I've been trying to make time to read a little bit every night before I go to bed this week. My book of choice is always my new bible, Full Catastrophe Living. It's comprehensive, but enjoyable and easy to read, and is helping me understand why I worry and how that worry is creating overall anxiety in my life. At one point the author imagines someone trying to control the weather and how absurd that would be. Putting all this time and energy into 'willing' a certain event to take place that you have absolutely no control over.
Normally when I get stressed out it hits a breaking point and then I turn up the badass meter and go into 'get shit done' mode. That hasn't happened this time around. For weeks I have been more stressed then I've ever been at any other time in my life (and once the dust settles I hope to share more of the details with you all.) I never reached my breaking point. It just got worse and worse. Finally, it hit me. There's nothing I can do to make my situation better. I just have to accept certain things in life.
When I'm stressed about work or writing assignments I just caffeinate up and bust out the work I need to get done. When I'm worried about money I start brainstorming about things I can do to make some extra cash. I've never been at a point where I'm worrying myself sick over things I can't prepare for or make better.
I'm having to learn the art of acceptance. Of letting go of expectations and control. I'm ROBBING myself of a happy and joyous life because all of my energy is being poured into a fruitless cause.
After I had this epiphany last week my stress levels immediately reduced. I'm still worrying, but now I almost laugh out loud when I think about all the time I've wasted obsessing over things that may never even happen, or things that have happened and I have no other choice than to accept them and move on.
Here are 10 great tips from Psychology Today that have helped me start to control my worry:
- Problem solve; don't worry. Knowing the difference between these two can be hard. If there is something you can do to change your situation, do it! If not, move on to tip 4.
- Don't waste time on 'what if' questions. Just stop it. They aren't helping you and you can be using the time to read, watch tv, or go for a walk.
- Don't fool yourself into thinking that worry is helpful. I used to do this a lot. I rationalized worry because it would 'prepare' me for the worst case scenario. No, if the worst case scenario does happen it will still suck just as bad if you spent 3 months worrying about it.
- Learn to accept uncertainty. That's life.
- Try to life your mood. I worry WAY less when I'm happy!
- Don't try to suppress unwanted worries. Don't ignore your worries or feel bad if they come up. Just acknowledge that you are thinking about them. Accept it, and move past it.
- Manage the time you worry. If you really feel like you HAVE to worry than set aside 5 minutes a day to worry. Worry your little heart out. Then move on.
- Change 'what if' worries to 'how can I' worries. If you play the 'what if' game then play it all the way out. I love doing this with my students. So what if the worst happens? How do you think you'd respond? What would it really feel like? Think it through rationally and you may find it isn't as bad as you anticipated.
- Prioritize sleep and write worries down before going to bed. Worrying can keep you up at night and one of the best tools to control it is to write all your worries down. It helps to purge them from your mind so that you can sleep better.
- Stay in the moment. If I find myself getting really worked up over worrying about something I'll try to stop and 'be here now.' Chances are, wherever 'here' is for you isn't that bad of a place to be. I'm usually sitting at home with Salem, or watching TV, or driving. Life ain't that bad is it?
Are my stress problems all solved? Absolutely not. I've been so stressed for so long this Fall that my TMJ is the worst it's ever been, my digestion is shot, and my back is one solid knot. I think it will take me a few weeks to truly feel like my old self again, but that's okay. I ain't going nowhere.
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Why do you think you stress? Do you often worry about future events?