Stop worrying, let things happen, and be the boss

Aug 27, 2014

If worrying were an olympic sport, I would be the Michael Phelps of it. Almost as if, like Michael Phelps, my body was somehow better equipped for it.

Not everyone is plagued by chronic worrying, however, any amount of time spent in an unhealthy cycle of worry and anxiety can have a negative impact on our productivity, health, and overall well being.

Why do we worry?

Worry is commonly caused by a fear of the unknown. Which is of course ridiculous when you stop to think of it, because EVERYTHING is unknown to us. We don’t know and have no control over what will happen to anything, yet, we worry about it. Robert L. Leahy, PhD, the author of The Worry Cure: 7 Steps to Stop Worry From Stopping You explains:

“People worry because they think something bad will happen or could happen, so they activate a hypervigilant strategy of worry and thing that ‘if I worry I can prevent this bad thing from happening or catch it early’. ’’

--Robert L. Leahy, PhD

Freelancers specifically can be overcome by worry and anxiety if they bite off more than they can chew with clients, take on a project that is out of their comfort zone, or stress over impending deadlines. Anxiety can also stem from worrying about how you may be perceived by others either in a personal or professional situation.

As a chronic worrier I do my best to cope with the anxiety and stress the best I can, but it’s not always easy. You can control what you can to the best of your ability, and the leave the rest up to the pros.

What can we do about it?

Make a list

Lists really are the answer to most of life’s problems. In this case, you should write down your worries and identify both the hard facts about each problem as well as the worries that are associated with them.

Analyze your list

Once you have identified the different parts of each issue and the worry that is stemming from it, you can then start to identify what concerns are productive and which ones are unproductive

Not all worrying is entirely negative, addressing the productive worries of something that is causing anxiety, and being aware of them can help you stay on track with being in control over the things you actually can control.

Embrace the unknown

There are of course many things that we can account for and control. For example, this blog post is not going to write itself (are blog writing robots SO hard to manufacture, really?), so I can account for that, and work towards completing it.

However, I cannot account for any one of the infinite possibilities of situations that might impede my ability to write this post. I could worry about losing all of my fingers in a freak accident, or, I could just embrace the future, no matter how many fingers it holds for me.

Talk or journal through it

It’s important for you to understand the roots of your issues and what your anxiety is related to. Talking or writing these issues out will help to dissect the cause for worry and make it more manageable going forward. Additionally, journaling is great for reducing stress and boosting immunity.

Be productive

The more time you spend using your time effectively, the less time you will have to worry and stress out. Seems simple, because it is! Knocking things off a to-do list is one of the best ways to combat worrying because it allows you to feel accomplishment which in turn boosts self-confidence.

Welcome distractions

If you are finding that you can’t be productive or even procrastinate productively (and you can afford to), distract yourself. Call a friend who you haven’t talked to in a long time, watch your go-to, always-makes-me-happy movie (I suggest The Jerk), or cook something elaborate and time consuming.

Police your brain

Be aware of your brain’s modus operandi when it comes to worrying and nip it in the bud. When you feel like you are starting to slip into that negative cycle of worry and anxiety, replace the negative with something positive, like a personal mantra. May I suggest the always effective: “Don’t worry be Yoncé.”

These steps have done wonders for my incessant worrying, what works for you?

Ashlee Christian is from the north-side of Chicago and will never stop saying "pop" or eating pizza with a fork and knife, so please stop trying to change her. Follow her on Twitter @nomadnation