Worry? Ain’t nobody got time for worry! I debated for a while about where to put this topic. Would it be better-suited under eliminate or alleviate? There will be plenty to come for eliminate, so I decided to put it here. Also, let’s be real – I don’t think it’s practical to totally eliminate it, but I do think we can alleviate worry. Worry is part of human nature. To tell someone to stop worrying completely is to tell the person that just jumped off the bridge to stop falling – it’s not going to happen.

But what can we do to at least minimize worry and its impact on us?

Although there are countless quotes out there about worry, two of my favorites are below.

“Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.” – Mark Twain

“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.” – Michel de Montaigne

I think worry is a big issue in our world today and, nine times out of ten, we worry about things we have ZERO control over. And I believe that word – control – is a large part of our problem. We can’t control every single situation, and we certainly can’t control other people. Trying to do either is a recipe for disaster.

The only person we can control is ourselves and, while we can’t control everything around us, or everything that happens to us, we can control how we react.

So how can you react when that worry starts to creep in?

As I mention on my resources page, the book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, by Dale Carnegie, can really change your life. A few of the core tenets of the book are outlined below.

Live in “day-tight compartments”

Yesterday is dead, and tomorrow is not yet born. Carnegie says that this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t not prepare for tomorrow (that is still very important), but we must focus most of our energy on today, and deal with tomorrow when it arrives. After all, tomorrow is not guaranteed anyway!

Eight words that can transform your life

Carnegie shares a quote from Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius said “our life is what our thoughts make it”. Pretty simple, right? Thinking positive thoughts will make you feel a lot happier than thinking negative thoughts all day. Give it a shot. While you’re at it, go back and read my article about appreciating your life!

Four steps for dealing with worry

I personally like this one the best. Carnegie lays out the following steps to take when you begin to worry:

  1. Write down specifically what you’re worried about.
  2. Write down what you can do about it.
  3. Decide what to do.
  4. Do it!

The beauty of this process is step two. As I mentioned above, most of the time we worry about things that we have zero control over. So if you get to step two and realize that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, you’re done. Move on! Redirect that energy into something positive for the day, something that you CAN control!

If, however, you can do something about it, keep the following three things in mind, as outlined by Carnegie:

  1. Ask yourself, “what is the worst that can possibly happen?”.
  2. Prepare to accept it, if you have to.
  3. Proceed to improve on the worst possible outcome.

Lastly, worry can have a major physical impact on our bodies.

Carnegie shares a number of examples of ailments related to stress but, given that this book was written in 1948, I looked into more recent articles about the impact of worry on our health.

According to this article on WebMD, chronic worry leads to emotional stress. The stress hormones released by our body cause a number of reactions which, left unchecked, can result in serious medical situations that include suppression of the immune system, digestive disorders, muscle tension, short-term memory loss, premature coronary artery disease, heart attack, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Don’t know about you, but I think I’ll pass on the emotional stress.

The next time you begin to worry, go through Carnegie’s four steps. I’d be surprised if you get past step two!