Take Control of your Worries:
Do you waste valuable time and energy worrying?
I must get this look on my face sometimes that prompts my Mr Husband to ask ‘is the hamster on the wheel again’? The hamster can strike at any time of day, or usually just as I’m going to bed and about to turn the light off. Yes dear reader. I’m a bit of a worrier at times. But I’m not alone.
Many of us get stuck in the past fretting over what has been. Or focus too much on what ‘might be’. A recent survey found that two out of three people worry about money, but only 14% of people actually do something about it. Are you one of those people who are stuck worrying about stuff but can’t seem to find a way out?
One of the most helpful tools that I use to keep my worries under control is called ‘Circles of Influence and Concern’ (originating from Stephen’s Covey’s book ‘7 Habits of Highly effective people). It’s a technique that helps us get ‘unstuck’ and to take control of stuff that is worrying us
Step 1: Write down everything that is concerning you right now.
Step 2: Go through each concern and ask ‘can I influence this – yes or no?’
Step 3: If you answer ‘no’ – why are you worrying about it? You can do nothing to control it. If you answer ‘yes’ then what can you do about it? This is where we need to get really specific and practical.
Let’s say that you’re one of those people who are concerned about their finances. Can you influence this? Yes, you can. Whilst you can’t necessarily demand a pay rise you could:
- Ask your boss for feedback about what you need to do to get promoted or get a pay rise;
- Analyse your spending habits for the last month and identify where you’re wasting money (take away coffee habit?) Calculate how much you’d save if you stopped the habit.
- Set yourself a budget for the month and actually take the money out of the bank – it’ll help you make good choices about what to spend money on.
- Set up a direct debit each month so you start saving – even if it’s just a small amount it’ll help you feel more positive.
Let’s stop there before this turns into a piece on financial advice. You get the idea. Instead of just saying ‘I need to sort my finances out’ you have to get really specific and write down exactly what you’re going to do. Then do it of course. I find it sometimes helps to talk it through with a friend who can give me some ideas if I get stuck worrying and can’t think about what I can do.
Do this for every concern that you have. What most people find is that they have much more control over things that they first thought. Finally choose a format that works for you – some people prefer to write lists (see below). The important thing is that you do it.
In case you’re worrying now about how to worry less, here’s a summary of ways in which you can diminish your worries:
- Focus on what you can control rather than wasting time thinking about things that you have no influence over
- Write them down – rather than let the worries run around your mind pin them down on paper – they won’t seem so big and scary.
- Think action – get practical and so something to change the situation.
- Instead of focusing on the worst case scenario think instead about what the best case scenario would be. In reality things are rarely as bad as we imagine.
- Allow yourself to indulge pure unadulterated worry-fest for 5 minutes. Then stop. Worries that creep back in won’t be entertained until the next time you’ve set aside e.g. on your commute home. It takes discipline but it works.
- A problem shared and all that – it can help to talk things through with a friend or in more extreme cases a counsellor. It can help to get a different perspective and remind you that you’re not alone.
As always, get in touch if you have any questions or comments – or to let me know how you’ve got on using the tips! I can’t promise that you’ll stop worrying completely, but using these tips will definitely help keep control of that hamster running around your mind.
If you’d like some personal advice or would like to run a workshop at work contact me at email@example.com for more information. Or you can follow me using the links below.