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I’m getting tired of saying it, but this has been a rough year. A pandemic. Economic upheaval. A phenomenally divisive election. In the face of so much uncertainty, it’s no surprise that so many people are worried – including me. 2020 has given us plenty of cause for worry.
But no matter how legitimate the cause, more often than not, worrying is pointless at best and harmful at worst. As Winston Churchill once wrote, “Everyone remembers the remark of the old man at the point of death: that his life had been full of troubles most of which had never happened.”
Churchill’s observation may make you smile but I hope it will also make you think. When you look back on your life, what percentage of the things you worried about have actually come to pass? If you’re like most people, the number is probably in the single digits.
A certain amount of worry is normal and can help us make sensible choices. There’s something to be said for sorting out plans and contingencies or taking reasonable precautions. But worrying about things you can’t predict and can’t control isn’t just a waste of time. In the extreme, worry can rob us of sleep, peace, happiness, and health.
But in a year of such uncertainty, how can we prevent worries about things we can’t control from controlling us? And harming us? Well, sometimes you need to shift focus and find other things to do to stop worrying.
Finding Things to Do to Stop Worrying
Here are ideas for nine things you can do instead of worrying.
As someone with a background in media communications, I have great respect for journalists and the important work they do. But I’ve also realized that my worry and anxiety spikes with increased news consumption, especially when I’m plugged into the kind of media outlets that spend as much time voicing opinions as reporting the news. Certain channels and programs make their money by keeping you tuned in. And how do they do that? By making the audience feel scared, worried, afraid to turn away in case they miss the horrific details of the latest political outrage or impending disaster.
I’m not suggesting that any of us be uninformed. But if the 24/7 news cycle is driving you to a cycle of worry, consider unplugging for a while, or limiting your consumption, or finding a news program that reports news instead of opinions.
Because, let’s face it, how many of us really need news 24 hours a day?
In the days before cable, most people watched 30 minutes of nightly network news. Lately, I’ve been doing the same. I’m still informed but I sleep a lot better.
Phone a Friend
Taking a break from the 24/7 news cycle means you’ll have time for more positive, productive things – like connecting with friends. When you’re worried, calling a wise friend for counsel and advice can help you see your anxieties in a realistic light and help put them to rest.
But note, I said you need to call a wise friend. Some friends, lovely though they may be, might be bigger worriers than you are. So if you’re on the ledge, call the friend who will know how to talk you off it. When you’re looking to banish your worries, it’s important to choose the friends carefully.
Take a Walk
Taking a walk or engaging in physical activity is a great choice to make instead of worrying. Study after study has shown that exercise reduces stress and anxiety. For some people, getting regular outdoor exercise can be as effective as medication in combating depression.
On a personal note, I find that getting out in nature helps me put my worries in perspective. The natural world is amazing, beautiful, and intricate beyond my imagining or comprehension. I hold my faith dear. Getting out into God’s creation reminds me that, no matter how chaotic life might seem, there is a plan.
Which brings me to the fourth idea of things to do to stop worrying…
Say a Prayer
As I said above, my Christian faith is important to me, especially when I’m beset by worries. When I’m worried, I find peace and encouragement in prayer. Some of my favorite verses to reflect on in these times include Matthew 6:25-34, Romans 8:28, John 14:27, and this…
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Obviously, I’m a Christian, but people from all traditions can find peace, comfort, and encouragement by turning their faces away from worry and toward the Divine.
Read a Book
When the real world seems out of control, escaping into a good book is a great antidote to worry. But, like your friends in item two, you need to choose your book carefully. This is no time for dystopian literature!
Read a romance, a cozy mystery, an uplifting biography, or a riveting story of historical fiction. The genre doesn’t matter, as long as the book you’re reading is engrossing and comes with a happy ending. (But, if you’re looking for a suggestion, may I suggest Hope on the Inside? Or, really, any of my books. Though my characters endure difficulties that might make your worries seem small in comparison, they always find their happy ending. Always.) You’ll find reading on a number of lists, and most certainly my list of things to do to stop worrying.
Have a Laugh
Like reading, laughing is a wonderful alternative to worry. There’s a reason they say it’s the best medicine. When I need a laugh, I break out the DVD player and choose one of my favorite comedies – Groundhog’s Day, Miss Congeniality, or Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The things that make us laugh can vary widely. But one upside to this chaotic world we live in is the internet. Whether it’s a classic comedy from Amazon Prime or just a YouTube video of cats playing the xylophone, there’s something in cyberspace that will make you laugh.
Get a Hobby
I quilt, knit, crochet, embroider, and sew. Basically, if it involves fiber, I do it. Having so many hobbies means I’ve always got something productive, engaging, and enjoyable to do instead of worrying. It works for me, and it will work for you too.
Fiber crafts are my distraction of choice, but just about any hobby will do the trick. Do you play an instrument? Or take photographs? Enjoy gardening, baking, stamp collecting, or DIY remodeling projects? Next time you’re feeling anxious, work on your favorite hobby instead of worrying. If you don’t have a hobby, now might be a good time to find one.
Bust a Move
This one might seem a little silly. But when I’m stressed or anxious, I’ve found that dancing sends my worries packing. I’m not talking about any kind of formal dance (though if that’s your talent, it’ll work great), just a good old impromptu dance party.
I ask Alexa to play 1940’s jazz, do-wop, disco, or swing and start bustin’ a move around the kitchen. Within two minutes, my worries are forgotten. Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself. It’s one hundred percent impossible to worry while you’re doing the jitterbug, and a favorite on my list of things to do to stop worrying.
Make a List
As we all know from experience, ninety-plus percent of the things we spend time worrying about never come to pass. But if you try all of the above and still can’t keep the worry at bay, creating an action plan can help.
Get out a pencil and paper and make a list. Write down three things you could do to help alleviate the impact if the worst happens. Doing so might help you feel more in control and less worried.
9 Things to Do to Stop Worrying
A Chinese proverb says, “That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.”
These 9 things to do to stop worrying can’t prevent worry from flying over your head, but it can help stop them from building a nest in your hair.