The #1 way to worry less

I’m not the calmest guy around.

If you’ve never met me in person, let’s just say I’m more high-energy than I am Buddhist monk.

But I used to be a lot more stressed than I am today and I’ve learned quite a bit about how to feel calmer. So this thing I’m about to share with you—it works. I speak from experience.

See, worrying sucks.

In the vast majority of cases, the stress you induce by worrying harms you more than the thing you worry about would, if it happened.

If you could let go of some of your worries, you’d feel calmer. You would make space for positive experiences. You would be more relaxed.

You probably know this, but you worry anyway. Here’s what I would do to start letting go.

First, learn to notice when you’re worrying. Next time you think you’re doing nothing, pay attention to any worries that come up. You can do this in everyday moments: when you’re waiting for your train, when you’re riding the elevator, or when you’re waiting in line for lunch.

Second, when you do notice a worry, acknowledge it. If you like, tell yourself “hey, there’s a worry (about x) again”.

For example, I often notice worries about how the rest of my day will unfold. I try to plan what I’ll do next, what I’ll do after that, and so on. I notice worries that I’ll get “behind schedule”. So when I notice such a worry, I tell myself “hey, there’s a worry about getting behind schedule again”.

Third, let the worry go. What does that mean? It means: don’t engage with the worry. Don’t feed it by thinking the worrisome situation through. After acknowledging that the worry is there, go back to whatever else you were doing.

That means that if you were standing in line, you shift your attention back to standing in line. 

It might feel scary at first not to engage a worrying thought. I’m asking you to let go of some control, and even if that control is imaginary, letting go of it can feel scary. But with practice, you’ll notice that things turn out fine when you let go of some of your worries.

Then, when you notice your worry again, let it go again. Repeat this process of letting go every time you notice a worry.

You might not become the calmest guy or gal around, but I’m sure you’ll feel just a little more relaxed.

Yours,

— Peter

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