The other day on the radio I heard these lyrics from the Shinedown song, If You Only Knew “It’s 4:03 and I can't sleep... I toss and turn like the sea.” I thought, “Yeah, why is it always 4AM that I wake up when I’m worried about something?” The singer of this top 10 pop rock song was troubled by a woman. What’s keeping you awake?
Most of us, at one time or another, have spent sleepless hours in bed worrying about something. Then making it worse, you’re tired the whole next day.
Over the years, I’ve ruminated over all sorts of things. Big issues I have little or no control over like politics, the environment, terrorism, and the economy. Personal issues that I need to affect such as my business, my family, and my relationships. I have even worried over my volunteer work. Churning the same thoughts over and over again.
Some of us worry about the past - what could’ve been if only we had done something differently. Others worry about some future problem that hasn’t even occurred yet.
Worry feels like motivation because it is rooted in the desire to fix a situation, but it is actually a de-motivator. It robs us of valuable energy we need to live a productive life. I love this modern update to an old proverb: “Worry is a brisk ride on a rocking horse; you burn a lot of energy, but you don’t get anywhere.” It is an amusing proverb that creates an accurate metaphor, but it does not offer us an answer on how to deal with worry.
For a simple solution on countering worry, I’ve always enjoyed the lyrics of this Irving Berlin song from the movie White Christmas: "When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep; and I fall asleep, counting my blessings." Although, I must admit that I didn’t really hear these sage words or make use of them for years.
When I finally did; I found that it really works. Sometimes we have to start with the basics, and remind ourselves of all that we do have and all that is going smoothly in our lives in order to put the troubling matter into perspective: “I have a roof over my head, I have my health, I have food in the house, I have a car, I have friends, etc.”
I recently revisited Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. It was written during the Great Depression and World War II. A period of time when most people had plenty to stress over. The advice still holds up today.
The trick is to divert your pensive energy into practical projects. Carnegie suggests that we focus on doing our best one day at a time and the future will take care of itself. In other words, keep busy! Get so caught up in your work that you have no time to ponder all the “What ifs” that have been running like a broken record in your mind.
He also suggests that you ask yourself, “What is the worst that could happen?” Then he says to either accept that or seek out the answers you need to fix it. If you choose the later, you must collect all the facts, analyze them, make a decision, then act on it.
I think his best suggestion is to spend your time helping others. When you focus on what you can do for others, you cannot at the same time focus on yourself. Or in the words of one unknown author, “When you dig another out of their troubles, you find a place to bury your own.”
Eventually you can utter the immortal words of Alfred E. Neuman, "What, me worry?"
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist, and coach. He works with companies that want to be more competitive, and with people who want to be more creative. He is also the author of the humorous children's book The Annoying Ghost Kid. Contact Robert at www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com