Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked, and in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, chronic worrying, and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, so it’s imperative that we take time to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you create a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.
These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground.
1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back
Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.
However, keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it, and dismiss all your anxiety about it.
Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver. If you do find later that you’re heading in the wrong direction, there will be type to reconsider what you’re doing. Until then, stop worrying about where your new decision will take you.
2. Live for Today, Pack Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”
You know that feeling: tossing, turning, and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments.” Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, and your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present moment.
The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.
This is, of course, easier said than done, but if you really want to learn how to stop worrying and start living, learning to compartmentalize in this way is imperative. Find a place for everything, just as you would in a perfectly organized closet.
3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It
If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?
Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!
If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.
Start by writing down your biggest concerns. Then, write down the possible consequences of those events and then at least three ways you could overcome or deal with those consequences. You may find you have more tools at your disposal than you think.
4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying
Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative thoughts and experiences when just walking away from them would serve our mental health far better.
To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.
In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief in order to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is
We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.
If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.
A 2020 study found that forcing a smile can help shift your brain toward more positive thinking. Therefore, try to smile, even when you’re feeling down. You may find that it turns your day in a better direction.
Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”
6. Give for the Joy of Giving
When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.
One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.
Stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.
7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You
Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.
Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are in order to learn how to stop worrying and start living.
If you struggle to be your most authentic self, check out this article for help getting started.
8. Haters Will Hate – It Just Means You’re Doing It Right
When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.
The next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Stop worrying about criticism and take it as a compliment!
Now, if you keep hearing the same negative criticism from various people, it may be time to take a look at what you’re doing or how you’re acting. Everyone has room for improvement, so don’t be afraid to adjust your attitude when it’s warranted.
9. Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired
Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions, so it’s important to learn how to prevent both fatigue and worry.
It should be clear, therefore, that when you’re learning how to stop worrying and start living, learn to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.
It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively. Resting can include taking a nap, enjoying a walk through nature, or sitting on the couch with a good book. Find the form of rest that works for your unique body and mind.
10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work
There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.
But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to develop good working habits and stay organized: a desk full of unanswered emails and memos is sure to breed worries.
Research has shown that “clutter in one’s living space, negative emotions, and impaired social ability all predicted high procrastination scores”. Clutter will not only stress you out, but it will also make you put off the things you need to be doing, which will only cause more stress.
The Bottom Line
When you want to learn how to stop worrying and start living, it’s important to identify which areas of your life are causing you the most worry. When you’re able to tackle specific areas, the job will get a lot easier. Cultivate a mental attitude toward more positive thinking and see how it helps you jump into each day with less worry.
More Tips for Living a Stress-Free Life
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