3 Calming Ways to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Unknown
I have a lot of hobbies: scrapbooking, rubbing Skyla’s belly, drinking gallons of Starbucks coffee until I’m a jittery mess, and singing Frozen songs loudly and obnoxiously.
Then there’s my favorite hobby; the one I devote the biggest chunk of my precious time to.
Yup, I may appear to be an in-control solo entrepreneur with a knack for writing about productivity and success…but I worry about nearly every aspect of my life.
And I bet you do too.
The world can be a scary place (like the contents of my playlist labeled “Guilty Pleasures”), but worrying makes it even more terrifying than it really is.
Here are the most common worries I hear from my clients and readers:
- I’m worried I’ll never find a career I can be passionate about.
- I’m worried about making enough money to support myself and do what I want.
- I’m worried that if I put myself out there, people will laugh at me.
- I’m worried that my business idea will flop and I’ll be a failure.
- I’m worried that these sad feelings will never go away.
Whoa. That’s some heavy stuff.
Worrying is our ego’s way of protecting us from perceived harm. As Gay Hendricks says in one of my favorite books The Big Leap, when we reach the upper limit of our happiness, we’ll worry and create doubts to bring us back down to our normal comfort zone.
But worrying keeps us from achieving our goals. You bet I worried about starting my own business, but it was so worth it once I pushed past my fears.
I worry about what people think of me, but I still record videos, do interviews, and appear on camera. It’s a great feeling when my clients say they hired me because I’m goofy, unpolished, and “just like them.”
What unknown dangers are you trying to protect yourself from by worrying?
Here’s how you can stop worrying and embrace the unknown. And kick some ass!
Figure Out the Worst Case Scenario
One of my most popular blog posts is called What’s the Worst That Could Happen? It resonates with you gals because it’s all about going to that worry-filled place in your mind…and realizing it’s not so bad after all.
Think about your problem, then ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the worst that could happen? Really, go there. Map out the extreme worst case scenario. Don’t hold back, and get as detailed as possible. Mine involves grizzly bears.
- What’s the most likely thing that could happen? Think about what is the most realistic outcome, seriously. Be honest with yourself, even if you have to admit that there’s no real danger.
- Is the risk worth taking anyway? Life is scary, but we’ll never grow unless we take risks. So, ask yourself if this risk is worth taking even if the most likely unpleasant scenario happens.
Swim in the Positivity Pool
Your worrying might start with just a few small doubts: “I’m not as smart as she is” or “I don’t have enough time to do what I want to do.” But then your worries get bigger and dirtier until you’re covered in a mucky sense of self-doubt.
The best way to clean off that icky negative feeling is to take a swim in the positivity pool. By surrounding yourself with feelings of gratitude, optimism, and hope, you’ll begin to think clearer and more objectively about your situation.
I encourage all my clients to start a gratitude practice, which can include writing in a gratitude journal or filling a thank you jar with all your daily blessings. And a vision board is a beautiful way to surround yourself with images of what truly matters in your life.
Your future is unknown…and that means it can be wonderful too.
Zone Out in the Zen
But what if nothing seems to squash your worrying? If you’re really struggling to stop worrying about the unknown, it’s time for you to focus on what you do know.
The present moment.
Meditating is an excellent way to center yourself and be at peace with where you are right now. There’s no right or wrong way to mediate. I do visualization meditations, smile meditations, walking meditations, and I even meditate in line at the grocery store!
Take 5 minutes today to step away from your computer or phone and find a quiet place to sit. Breathe in and out slowly and imagine the tension flowing out of your body. Visualize your worries shrinking in size until they disappear completely.
Mediation works best when you make it a habit, so it’s OK if you still feel worried after your first try. Keep at it, and remember to pause and mediate when you’re feeling most anxious.
This post focuses on Step 1 of the Life Editing Process, Create a Foundation, and Step 2, Delete Bad Influences. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.
3 Simple Steps to Become a Productivity Superstar
Dump your excuses, transform your habits, and become the most productive person you know.
Great advice Sage! I’m definitely a worrier and it has held me back over the years in chasing down the kind of life that I wanted, but recently I’ve been stepping it up a notch and embracing the unknown. Surrounding yourself with positive people is essential, but so is the belief in yourself – that no matter how bad things *may* get you will survive + be able to handle it xx
I worry a lot too. Currently I’m working a job that is strictly commission and I have about 3 weeks left of expenses in my bank account, and haven’t made a sale yet. It’s a little scary to say the least, but I can’t give up because its my best chance to live the life that my kids and I deserve where they can participate in activities, go to the dentist when they need to and maybe go camping for a weekend here and there again.
If I worry about paying my bills right now, I know I’ll give up and just get another 9-5 job that sees me going into further debt each year as the salary isn’t likely to cover even the basics. So, when I get worried about things like this, I focus on the goal at the end and remind myself that even if I fail, I can’t be any worse off than I currently am. You can’t be broker than broke, but focusing on my abilities and staying optimistic gives me hope. So I guess you could say that I focus on what I’m hopeful for more than what I worry about and that helps my anxiety.
Meditation and prayer works for me. Also, thinking about past situations where I was worried about something but everything turned out wonderfully. Those are just a few things I do to help me stop worrying.
Absolutely, Lori! The best answers come to me when I get quiet and still.
Oh man, I worry alot. And when I say alot, I mean alot (like severe anxiety disorder alot).
Like you I alway look at the worst case scenario because if I can live with that I can make a decsision and move on. I also recognize that my frame of mind is a huge factor in terms of the way I frame things in my mind. I try to meditate daily and journal each day in my gratitude journal to keep myself focused on the positive as much as possible.
Hey Rebecca! Yeah, the worst case scenario is never all that bad. At least you survived whatever it is, right? 🙂 And good for you for keeping a gratitude journal!
Smart advice. Like you, I worry a lot. It used to be worse. I picked up some of your tips and wish I’d learned them sooner. Life is harder than we expect it to be.
And worrying makes life that much harder! Thanks for commenting, Ally. 🙂
I worry about EVERYTHING and my anxiety can really overwhelm me if I’m not conscious of it at all times. I’ve been trying really hard to embrace positive thinking. It seems so simple but sometimes when I feel myself getting too overwhelmed with worry and anxiety I just stop and breathe. I count each breath and I focus only on the breath and it clears my mind and the things that I’m worrying about. After I do this for a minute or a few minutes I’m usually able to continue on with what I’m doing. It doesn’t work every time but it works quite a bit. I’m still a work in progress but I’ve become a lot more positive and I will definitely use your tips in the future! Thanks for another great post!
I have my anxious episodes too. Counting breaths is an awesome way to calm down in the moment–a very simple meditation. Positive thinking sounds easy, but it takes a lot of practice to make it a habit. And I think some people are more prone to worrying than others. We just have to be aware of our tendencies. Thanks for always leaving thoughtful comments, Sarah.
I subscribed to your site after seeing you on Creative Live. I am glad that I did. I was not expecting to enjoy the material as much I do. The content is wonderful and I love the concept of your role as a life editor. Brilliant.
Oh wow! Thank you so much, Angela. This is the best compliment I’ve received in a while. It makes me very happy that you like the content I cover on my blog.
Such wonderful advice, Sage. This post is perfect for me right now because we’re contemplating some major life changes lately (which is why I’ve been scarce lately). Living in the moment is what helps me & I also practice the “worst case” scenario. Talking things over with Mike always helps me, as well, because he’s a very rational person. 🙂
Hi Molly! It’s so good to “see” you here on my blog. 🙂 I think relationships work best when one person is more rational than the other. The worst case scenario game helps me think clearly when I’m getting emotional about a decision or big change. And the worst thing that could happen often isn’t that bad. I’m excited that you’re making big changes, and wish you luck and lots of love!
This is one of my biggest struggles. Recently I’ve found that if I pick up a book and let my mind focus on something else for a while the problem doesn’t seem as bad when I come back to it.
As for meditation I’m trying to start a daily habit of morning yoga, but am fighting the productivity part of my mind that tells me it’s wasted time. I know it’s actually good for me, but it’s hard to take time out for yourself.
Hey Sarah! I like your trick of distracting yourself with a book and then coming back to your problem. Sometimes a break is just what we need to think rationally again. Making time for yourself is hard…but you’ll feel so much better and be more productive during your day if you spend just a few minutes on yourself first. Keep practicing until it becomes a habit.
I am a worrier by nature, but I always try to assume that it is just as likely to achieve the best case scenario and focus on that.
I like the quote “Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strengths”
Hey Richelle! Yes! Thinking about the best case scenario is a great way to stop worrying in the moment.