How To Clean Up Worry Clutter

I’ve noticed that worrying is like praying for what you don’t want to happen.” – Robert Downey, Jr.

ARE YOU someone who tends to worry a lot? I’m not a big worrier, but I can fall down the rabbit hole from time to time.

My brother-in-law, Mark, has this uncanny ability to not worry about anything outside of his control. It’s both admirable and annoying for the same reason: Because I wish I could do the same.

Worrying is a type of mental clutter that can be cleared relatively easily by determining whether your worry is productive or unproductive. So when I find myself starting to spiral, I do my best to pump the brakes and check in to see which category mine falls into.

Is there any action I can take to address the situation I’m worrying about? Anything I can do to make it better? To make myself feel less agitated? If so, then my worrying is productive, so I brainstorm — either in my mind or on a piece of paper — a list of steps I can take to help alleviate it, and then I act.

For example, if I’m worried about my health, I can make better food choices and move my body more. I can make an appointment for a physical.

If I’m worried about a friend, I can call and check in. These actions will have a direct impact on decreasing my worry.

But if there’s nothing I can do to improve the situation I’m worrying about, then it’s unproductive and only serves to drive me crazy.

Let’s say I’m worried as I await test results from my doctor appointment. I might start hyperfocusing on scary scenarios: “What if it’s bad news?” “What if I waited too long to get checked out?”

There’s nothing I can do about those concerns. I have taken every action I can (see a doctor and have the test done) so this unproductive worrying does me no good. All I can do is wait the results and determine my next steps if any are necessary.

What unproductive worrying does do is it gives you a chance to practice surrendering. If you’re someone who takes comfort in being in control (I’m with ya, my friend) then this will feel pretty uncomfortable at first. But here’s what’s kind of cool: realizing your worry is unproductive almost gives you permission to take your hands off the wheel, and when you get over the initial hump of discomfort, it’s quite a peaceful place.

To help me get to that place, I repeat the following mantra in my mind:

“I’ve done all I can.”

“I’ve done all I can.”

“I’ve done all I can.”

Having a repetitive phrase to focus on takes your mind away from the worry and choosing the words to help reinforce the idea of surrendering doesn’t hurt either.

So when you find yourself in a spiral of unproductive worrying, I give you full permission to adopt my mantra as your own!

There are enough real situations going on these days to worry about, so why add to it by clogging up your mind, heart, and spirit with any more?

Can I get an Amen?

Be kind to yourself and your worry.

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