Epiphany: I worry in an attempt to control things.

October 16th, 2014 | Posted by Erica House in Life

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.

Well, that’s where almost 100% of my anxiety comes from. Worrying about future events in an attempt to control them.
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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.

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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?

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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.

Why do you think you stress? 
Do you often worry about future events? 

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20 Responses

  • I’m a worrier too, and I have my “favorite” things to worry about and they’re definitely not always the most relevant things. Learning to accept uncertainty is so tough, but one of life’s biggest lesson, if not the biggest! It seems many of our bad habits come out of this uncertainty and fear.

  • SuzLyfe says:

    I used to be a worrier, I used to put a lot of stock in luck in order to take the pressure off. Then one day I think I came to the conclusion that a) I make my own luck, and life fills in the rest (the unavoidable component), and b) that controlling my outlook and perspective was half the battle. The realization that fear was linked to the potential for physical harm, and nerves to excitement also helps me to filter and then deal with my feelings.

  • Tina Muir says:

    Oh Erica, I need this right now. Okay, thats a lie, I always need this! I am a big worrier too (you will get a kick out of my post), even in my races I worry about what others are doing and it bothers me that I can’t control it! Thanks for these tips, I think I will try and find that book, would be an interesting read!

  • Bri says:

    I’m exactly the same – my biggest stress is also trying to control the future and worrying and thinking about every possible bad outcome. I’ve found listening to guided meditation podcasts help quite a bit and help me practice being more in the moment, but I need to do it more regularly.

  • I am a walking ball of anxiety and I’m going through the same journey you are trying to control it but its hard. I hope whatever is stressing you out will work out!

  • Mel says:

    Long-time reader… Did something happen with your engagement? The tone of the blog has changed these last few posts, no mention of November wedding. I do hope everything is ok.

    • Erica House says:

      Wedding is definitely still on! I just didn’t want to talk too much about wedding planning and such on my blog since we really aren’t planning that much with only 6 guests coming. I will be sharing tons of photos of the event though!

  • Jenny says:

    Hugs to you my friend! I am SO guilty as charged when it comes to the worry factor! We need to work on that don’t we? :-)

  • Erin h says:

    Thanks Erica! I really needed this and I hope whatever is stressing you is resolved soon. Hoping for the best for you!

  • Yes to all of these quotes! Ugh I hate anxiety! I hope everything gets better for you! <3

  • Alma says:

    I think these are all great points. I think it’s important to look at it from the perspective of what could happen versus what will most likely happen versus what can I control. One thing that helped me a lot when life was really hard was realizing that–no matter what–I could choose my response. I had a lot of anxiety and was afraid all the time. Then, my worst feared happened and I sorta hit bottom. What was crazy was that–when the worst case scenario happened–I found a way to make it alright. It was scary, but I got through it. I learned from that time in my life that nothing I could experience would ever match my imagination. I also learned to lean on people–a lot–and accept that I couldn’t fix anything. I could make it tolerable, but I had to ask for what I needed. I live with a lot less fear now, and I actually benefited a lot from that awful time–in the long run. What needs to happen always does. We just have to change to be able to accept it and embrace it.

    • Erica House says:

      It may sound borderline delusional but I’ve been trying to reprogram the way I respond to things and instead of just responding my usual way I stop and ask myself “how would the person I’m trying to become respond?” She would be calm, cognizant, and purposeful.

  • Krista says:

    I can definitely pick up that you’re going through some rough/stressful times. I hope all’s okay. Take care of yourself. Hugs.

  • This post definitely speaks to me. I’m a worrier, but so much so that sometimes I convince myself I’m not. Expecting my first baby has thrown me for a loop lately, not being in control of anything that goes on with my body or what will happen in childbirth or once I have the baby. It’s all very nerve-wracking for me. I sit around and think of lots of situations, but really, it doesn’t matter because what’s going to happen will and I just need to be prepared for it. Worrying doesn’t help that! I am actively trying to remain peaceful before it all happens.

    I hope whatever is going on for you settles soon and you are able to get some physical relief!

    • Erica House says:

      Thank you! Congrats on your first baby! I know with any situation when there’s nothing you can actually do that worrying is totally pointless. SO much easier said then done! I’d imagine being pregnant (and then being a mother) is the ultimate test in letting go.

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