Two pieces of advice for chronic worriers
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This might be the best thing chronic worriers and anxious folks will read today.
For starters, you know how the mind works — you’re probably way too familiar if you consider yourself a worrier. You’re here enjoying your day, sipping wine with friends, or trying to focus on work, trying to learn a new yoga pose, or simply feeding your kids. Then it suddenly wants your attention — like a stubborn, spoiled child, it will eventually get to you after its incessant cries for attention. You’d better give what it needs; otherwise, it won’t leave you alone.
Chronic worriers struggle to function in a normal society. Their attention has to be divided between living a normal life and dwelling anywhere other than in the present moment. They may worry about something from the past and indulge in self-blame and judgment. They may also get concerned they’ll be in trouble for their choices in the future. They also may feel like losing their minds when they cannot make a choice.
I must say that last week my mind seemed to be winning — I was getting my butt kicked. Badly. Meditation didn’t seem to help. Advice from friends didn’t either. Good reads couldn’t distract me enough. Was I losing it? You bet I was.
I had been caught up in a dramatic mental dilemma, where I told myself I had to make a decision and do something to avoid a possible “threat.” My heart begged me to let it go, but my mind kept pushing — it tried to shame me. “If you don’t do something about it, you are a bad person.” You know the voice of your mind. You must be strong enough to be the observer and to see how ridiculous it sounds sometimes. But even when you observe it, it still holds some power over you.
Then I meditated, prayed, and set a good intention. I know my “I Am” (so hum) presence, my connection to all that there is. This unlimited and loving power is infinite, and its mind knows more than my limited, judgemental mind. I simply asked for help. I just need some advice. Then I kept doing my affairs, knowing that at some time I’d have the answers I was looking for somehow. I also let go of resisting my feelings. I allowed them to be there — and that is huge, as resisting always makes things worse.
So what can you do when you cannot fight the “enemy” in your head? Can we ever stop worrying or indulge in self-blame? Why is it so hard to stay present and observe our thoughts anyway? How do we make a conscious and right choice? What can we do to protect ourselves?
I’ll share the two pieces of advice I got a few days after I asked for inner guidance. These two pieces are my new rules for living a life a little bit more freely — they may help you worry less about the consequence of your actions and allow life to run its course without your constant trying and control it.
Rule #1: It’s okay not to have all answers.
Who told you that you need to know everything? If you don’t know what to do at the moment, it’s okay. The first thing you need to do before making an important decision or even worry about something is to let go of what you think you know (or should know) about a situation. It’s okay not to have all the answers to your so-called problems. It’s okay not to have your life all figured out in your 30s and 40s. It’s okay not to know if you’ll end up spending your life in misery or if you’re going to become successful.
You are not a god. You’re just human. Not knowing is a pure state of liberation. It opens your heart to all possibilities. People who like to shape their realities according to what their minds label as right and safe tend to suffer the most. They think they have everything under control when actually they don’t. When things go wrong, they feel groundless and panicked, and the drama within starts.
Isn’t it so much easier to simply admit that we don’t know everything? This mindset alone should help us shed layers of guilt, fear, judgment, and suffering. When we don’t see the world through our judgemental lenses, we start to become kinder to everyone and ourselves. Maybe you’re just trying to do your best. Maybe you did what you could in your painful past. Maybe that career was the best one for you back then. Maybe that partner was the one you needed. Maybe it’s not so bad to be where you are now.
Regardless, you don’t need to know what life would have been like had you made another choice. It’s also totally cool to be unaware of your future. Again, it’s okay not to know.
Rule #2 — It’s okay if you make a mistake… again.
We tend to be so harsh on ourselves. Perfectionist people are often chronic worriers, and they cannot handle the idea that they could make a mistake. For some people, making a mistake is enough to feel useless, worthless. They also worry that their choices may get them in trouble in the future.
Regardless of worst-case scenarios and self-blame: it’s okay if we screw things up sometimes. Mostly because of rule #1: we didn’t know any better. As long as we are not intentionally trying to hurt someone, why are we so harsh on ourselves?
What’s seriously the worst it can happen in most situations we worry about or regret? Think about it for a second and you’ll see it’s not as bad as your mind pictures it. We may choose a job that sucks and we will regret it later. We may hurt a friend because of something we did. We could lose lots of money and disappoint our families. We could be in big trouble. And all that sucks.
But at the end of the day, the world won’t stop spinning because we made a mistake. Life goes on. Flowers keep blooming, birds will still sing. And we do what we’re supposed to do: we learn a lesson and move on.
Again, we are not gods, so why do we expect perfection? Didn’t we do the best we could anyway?
This rule allows us to look at ourselves with kindness too. Of course, we can still try and be safe and do what’s best for our loved ones. But just knowing that making a mistake or two makes us human teaches us to be more open to making choices without fear. We fear moving forward because deep inside we are afraid of making a mistake. Now we can simply choose what we want and know in our hearts that the universe is kind, and if we need to compensate somehow, for doing too much or too little, we will have choices for our happy ending.
I really don’t believe there is a god, a spiritual judge with the hammer, just waiting to sentence you with a life of suffering and punishments. I truly believe the universal mind is kind and supportive. Just like a teacher who guides a student who is having trouble with math, it will guide us to do better. So let’s not worry so much about making the wrong choices. Meditate, ask for help, guidance, but if it’s still a bit confusing, simply do the best you can and let it go.
Letting go can be one of the hardest lessons in life. If you have been with a toddler, you’ll know how hard it is to convince them to drop that sharp, dangerous object or that forbidden food. He shakes his head at your request. If you chase him, he will run from you, but he won’t let go.
Don’t we all look like toddlers after all? We live in a beautiful universe that somehow manages to take care of itself. Day and night come without our interference. The waves don’t need our permission to embrace the coast. And yet, we need to hold on to something to feel safe — we are human toddlers after all!
What are we trying to avoid? Suffering? Shame? Punishment? Fear is human nature, and so is guilt. Guilt is also fear-based as it is fear of punishment too. If we understand that we don’t know everything and it’s okay, and that if we make a mistake, it’s also okay, what do we have left to control? Answer that honestly.
The answer is nothing. We have nothing left but a vast world of possibilities. Most of them may even look promising and beautiful. But we get attached to the worst possibilities. But you’ll never know if the “ugly” scenarios will become real. So allow yourself to not know, and don’t be afraid to live. Live as if this was your last day. What would you honestly focus on if this was your last day anyway?
Sometimes you need to let go of everything you thought you knew, of everything you labeled good or bad, right or wrong, so you could finally find yourself as you really are: legitimately flawed, but also limitless and good-hearted.
“Psychotherapy seeks for an improvement in neurotic balance. Letting go, however, eliminates it all together.”
― David R. Hawkins, Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender