You are never going to be stress-free; the best you can hope for is to be able to manage it. And you must learn to manage it; your health and well-being depend on it. Your career success will also depend on how well you manage it because every moment you spend worrying is a moment that’s not contributing to your success.
If there’s a one-size-fits-all method for managing worry, I’ve never come across it; you’re going to have to experiment to find out what methods work for you.
Here’s what works for me. Just as it probably is with you, worries that creep into my mind are usually things that I can do nothing about right then; therefore, taking time to worry would be completely futile. So I make an appointment with myself to worry about the problem. I set aside a time in my mind (I don’t enter the “appointment” in my diary), say fifteen minutes at 3:45 the next afternoon, during which I will worry really effectively. If I catch myself worrying about the subject before the appointed time, I remind myself to put if off until then. What usually happens is that when 3:45 the next day rolls around, I’ve either forgotten about the problem or something more important is occupying my thoughts. In the rare instances when I do remember about it, I’ll give it some thought as planned. Then one of two things usually happens; either my mind will wander off to something else after a few seconds, or I will actually come up with some ideas about how to deal with the situation.
Many people find that getting busy is the best way to handle worry. The most effective method seems to be to do something that requires both physical and mental activity, such as playing a sport. Others hook up their iPod and go for a walk or a run. One friend of mine has a punching bag in his office and another bag in his basement at home. He finds that whenever worry threatens to become a problem, a few minutes pounding the bag works wonders.
There’s a difference between being concerned about something and worrying about it. There are many things in life about which we should be concerned, but there’s nothing about which we should be continually worried. A former mentor impressed this on me by pointing out that concern is forethought whereas worry is fear thought. When you refuse to let your concern elevate itself to worry, you’re more apt to come up with solutions to problems and ways to deal with difficulties, whereas worrying is counter-productive, a waste of time, and harmful to your health. I’ve heard it put this way: worry is when your stomach is firing bullets and your brain is firing blanks. When worry slips in, take time to think but not to tremble.
A lot of the worry in the world is caused by trying to make decisions before having enough information on which to base them. Instead of just stewing about a problem take the time to consider what the causes of the problem are, what all the possible solutions are, what the best solution is likely to be, and what action you’re going to take.
Another common mistake leading to unnecessary worry is the human tendency to read big implications into little facts. The odds usually are that whatever you’re going through isn’t as serious as it seems. If you’re working on a way to handle a problem, there’s nothing to be gained by worrying about it. When you’re worried about something you’ve probably already thought about the worst that can happen, but instead of stopping there go on to think about what the odds actually are on the worst happening, and then think about what you can do to improve the odds.
Even the consequences of problems that can’t be completely resolved can usually be greatly diminished by thinking calmly and deciding on a logical course of action. If you’re capable of handling a situation, there’s no need to worry about it. Look back on your life and you will find there have been a lot more worries than there were real dangers.
The depth of your worry will ultimately depend on the amount of time you spend thinking about it instead of getting busy and doing something about it. It’s always better to do something about a problem rather than to just sit and fret.
The most senseless worry of all is worrying about something that you can’t do anything about. Not only is it a waste of time, but worrying about things that you can’t do something about will adversely affect your dealing with those that you can do something about. No matter which road you take you’re going to miss something, so don’t waste time wishing you’d taken the other one.
Never worry about what you’ve lost; instead concentrate on what you have left and what you can do with that. Recognize that the occasional disappointment is part of life and get on with it.