How To Stop Worry In Its Tracks


So often we find ourselves caught in the grip of anxiety because of a thought that just passed through our minds. Many times it’s a ‘What if…?’ type of thought.

The “What ifs” are the absolute worst because they can plummet you down into a spiral of baseless thoughts, pessimistically anticipating some ill-fated future.

The same author who wrote, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie, also wrote an incredibly helpful book on worry, called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. He offers a number of practical tools for overcoming worry and one of them is asking yourself what are the chances that what you are worried about will come to pass.

He suggests that when you feel worry setting in, ask yourself, ‘What are the odds that this thing will really happen?’  More often than not, whatever you’re worried about, if you look at it realistically, is not as epically horrible as you first thought.

A classic example is someone who is afraid to fly because the plane could crash. When you look at how many flights successfully travel the globe each day compared to those that crash, you’d see that the odds of a plane crash are pretty small; like infinitesimally small.

Or here’s a less dramatic example.

Say you’re someone who is prone to immediately think the worst. You pass by your boss’s office and overhear them talking on the phone. All you hear is, “Oh no, I can’t believe she did that!” Those are the only words you hear but suddenly your shoulders get tense and your stomach is in knots. You immediately think, “Oh god! What did I do?” Then a cold sweat breaks out as you walk back to your desk.  You can’t concentrate for the rest of the day anticipating that any minute your boss is going to call you into their office and chew you out.

Now, before you throw yourself off the cliff of over-reaction, what if we could slow down and think this through. First off, how do you know your boss was talking about you? You’re not the only employee that reports to them. How do you know it’s about an employee at all? It could be about someone in the executive offices. How do you know that it’s about anyone in the building? It could be about one of their children.

With all these possibilities, it becomes clear that the odds that your boss was referring to you were actually pretty slim. So why not take a breath and shake off the 50 lbs. of pressure you just put on your chest by worrying that you were just moments away from getting fired.

You can use this strategy with anything that worries you. Just take a breath and give yourself some perspective by asking the question, ‘What are the odds this could actually happen?’ I’m sure you’ll discover, as I did, much of the time, you had nothing to worry about at all.


© 2019 Tamara Jefferies.

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