All too often, we worry about things we cannot control. We worry about it raining on our wedding day, how our boss will react when we ask for a few days off, about the way our brother-in-law will behave at Thanksgiving, and a slew of other matters that we simply can’t influence. We go through life allowing ourselves to feel anxious about things we have no power over, as if we are somehow to be held responsible for them.
The fact of the matter is that life is filled with uncertainty and our ability to discern between the uncertainties we should act on and those we should just accept is key to our own happiness.
At the root of our desire to control the circumstances life throws at us is simply our survival instinct. If we have complete control over everything, we can avoid insecurities, discomfort, and self-doubt. In essence, control is a measure of protection.
Without it, we are left with feelings of despair, powerlessness, or even rage. But no matter what concerns you hold close to your heart, worrying about them is no way to live. The anxiety you feel from worry can actually stop you from enjoying life and experiencing greater personal growth. So how do you train your mind to stop worrying about things you can’t control? The following solutions should be helpful in enabling you to tone down your anxiety about the future.
Face Your Fears
In many ways, confronting your fears head-on can be helpful and even cathartic. You can do this on a daily or weekly basis by writing down what makes you anxious. Whether it’s worrying about what people think of you, what the day will bring, or anything else, simply sitting and rationally examining your fears can help you gain perspective.
When you take a deep dive into what you’re worried about, you may find that if you break those feelings down, many of them are based on fear of situations that are extremely unlikely to occur, or are of little consequence. Facing your fears can help you understand your own motivations; self-knowledge is an important aspect of achieving inner peace.
React With Intention
Although we don’t always have control over what happens to us in life, we can control how we react. For example, if a person was unkind or hurt you, you can react in a plethora of different ways. You could hang on to resentment, hate, and anger, or you could turn your hurt into understanding and compassion. By focusing on a desire for peace in all aspects of your life, you take back control. You can choose how you are going to react and how you let others make you feel.
Live in the Moment
The root of fear and worry is anxiety about the future. But the only thing that exists is what is happening right now. People who are trying to control their lives are living in the future. Instead, work on creating opportunities in the present moment. One of the easiest ways to do this is by practicing meditation and mindfulness. You can also take 15 minutes to go for a walk, write in a journal, or call a friend. Give yourself a timeout to refocus on what is happening now.
Perhaps you find yourself most worried when you are about to speak in public or when you are in social situations. While you could simply try to avoid people because of your social anxiety, that isn’t very practical. A more reasonable solution is to let go of your expectations and fear of the outcome. Instead of feeling terrified, work on controlling your attitude toward the event.
As mentioned, worry is a way to protect us from the unexpected. But if you let go of that fear, you embrace new opportunities that you otherwise may have missed. Giving yourself permission to let go and overcome your worries can be very freeing.
Seek Professional Help
Whether you have been a “worrier” all your life or you recently started feeling anxious, it can be an exceedingly difficult way to live. A common misconception is that worrying will make you feel safer about the things you cannot control. But that could not be further from the truth. Many people try to handle their anxieties on their own, but it’s often not effective.
Handling your anxieties alone can be hard, but it is easy to connect with a professional therapist to get some help in overcoming your worries. Sometimes, all you need is a sounding board to talk through what’s on your mind, and have a professional provide you with some techniques for gaining perspective and lowering your stress
Regardless of how you choose to handle your worries, it’s vital to your mental and physical health that you address these concerns. You deserve to be happy and should not let your anxiety get in the way.
- Leotti, L. A., Iyengar, S. S., & Ochsner, K. N. (2010). Born to choose: the origins and value of the need for control. Trends in cognitive sciences, 14(10), 457–463. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2010.08.001
- Shapiro, D. H., Jr, Schwartz, C. E., & Astin, J. A. (1996). Controlling ourselves, controlling our world. Psychology’s role in understanding positive and negative consequences of seeking and gaining control. The American psychologist, 51(12), 1213–1230. https://doi.org/10.1037//0003-066x.51.12.1213