice, it paid to be cautious. It was a benefit to be on constant edge.

In fact, those who had the trait of anxiety survived, while the rest perished. They passed their genes on through our gene pool, causing their children and their children’s children to be anxious, too. But fast forward a few hundred thousand years, and there’s nothing really to worry about anymore.

Sure, we fret about our income, bills, and those nasty emails we get from our bosses, but in reality, what do we have to fear? If you’re lucky enough to live in a developed country, very few things are a life and death situation.

If we lose our job, we can freelance until we get another one. When our bills get too high, we can cut the fat, sell our cars, and start from square one. If our boss sends us flaming emails, we can quit, or tell him off so we get intentionally fired (wouldn’t that feel good?).

Doesn’t seem like any of these situations results in loss of life. But, of course, we have the worry gene, and our mind grabs hold of anything that might cause anxiety. And in the 21st century, the things that cause us stress aren’t very stressful at all.

However, the fact remains that we’ve been bred to have anxiety, and it isn’t going away. So the next time you’re worrying about something, try to put it in perspective. In the grand scheme of life, does it really matter? Probably not.

And taking it even further, can you even control the thing you’re worried about in the first place? Also probably not, which is probably why we’re stressing out about it at all. Think about it – wouldn’t it be a positive survival trait to fear the things that make us feel out of control? Yes. So, the irony is that the things our physiology tells us to worry about, is in fact, something we can’t even control anyway. And if we can’t control it, why stress about it?

Instead, control what you can, leave no excuses, and then don’t worry about the rest.

2. Learn How to Stop Worrying About the Future

Ok, so we’ve established that your anxiety and worry will be with you forever, often making us fear the things we can’t control. Learn to accept it. Make an intentional effort to be happy and satisfied with your current life-situation.

And then realize that the things you’re worried about might not even happen, anyway.

What’s on your mind? What’s causing you anxiety? Chances are it’s some future event. And of course, with anything in the future, it may or may not happen. When you think about it, a lot of the things that stress you out never actually come to pass.

Take it from me. Working as a content marketer, I invoice my clients at the end of each month. This causes a drag on liquidity as I wait for people to pay me. And since I run a cash flow business, my client payments are my livelihood, and I use it to pay my bills and save for the future.

Sometimes, my clients take a long time to pay me, especially those who are one-offs. It’s stressful, let me tell you. As soon as I send an invoice I worry about whether I’ll be paid or not. You hope that people are inherently good, but sometimes you wonder.

However, I’ve never had a client not pay me. It might take a while, but I’m always compensated for my work. But, knowing this, I still stress every month. It’s pretty tiring.

So I stress, and then I get paid, and then the cycle repeats itself. And even when I’m worrying about a lack of payment, I’m also telling myself I’m dumb, because there’s nothing from my past that should lead me to believe I’ll be stiffed on an invoice. Yet still I worry. In essence, I’m worrying about a future that may never come to pass. It might one day, but until that day, I shouldn’t stress.

Easier said than done, am I right?

The point, however, is this: Try not to worry about things that may or may not happen. Focus on the specific things you can affect, and forget about the rest. You’re worrying about stuff that’s completely out of your control, because if it was in your control, you wouldn’t worry about it.

And then if it does come to pass, deal with it then. At least you saved yourself days and weeks of unnecessary anxiety.

3. Learn How to Stop Worrying About the Past

The past is unlike the future in that it happened. There’s no denying it. So, it’s harder to use the same methodology or thinking about a future that may never pass on a past that most definitely passed. In this way, we often worry about the negative aspects of our past and how they turn us into a person we don’t like in the present.

Most anger, guilt, and shame comes from memories of the past. When we worry about these things, we’re allowing ourselves to get caught up in a false narrative, letting it dictate our current actions. This is a problem that can actually cause you to start worrying even more – thus repeating the same actions over and over again.

Instead, try to live in the present moment. Understand that the past is a tool that you can learn from, but it doesn’t define who you are. Only your actions in the present moment define who you are at that moment. So instead of worrying about what happened, focus on worrying how you’re going to maximize the moment you’re in right now.

Conclusion

The key is control. We worry and stress about things that we have no control over. Think about it. You know it’s true. Instead, focus on the things you can control and don’t fret about the rest.

However, there’s a trick I found that gives yourself a semblance of control over the uncontrollable aspects of your life. For me, I write down my concerns. I get them out of my head. It’s almost as if your mind tries to hold onto the things that cause you anxiety so it doesn’t forget. Probably a part of our evolutionary trait.

But, if you write down the things that are causing you stress, you uncover the root cause(s). You clear your mind. And then, if you really want to remember why you’re worrying, just take a look at the page.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Stop Being Self-Conscious: Make Your Self-Consciousness a Strength

  2. Kelly Sullivan December 1, 2016 at 12:36 pm

    Evan- great read! Lurked your LinkedIn and sad I just missed you at SDSU! Thank you for sharing this. I think it completely unveils what the majority (seemingly) of 20-somethings deal with. I discovered the pangs of anxiety post- college myself, and it has been a PROCESS! I struggle to mitigate my anxiety yet seem to offer advice to others that I can’t take myself; to your point… easier said than done! Love your point about it being antiquated, too and genetic, might I add. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff. 🙂