By Brad Beckstrom
I’ll admit it. I am a worrier. I’ve spent too much time worrying about things that never happened. It’s bad, I’ve even read book(s) about worrying and fear. I come from a whole family of worriers. When my Dad’s business was struggling, he used to take off his glasses and rub his eyebrows. I watched him rub them almost completely off! They grew back. One thing I’ve learned is that we all have worries and fears. Think about worries and fear, I bet every person you know has at least one of these. Worries about Health, Family, Work, Finances or something silly like “the unknown”. Some folks worry about all of these to an extent, and then they listen to the news, or talk radio and worry about world events. If you worry, you’re in good company.
If everybody worries, why are some people so much better at dealing with it than others? Some are consumed by it, and others turn it into motivation. The key is developing a mental toughness allowing you to silence the worry voices, or at least put them in the back row of that noisy crowd of voices in your head. Just like the muscles in our body, the brain needs some exercise to keep it healthy. A healthy brain helps us develop mental toughness.
6 great ways to crush worry and develop mental toughness
Write your fears down and turn them into ideas.
Writing your worries down is a great way to frame up your fears and redefine them, even if it’s just a list or short paragraph. I woke up at 4:30 AM, worried about something so I thought I’d write about “worry” in a blog post. If you have this problem, keep a small notepad by the bed. If you wake up, forgot something or are worrying again, just write a quick note and go back to sleep. I like to think of this as moving the worry from my head to paper, so I can get back to sleep. It’s also helpful if you wake up with brilliant idea. I have a small moleskin notebook with the title “ideas” on the cover. When I write something in there I’m already reframing my worry as an idea. Tip: don’t use a smartphone for this. It’s fine during the day but you don’t want screen glare and notifications waking you up in the night.
Put your fears in perspective.
A while back I was worried about my health, including high blood pressure and cholesterol. I remembered reading about Tabata training, a high intensity 20 minute exercise routine that I could do five days a week. I made a note about it then later researched it and wrote about it. When you frame up a fear and address it, you put it in perspective. Once I began to address my health with a short daily exercise habit, it allowed me to get that worry off the list. Many worries like money or health are repetitive, revolving around one or two things. Go after those first.
Take a Stoic approach.
The Stoics believed that no matter how difficult things become, you should be grateful for what you have, as there is always someone with much more difficult circumstances. So when I compare my high blood pressure and cholesterol with health challenges others have it helps me put this in perspective and silence that worry. You need go no further than Facebook to find friends battling cancer, kidney disease, and other serious illnesses. It’s also possible, if you’re battling a serious disease, to be thankful for modern medical care that gives you the best shot at beating it. Many folks in other parts of the world or long-lost relatives never got that shot. Dedicate your battle to them.
Get on a high quality low information diet.
I used to look at the stock market and scan news sites every day. These would actually create worries. Stock market gyrations, bad economic reports, terrorist activity, political scandals. Each of these is a perfect example of things that are outside of your control. Cut them out. It’s far better to create a curated feed from non-news bloggers and podcasters. All you need is a smartphone or tablet. For example, if you’re in business you’ll learn a lot more useful information following someone like Seth Godin than any of the network news sites. A free feed reader like Feedly will give you a great reading experience and strip out a lot of the ads. If you’re listening to talk radio, replace it with podcasts with fewer ads and a lot less bad news. See the links above for recommendations and how to set these up.
Mindfulness is not necessarily meditation, it can be something as simple writing down three things you’re grateful for each day. That’s it, just a few words. Write them down and look at them for a few minutes while you’re having your coffee. Think about things you’re grateful for now and try to replace regrets from the past or worries about the future and simply focus on now. It’s easy to be grateful, you can include the simplest things, even the coffee. Prayer and meditation are both ways of practicing mindfulness. If you’d like to practice meditation I recommend guided meditation. Download the free app Calm to try out two minute meditation sessions on their seven-day meditation introduction. It’s not just for yogis anymore.
Address your biggest worries with a daily practice
I talked about exercise, mindfulness, being grateful, creating a positive flow of useful information and reframing worries as ideas. Some of these tasks take two minutes, others, like exercise, take longer. Whatever you decide to incorporate into your day think about creating a daily practice. A daily practice is simply a small set of good habits that you do daily. A daily practice doesn’t require you to add tasks to an already busy day, it’s simply is a way to replace some poor habits with great ones. For instance replacing news, cable TV and talk radio with reading and curated entertainment that fits better with your interests and passions. I share a lot more information about stacking good habits and building a daily practice here.
Here a few books I’ve read on beating worry and creating a daily practice. These are not your typical self-help books, you’ll know that after the first 10 pages of Choose Yourself or The Obstacle is the Way. The next time you feel like catching up on the news try jumping into one of these books instead.