“Some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all.” Seneca 1st Century Roman Philosopher
Who Me? Worry?
I used to be in the habit of thinking about all the bad things that might happen. I didn’t just consider them and prepare in case something did happen, I thought about them over and over. In a strange way, I think I got comfort from obsessing over them, as if keeping bad thoughts churning around in my head, might keep me from being surprised.
Then I realized that this habit was making me miserable. I didn’t live in the moment, I just thought about what happened in the past and what might happen in the future.
What Helped Me
Someone suggested a get a container, a jar, a plastic container, whatever. Then she told me to get a little piece of paper and date it with today’s date*. Next she said to write down on the paper what was worrying me. She told me to be specific if I could and start with, “I’m afraid that…” “I’m worried that…”
It didn’t matter how big or how small the worry was. I wrote it down, folded up the paper and put it in my ‘worry’ jar. During difficult times, the ‘jar’ got very full. Eventually, things would calm down and I would forget that I needed my jar.
Your Results May Vary
Many years ago, during a very stressful time in my life, I used a worry jar over the course of about a year (yeah, it was a big jar). A few years after the crisis passed, I found the jar. When I opened it and read through all the things that I was worried about at the time (legal, health, family, etc.) NOT ONE of the bad things I was worried about happened. It was a revelation.
Of course bad things do happen, but what I learned is that what can I do, right now, to prepare for the potential changes. When I have done what I can, then I can let go of the outcome for a few minutes or a few hours. That was all I was trying to do. Stop worrying for a short time. Eventually, the short times became longer and longer.
I still worry, of course, but I try hard to focus on the here and now. Does it comfort you to know that the quote above (from Seneca) was written 2,000 years ago? It is comforting to me to know that worrying is a human condition. We all do it, it’s a matter of how we learn to cope.
Side note(1): Some people are religious or feel a connection to a Higher Power which may be God or something else. If you fall into this category, you may, like me, call your worry jar, a God Jar. When I wrote what was worrying me, I also wrote at the bottom, “I turn this problem over to you.”
Side note(2): I encourage you to date the piece of paper, this is especially helpful when you look back to see how things have worked out.
Image credit: worry jar