If you’re anything like me, you are worrying about something far more often than not. In fact, if you’re like me, the only time you’re not worrying is when you’re sleeping (and even then, I usually have nightmares). Worry is something that has permeated nearly every minute of my life, and it is only relatively recently that I have understood why and what I can actually do about it.
Chronic worry is a symptom of anxiety, just like emotional eating, drinking, shaking your leg while sitting, pulling your hair, or compulsively doing the dishes every day can all be symptoms of anxiety. But chronic worry is particularly painful, because, whether it’s something you did or something you have yet to do, there is always something to worry about. That was probably the first big lightbulb moment I had – there will literally always be something that I can worry about, so the real resolution is not to change the outside, but to change the inside… to change my perspective.
In order to do this, I first had to understand one very important fact: there is no such thing as self-sabotage. Everything we do, we do because one if not many parts of us think it is in our best interest. So, the question was, how is worrying all the time benefiting me? Or, why would not worrying all the time be so bad? Because it’s keeping me safe. I believed that constantly projecting the worst was actually saving me from it. It’s a seemingly logical conclusion, but it’s completely mistaken. As Teal Swan puts it, “If worry is the only way you know how to feel safe, then you will never in your life actually feel safe”.
And here’s where things get really profound. Empowered people never stay in worry for long for two main reasons: first, they have no resistance to worry (meaning they don’t try to escape it or run from it – they know it’s a valid emotion to feel) and this allows them to do the second thing, which is to work with the sensation of worry to guide them towards solutions.
So, the only reason a person would chronically stay in worry is because they live in a fundamental state of shame and powerlessness.
I’ve heard some psychologists say that long-term worry can lead to low self-esteem or low confidence, but I say the low self-esteem is what CAUSES chronic worry. You simply would not stay constantly focused on worst-case scenarios if you embraced and learned from your pain. But when you feel fundamentally “not good enough” and powerless, then embracing, validating and learning from your pain never happens, at least not in any kind of consistent way.
So, how do you stop worrying? I know I sound like a broken record, but awareness is always the first step. If you haven’t already, become aware of just how chronically worried you are, acknowledge the constant anxiety that drives it, and let yourself hit rock bottom. You must realize in every cell of your body that you can’t continue like this. You cannot afford live the rest of your life with chronic worry, because that means you will have no quality of life at all. Hitting rock bottom in this way and fully feeling the pain of your situation can cause some shifts in and of itself. Then the real work begins, and for me, that has been the work on my self-worth and my boundaries – the work of caretaking my pain instead of running from it. I now take every opportunity of feeling like I’m not good enough to remind myself of the opposite and to do some healing work.
It’s not an overnight process. There is no switch you can flip that will make everything perfect. But if you stay committed to healing your lack of self-worth, if you stay committed to owning your power instead of shying away from it, the habit of worry will start to fade and the lenses through which you look at life will start to brighten.