How to Let Go of Your Worries (Yes, it's possible!)
"Just let it go."
That's something that I've been hearing all of my life whenever I plucked up the courage to tell someone about my nagging worries. It's probably the number one most generic response I would hear: "Just let it go."
Yeah, as if it was that simple.
And yet, being able to let go of your anxious thoughts is an incredibly important skill. Yeah, you read that right, it's a skill; that means anyone can learn it, including you.
It's just that it's not something you learn overnight. It takes time and patience to master the skill of letting go but it's a skill that you'll need to learn if you want to stop worrying about trivial stuff once and for all.
If you worry too much, it can cost you more than just a good night's sleep. I've known several people that started drinking because every single trivial thing in their life made them worried and the only thing that could get them to relax was alcohol. Then some of my other friends used to soothe themselves by binge eating unhealthy foods. And as a result they gradually become overweight.
I've known guys that escaped from their worrying minds by watching television shows all the time and playing video games every day until late at night. It was their way of distracting their thoughts but it came at a price: they started losing their friends and they became distant with their families. Do you want to end up like that?
On the other hand I've known people that were able to break the vicious cycle of the anxiety spiral and master their excessive worries. They were able to get into a good physical shape and feel good about themselves. They were able to calm their minds and do bring their higher selves into their relationships. They were just a pleasure to be around and they inspired other people and made the motivated. Do you want to be like these people?
Letting Go of Anxiety
Before you can let go of anything, you need to notice it first. You have to be able to tell that you're worried. This may sound kind of "duh!" but you'd surprised at how many people can't notice their own emotions. I've known several people who only realized that they were angry by the time they were yelling at someone - usually at someone close to them.
Chances are that by the time you notice that you're worried, your thoughts are already racing and you're under tremendous mental stress. At that point it's very hard to stop worrying.
So the first thing you need to master is awareness. You need to be able to recognize unhelpful thought patterns and catch yourself thinking them before they spiral out of control and push your brain into overdrive.
The next thing you need to do is learn to tell the difference between rational and irrational fears. If you can catch yourself ruminating over irrational fears before they gain momentum, then you'll be able to "lock them away" or "put them to rest." You'll still be thinking them but they won't be able to control your thoughts anymore.
Let me explain why. We humans are afraid of the unknown. It's an evolutionary trait that has made it possible for us to survive as a species for hundreds of thousands of years. We're afraid of the dark because we don't know what's lurking in the shadows. We're afraid of strangers because we don't know what kind of people they really are. Things that we don't know stress us out.
So catching yourself obsessively thinking about irrational fears, you make your worries known. By becoming aware of them, they lose their power over you. In fact, the sooner you can catch yourself worrying the less they're going to be able to control your mood.
"What You Resist Persists"
Once you're able to notice your worried thoughts, it's time to actually let them go. So how can you do that?
Well, first let me tell you how you can't do that. You can't let go of your worries by resisting them. When most people realize that they've been thinking the same fearful thoughts for a long time, they get all angry at themselves and they try to stop their worries with brute willpower. They will focus all their attention on these negative thoughts and do their best to shut them up as soon as they pop into their minds. They forcefully stop themselves when they start to worry.
This. Will. Not. Work. Okay?
What you focus on expands. If you focus on your worries, they'll expand. Energy flows where attention goes.
What you need to do is put a new, powerful positive thought inside your mind. You need to focus on a memory or a fantasy that's supercharged with positive emotions and obsess over that.
That's how you let go of your worries.
It takes some practice because if you a worry a lot, then that's what you practice and so that's what you're good at. You need to practice thinking positive thoughts to become good at it. You need to commit optimism into muscle memory and that takes a little bit of time. But once you've got this skill mastered, you'll find that worrying is not an issue anymore.
One More Useful Technique
Another useful technique that I think can really help you let go of your worries is mindfulness meditation. Especially if you find the above technique a little too advanced for you, mindfulness meditation could really be the next stepping stone that you need right now.
It's a great technique because it builds on the super-healthy deep belly breathing exercise which relaxes your body and short-circuits the brain's stress response. And it also focuses your attention on your breathing which is an excellent way to distract your mind from your worries.
Sylvia Plath, the brilliant poet and novelist really captured the spirit of mindfulness meditation when she wrote "I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am. I am. I am."
The bottom line is, whatever it is that makes you worried all the time, you can let go of it. With some work it will get better.
And if you need more help, just let me know and I'll do my best.