How To Overcome Fear and Worry
I worry, a lot, about everything. I’ve always been this way.
I’m not an emotional worrier though. In fact most people who know me would probably be surprised at this admission. My worry is tied more to extreme over-analyzation. The mental gymnastics that I am constantly engaged in always leads to the conclusion that causes the worry: I’m not in control!
The problem is that I so badly want to be in control, and I want to know what every outcome will be. I want to make choices that I know will result in the desired outcome I want. I’m the kind of guy that will spend hours and hours researching something before I make a decision and still second guess myself after I’ve made the most educated one. I always wonder, “What if I had gone with the other one or did the other thing instead?”
I spend so much energy and time trying to make the best decision, and by the end, I’m stressed out and regret the choice anyway. I’m always worried about missing out on the best option. I often will miss it when it’s right in front of me, or will pass it by - waiting for better - only to come back to the original one after hours of pointless searching and frustration.
Last year at Christmas my son kept talking endlessly about getting a Bumblebee Transformer for a present. I spent so much time looking online for that toy and price comparing it everywhere. Then, I drove all over town to so many different stores looking for one. Lucky for me, Transformers were not the big toy anymore that year and were nearly impossible to find. I did find one at the first store, but didn’t think it was good enough. So I decided to keep looking. Several frustrating hours later, I found myself right back at that first store buying that first Transformer I found. I was so worried about finding the perfect one at the perfect price that I cost myself a whole evening away from my family for no reason. In the end he loved it, but it quickly ended up like every other toy, lying at the bottom of the toy bin and rarely played with.
Too often I waste so much energy and time worrying and living in fear that I miss out on really living.
My wife is the opposite. She’s one to leap into something and then figure it out as she’s falling into it. Now that scares the crap out of me, but also makes me very jealous. She usually sleeps like a baby at night while I still toss and turn. She doesn’t usually feel stress before a decision, but sometimes will after if it proves to be a bad or less than perfect outcome. I stress before during and after. I’m all-in on the stress.
In many ways, we balance each other out perfectly. The good thing about both of us is that neither one of us is on the extreme end of things. We are both fairly rational and emotionally stable. She helps me let go a little more and encourages me to take more risk. I’m good at helping her recognize risk and avoid potentially bad decisions by seeing a bigger picture.
The longer we have been married and the older we get, we start to understand ourselves and each other better. We have learned how to lean on each other’s strengths to fill the gaps in our weaknesses. We are far from perfect, but we try. As they say: knowing is half the battle. Being married for almost 14 years, we understand each other - how we operate, what we’re good at and what we’re really not great at. It is extremely difficult to change who you are. Still today, my biggest struggle is letting go of things.
I’m slowly learning to let go of worry and fear more in order to enjoy each moment I’m in. I am always acutely aware of time and it’s passing quickly by. I often worry so much about time passing that I don’t enjoy what is happening. Just before we leave for vacation, I think, “this is going to go by so fast. We’ll be heading home soon and back to work.” This is such a negative mindset and puts me in a sour mood. I quickly become no good for my family and miss the whole point of vacation! Thankfully Jess, once again, does a good job of reminding me why we are there and tells me to stop thinking about the end and enjoy the moments we have.
I know for many of you, worry is a problem too. I’ve always been a worrier, but thought it was normal. As I get older, I’m figuring out that it actually has become more normal in our society, but it is also very unhealthy. I’ve had severe physical ailments because of worry. Worry can consume your life and limit you. I have missed many opportunities because of fears and worry.
So, what the heck do we do then with all this unhealthy worry?
Don’t worry about worry, there is hope.
I’ve learned a few things that have helped me:
Recognize worry for what it is. The more aware I am of myself and how I react to things, the more I am able to identify why I worry and what many of the things are that trigger it.
Gain a bigger perspective. The times I’m most stressed and worried are when I am so focused on what is right in front of me at the moment or fixated on a singular problem. When I step back to look at the bigger picture of my life, the thing that is stressing me looks so ridiculously small or inconsequential.
Exercise the body and mind. I’ve found that the more healthy I am physically and spiritually, the far less I worry. Adding exercise to my weekly routines and meditation or prayer times have balanced out my worry.
Serve others. When I take the focus off me and serve others, I don’t have time to think about what’s bothering me. As a result, I receive a great sense of fulfillment and peace -- which happens to be the opposite of worry.
These are just a few of the ways that I have found helpful for me. I hope they may be of some benefit to you if you struggle with fear and worry. Maybe you have some great ways that help you too? Feel free to share them. I know I’m always looking to learn new ways to let go of worry and the false perception that I’m in control.