Learn to Let Go of Worry
Anxiety and worry are emotions that many people deal with, at some level, almost every day. If you get lost in these heavy emotions, it is easy to lose sight of what matters most—what you really want to create in life.
When worrying takes you over, you may believe your only choice is to rely on old reactive habits to keep yourself from falling apart. Your harsh inner-Persecutor gets revved up, which pushes you into a Victim mindset, blaming you for your tendency to worry. It is common to then look for a Rescuer to numb or distract you from worrying. “Just stay busy,” you might tell yourself. Or find unhealthy distractions—and our cultures are full of ways for distraction and numbing out! This Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) worrying cycle will drain your energy and creativity.
The good news is that everyone has the capacity to learn to let go of worry.
Letting go begins with recognizing how the worrying cycle gets started in the first place. Worrying is nothing more than fear projected into the future. Fear about what might occur.
Mark Twain famously said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
You probably already know how difficult it is to stop worrying because the part of you that is trying to stop worrying is the part of you that worries. You worry about worrying. But there is hope. There are practices, combined with your willingness to change, that can truly transform your life.
The first step to letting go is accepting that your habit of worrying thwarts forward progress. Instead, replace it with a dedication to change. Otherwise there will be little motivation for you to let go.
The second step is to simply notice your thinking, while you are thinking. This allows you to be more aware in the moment and to watch with compassion the mixed emotions that arise from your thoughts.
Pause for two minutes right now and “listen” to your thoughts come and go. What do you say to yourself? You may notice dozens of mini-thoughts arising. Some thoughts go down a meandering path and expand, while others simply disappear. That is the nature of the shifting sands of your mind. Noticing how your thoughts come and go, without judging them, is the “secret sauce” to letting go.
As you practice being aware of your thoughts, the next step is to notice any judgments you may make. This practice is sometimes called “liking or disliking.” For example, right now notice: Do you like the background sounds of your environment? Do you like the temperature in the room? Are you annoyed by any sounds? Do you dislike the person talking to you? (And on and on.)
You may like something, so you want more of it. When you dislike something, you want less of it. If you are not aware of this constant appraisal going on in your thinking, you may not notice how you worry that you won’t get more of what you want, or avoid what you don’t want…so you worry!
A final recommendation is to develop several healthy distractions to help interrupt your worrying cycle. A healthy distraction is something that you enjoy and reduces the intensity of your worry. They are easy to do and are things you trust yourself to call when needed to help make you smile (not alcohol or drugs or other numbing distractions). It may be taking your dog for a walk, doing a crossword puzzle, taking a coffee break, or making a list of what you are grateful for.
Once you practice these steps, as a Creator, you will notice joy and other lighter emotions arise. You are learning to let go of worry!