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How to Stop Worrying About Things You Can't Change

6 strategies to get your worrying under control.

Key points

  • About 85 percent of the things people worry about never happen and people who let go of worries are generally healthier than those who stress.
  • Strategies to control worrying include learning to accept uncertainty, calling a friend to talk about one's worries and practicing mindfulness.
  • Distracting oneself with another activity, exercising and designating a certain amount of time to write about one's worries can also help.
Photo by Aubree Herrick on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Aubree Herrick on Unsplash

You've just finished a pitch for a potential client and you're waiting with worry to hear if they'd like to work with you. You had an extra cookie with your tea and you're worried it was one too many for the waistline you're watching. Or maybe you're about to go have an evening out with your friends and you're worried about whether it will rain. The common denominator in all these things is that you're worrying about things you can't change—which is a waste of energy.

You've already done your pitch, so you've done what you can to get the job. You've already eaten the cookie, so there's no point beating yourself up about it when it's already in your tummy. And the weather is uncontrollable—worrying about it isn't going to change it.

How often do you notice yourself worrying about things you can't change? The most likely answer is a few times a day, if not more. Why? No real reason. All it does is create unnecessary additional stress for both your body and mind while preventing you from experiencing the joys of today. Maybe it's time you learned to take your worrying down a notch.

Let's start by looking at what research has said about worrying in general:

  • About 85 percent of the things we worry about never happen.
  • If what we worry about does happen, 79 percent of us said we handled the outcome better than we thought we would.
  • People who let go of worries instead of stressing over them are healthier than those who don't.

That shows that there really is no reason to worry so much. Hence, here are six strategies to help you get your worrying in control. There'll be a time and a place for each of them.

1. Accept uncertainty and learn to thrive in it.

The beauty of life is in how unpredictable it is—you never quite know what's around the corner. Learn to embrace this uncertainty and thrive in it. Who knows—it could even bring some exciting new opportunities you never even thought about. Put your heart and soul into the things you care about, and work hard on achieving your dreams. That's all you can do. The rest is up to the world.

2. Call a friend to talk about your worry.

Talking about your worry will help you get your head straight about whether your worry is realistic, worth worrying about, and something you can actually do anything about. It will help you understand that there's no point worrying about it if the outcome is out of your hands, and hence it lets you offload some of the worrying weight you carry around.

3. Practice mindfulness.

Learning to be present will help you keep your mind focused on what you're doing now rather than worrying about things you can't change. Even simple meditations, such as 10 minutes of sitting down just focusing on your breathing, have been shown to reduce everyday stress.

4. Distract yourself with another activity.

Really can't seem to get it out of your head? Go do something completely unrelated and different that forces you to focus on something else. This is most effective if you choose an activity that you get fully immersed in, such as practicing your hobby or reading an exceptional book. For example, I'm able to escape the world when I go to my horses—even just brushing them and spending time with them takes my mind away from other things.

5. Exercise.

Doing some kind of exercise you enjoy will give you a break from your worries while reducing the levels of your stress hormones, stimulating the production of feel-good brain chemicals, and improving your self-image. If you're struggling to get your mind to be quiet during exercise, put some fun music on in your headphones or push yourself even harder. When you challenge your body, you will need to focus so you won't be able to worry about anything else other than the exercise itself.

6. Have a designated worry time and worry notebook.

If you really want to take control of those worries and you're finding that the above strategies don't work, allow yourself to worry for a certain time period every day. Spend that time writing about all your worries in that notebook, and accept that when the time is up, the worrying will have to stop. That way, you will get them out of your head and onto paper, which is very effective in clearing your head.

Remember that worrying is a completely normal human emotion and that there is no need for you to beat yourself up about worrying. But you will be able to reduce your stress levels and boost your positive emotions if you're at least able to stop worrying about things you can't change. For the things that you can change, do something about them and fight your worry with action. For the things that you can't change, have a play with these six strategies to let your worries go.

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