What's worry got to do with it?
We worry a lot. About all sorts of things. ‘Did I lock the door?’ ‘Will so-and-so do well in their exams?’ ‘What will the doctor tell me?’ and ‘HOW WILL I EVER GET TO THE LEVEL OF CAKE MAKING THAT PEOPLE ACHIEVE ON BAKE-OFF?’ All sorts of worries – some big, some as small as questioning our own culinary skills. Often questions we don’t know the answer to, but one day will.
That’s the truth in all this. One day we will have the answer – maybe in a few hours or maybe in a year, but the answer will almost always come. So why, oh why, do we waste time with worry?
From time to time my worry has lead me to be slower at a job, it has caused arguments and hurt with with family, it has made me accidentally break a plate or a cup or a glass or some other smash-able object. And it has gone further than that, but that’s another story. But that worry I’ve had has caused me pain and troubled and harmed the people around me.
Without sounding trite, I have found a way to stop these troublesome thoughts. The difficult part was realising that I could. We have control over what takes up space in our brains – we can decide which thoughts stay and which thoughts get shoved out of the metaphorical skull door. Because worrying isn’t helpful to anyone. It’s harmful. How did I stop? I realised that almost everything that happens to any of us is out of our control – the health of a partner or the results of a test. These aren’t things we can change. We can’t be heroes. Unless of course you’re a doctor or a nurse, then I suppose you are a hero and please keep up the bloody good work.
There’s so much to worry about right now - massive things like Trump’s America, wars, austerity, hurricanes. You only have to switch on the news to be fraught with anxiety within seconds. But instead of letting that panic grow, ask yourself, ‘What can I do to help this situation? Is it doable? Can I change anything here?’ Perhaps you can – maybe you can slip on your dressing-gown and check if the doors are really locked. Or you can sit with your disgruntled teenager while they revise, spreading butter on toasted crumpets.
But if the answer is ‘no’ – if nothing can be done but waiting, or hoping – then have that hope, hope for a better tomorrow, be more compassionate and kind and loving. And start by being kind to yourself and saying – ‘I accept this problem, but I cannot directly help, so I shall not worry because you are a highly distressing thought and you will cause me pain.’ Let the thought dissolve with the knowledge that you did your best to be helpful. Centre your focus on something that IS helpful and continue your day. Because it is your day. And you have the power to make it a day to be proud of.
I understand that there are worries that won’t fit through the skull door labelled ‘exit’ because they are too fat and cruel. So talk them out, find a friendly ear (a non-judgmental buddy), pick up the phone, chew it out until it is shed and it’s no longer exhausting to carry around. The crux of it is that worrying is exhausting, it’s the mightiest, most pointless weight to carry, and you have the power to put it down. It’s not always easy, but it is doable. My worries still come at me, but I give them a little shove when they squeak, ‘You might never own a house,’ and ‘Have you seen your student debt?’ and I say, ‘That’s future Megan’s problem. How the hell do you expect me to be happy now, if I worry about all that stuff that I can’t change right now?’