You have got to learn how to stop worrying. Anxiety negatively impacts your performance, relationships, and quality of work. It wreaks havoc on your decision making abilities. It makes it harder for you to think. All this stress and anxiety also has a huge price tag, costing businesses $1 trillion each year in lost productivity worldwide.
And that’s on a good year. The economic toll and negative repercussions from all the worrying and anxiety from the hot mess that’s been 2020 is going to be much higher.
I think it’s important to point out that worry isn’t all bad. According to research by Kate Sweeny, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, there can be some upsides.
- Worry can act as a cue, letting you know that the situation is serious and requires some sort of action.
- Worrying keeps the irritant at the forefront of your mind, helping to ensure you take action.
- Worrying feels disconcerting so it can help encourage you to find ways to deal with whatever is bothering you.
Even with these potential upsides, the trick is to worry just enough. If you worry too little, you won’t plan or seek out help when it’s needed. If you worry too much, you become paralyzed and can’t make the decisions necessary to fix the problem.
This is especially true when it comes to business.
It’s been said that the worst rut on the road to success is worry. Constantly living with a sense of apprehensiveness is a powerfully destructive force that causes you to miss opportunities and make bad decisions. Worry clouds your mind. It introduces doubt. It prevents positivity. It shakes your confidence. One worry often leads to another, and worrying too much leads to failure.
A Little Work + A Lot Of Worry = Disaster
The cool thing is though, as powerful as worry, apprehension, and fear are, they don’t actually exist. Worry exists solely in your mind.
And recognizing that is the key in getting a handle on it.
How To Stop Worrying
Do a quick online search for “how to stop worrying” and you’ll find some great articles speaking to the benefits of being mindful and living consciously. Those approaches are certainly effective and can help alleviate the stresses and worries most folks feel on a daily basis. Frankly, if you’re not doing those things already, you should start.
When it comes to business owners, however, the level of worrying they experience on a daily basis can be infinitely higher than that of the average person. When you own your own business, there is no clocking out. The problems, obstacles, and headaches stick with you every day, they don’t disappear just because it’s a weekend or you’re on vacation. Again, a little worrying is good, it keeps you on your toes and moving toward solutions. Chronic worrying, the kind that takes up the majority of your brain power, can cause you to make rash, reckless decisions and it can have a direct, negative impact on your business.
The following techniques can easily be incorporated into your day, no matter how busy you are. And if you think you’re too busy, you’re not. If you think simply “being mindful” as you brush your teeth or drive to the office is enough, it isn’t. As a business owner, you need to make practicing strategies to worry less a recurring line-item on your daily to-do list. Daily practice needs to hold the same weight and importance as any other task, arguably even more.
Shift Your Focus
How many times have you been worrying about something and someone told you to just “stop thinking about it.” So easy right? It can be incredibly frustrating to get that kind of advice, but as annoying as it is, it’s spot on. One of the simplest, and most obvious techniques, is to just disengage from whatever is worrying you.
The trick, though, is in what you turn your focus to.
You need to be deliberate in what you focus on when you’re intensely worried about something and you want to “just forget about it.” Shifting your attention to mundane tasks, or activities you aren’t highly interested in or passionate about is destined to fail. If you don’t have enough attraction to the thing you’re moving your focus to, that original worry is just going to creep back in no time. If you’re enthusiastic about what you turn your attention to, however, that worry isn’t given the opportunity to wiggle its way back in.
And this alternative activity doesn’t have to be work-related. (As a matter of fact, sometimes it’s better if it’s not.)
There are also times that you just have to call it a day. As a business owner, it can be easy to succumb to the idea that when things aren’t going right, you just need to double down with your efforts. More often than not, however, the opposite is true. Sometimes, when you feel like you’re just beating your head against the same wall, trying harder just gives you a bigger headache. Don’t be afraid to step away for an hour, half a day, or all day if it’s really bad.
Believe me, but I know it can be painful to do. Throwing in the towel can make you feel like you’re not accomplishing what you need to. You need to trust me though. Walking away to do something you love, that’s unrelated to work—especially if it’s an activity you can do outside—can be extraordinarily effective in resetting your focus. This can ultimately make you more productive while also alleviating your anxiety.
Improve Your Focus
If you tend to worry a lot, or suffer from higher levels of anxiety, chances are you also tend to have difficulty controlling what you pay attention to. More negative thoughts naturally seep into your mind. Even when you’re trying your best to focus on other things, you can’t help but worry.
Give these techniques a try to help improve your attention. Regularly practicing them can help keep you more focused, ultimately resulting in less worrying.
- Meditate for 10-20 minutes each day.
- Try these exercises from The Power of Concentration. (They are harder than they sound!)
- Channel your inner David Puddy and sit absolutely still in a chair for 15 minutes.
- Hold a small glass of water in your right hand, directly in front of you. Stare at the water and try to stay still enough so that the water doesn’t move at all. Hold for one minute, then try it with the left hand. Work up to 5 minutes with each hand.
- Read a short sentence, then try to write it down word for word without referring back to it. Once you can do this, try it with two sentences, then three, etc.
- Sit in a chair and follow the second hand of a clock for five minutes.
- Spend 30 minutes sitting quietly and listening intently to music. Concentrate on the music and nothing else. Listen to each note, each instrument, the sound, the rhythm, etc. Classical or instrumental music is excellent for this.
- Take regular breaks. Every hour, take 10 minutes to get up, move and stretch. This helps give your attention span a break and can keep you more focused when you are working.
- Look into the Attention Training Technique (ATT), a treatment technique usually provided by practitioners and not done at home. During a session, you actively listen and work on focusing your attention when listening to simultaneous sounds that have varying intensity and spatial locations. While there are no MCT registered therapists in the US, you can check out a couple ATT tracks online here. I found it incredibly therapeutic to listen to these. Doing as the speaker asked, while listening to what you need to listen to, was more difficult than I expected it would be.
- To help improve your focus on the positive aspects of your day, try a more business-minded take on keeping a gratitude journal. At the close of each day, take 5-10 minutes to sit quietly and record current aspects of your business and work that you can be grateful for. If it’s been a particularly bad day, search for those silver linings, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant they may seem. Taking note of only the positive can help pick you up, clear your head, and remind you of the reasons you’re doing what you’re doing.
Imagine the worst
It may seem counterproductive, but when it comes to worrying, sometimes it can be helpful to imagine the worst possible outcome. Visualizing these calamities, and how you would respond, can often get your mind to stop hashing out endless, horrible possibilities. This can make you feel better sooner. The key is to treat it as an exercise and set aside time specifically for doing this. My preferred method is to go for a walk with my wife and our dog. This lets me bounce thoughts and scenarios off someone I trust. And how bad can things be when you’ve got a dog with you?? Nine times out of ten, I feel completely different about the situation once we’re done with an hour long walk.
It bears repeating though – imagining the worst must be treated as an intentional exercise only. If you’re not deliberate with it, it’s far too easy to spiral into endless ideas of how things are “sure to go bad.” Be deliberate, move and get fresh air while thinking it through, and have a trustworthy confidant with you every time.
Worrying costs you a ridiculous amount of money each year, cripples your ability to make decisions, and adversely influences the success of your business. Thankfully, with patience, work, and regular practice, it can be eliminated. Regularly applying these techniques can help you remove one of the most devastating obstacles on the road to success.