A couple with three small children were living paycheck to paycheck. They were barely making ends meet. The wife worried constantly about the bills. The husband did not. In fact sometimes the wife would get frustrated with the husband when he seemed perpetually happy, playing with the children, laughing at a funny TV show. She would think, “how can he be happy, when I’m so stressed and worried.” So one morning when she had all the bills spread out over the kitchen table, as she often did, her husband came and sat by her side. He grabbed both of her hands and said, “Honey, I will gladly sit here and worry about these bills with you if you can show me how that is going to get these bills paid. But if isn’t going to help then I’m going to enjoy the evening. You can either enjoy it with me and the children or sit here and continue worrying.”
I love the story above. I often tell our patients that worry is such a wasted emotion. Worry is contagious. Your worrying affects others around you. What’s so funny about worrying, is when that thing you were worrying about happens (or doesn’t as is more often the case), you just begin worrying about something else. It’s as if there a “worry void” that needs to be filled up. Not only are the effects of worry detrimental mentally, but physically as well.
- Put a rubber band around you wrist. Every time you catch yourself worrying, snap the rubber band.
- Write down all the things that you are worried about each week. Cross off all those things that you have no control over, such as an act of terrorism. For the things you can do something about, put the worry energy into actually doing something. As said by Mary Hemingway, “Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.”
- Realize you aren’t in complete control of the course of your life; You may set the sails in a certain direction, but you can’t control the wind.
- Finally try to live one day at a time. Yesterday is over. Tomorrow is a potential gift. But today is here and now and real. Why waste your current time with worry about tomorrow and regret from yesterday.