There are times when the worries add up so much that every day becomes a grueling challenge.
There’s so much that can go wrong, and you want to be told that it’s OK, that it’s not as bad as you think, or that there’s a solution.
But the truth is that worry often makes a situation worse, especially when it’s a situation out of your control.
This is a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way.
Here are the top things to stop worrying about that are out of your control, as well as what to do instead.
1) Past regrets
The past is in the past.
Your regrets from those times may help guide you about what to do differently this time around, but don’t dwell on them.
No matter what people say, everyone has regrets.
The past isn’t in your control, so all you can do is move forward with the experience and knowledge you gained.
Don’t beat yourself up or worry about what you did wrong or failed to do in the past, it will just disempower you and lead to feeling blue.
2) Future fears
The future is full of unknown risks and opportunities.
There’s only a certain amount you can predict or anticipate, and worrying too much will leave you paralyzed.
Don’t get me wrong:
Anticipating likely problems in the future is smart, and you should take care of your health, your finances and your career.
But do your best to leave aside the worrying about black swan events or sudden tragedy. They may happen or they may not. Worrying about it is only going to leave you petrified and unable to enjoy (or act decisively) in the present moment.
3) Taking risks
Worrying about risks just makes it harder to clearly decide what to do.
When you are on the fence about taking a new job, starting a relationship or making any other major choice, worrying a lot tends to trip you up.
Instead of thinking clearly, you start going in circles.
This usually leads to paralysis or impulsive action, avoiding risks or jumping into decisions without really thinking about it.
4) Trying new things
Trying new things is not only one of the joys of life, it’s also a great way to meet friends, potential partners and build skills.
For those of us who sometimes struggle to feel good enough or worry about feeling inadequate, there can be a lot of worry about trying new things, however.
“What if I look ridiculous trying to learn tango?”
“I could go to swimming class, but I’m not good at all and I’ll make a fool of myself.”
This inner critic makes us sure that we’ll be judged as ridiculous or fail badly at trying something new.
But it’s up to us to stop worrying about that, because even the most gifted athlete or craftsman started learning somewhere, and every person has a learning curve.
This relates to the next point…
5) What others think
You may be too kind to some and too much of a jerk for others. Some may hate you for being good-looking, while others love you for it.
Stop worrying about what others think about your appearance, your beliefs, your identity.
You can’t please them all, and even if you could it would be an exercise in futility, because you’d lose sight of your own goals and truth.
Stop worrying about wanting to please everyone:
If even Jesus couldn’t do it, why would you be able to?
6) The weather
The weather is another of those things that’s not in our control and not worth worrying too much about.
By all means, check the weather report and stay up to date on weather changes or disasters that will affect you.
If there’s a hurricane coming, worry is going to help motivate you to get prepared and hunker down.
But don’t spend too much time fixated on whether it will rain between two and three p.m. tomorrow afternoon and then cancel your plans if it does.
Live your life now and don’t let the weather change that.
7) Former friends
It’s a hard fact of life that sometimes friends do indeed grow apart.
Life circumstances, disagreements or even just different geographic locations are all things that cause friendships to rise and fall.
Don’t spend too much time worrying about this or feeling bad about it.
You may miss an old friend you used to see a lot and wonder what they’re up to, and by all means reach out. But don’t feel like you are to blame for letting old friendships go.
Sometimes it’s not just you, it’s them, too.
Remember that people can always reach out to you, too, and that communication goes both ways.
8) Illness in your family
If and when illness strikes your family, it’s going to be a stressful and difficult time.
But apart from trying to encourage everyone in your family to live as healthy a lifestyle as possible and eat nutritious food, this is mostly outside your control.
Worrying about the potential for a loved one to get sick of a terminal illness or any other kind of illness is extremely depressing. It’s likely to lead you to also becoming very dependent and fearing leaving them for any amount of time in case they get sick.
The result can be a difficulty in leaving the nest and in pursuing your own path, because you’re so worried about the big “what if” that could happen if a family member gets sick or dies.
Rejection hurts badly and anybody who says otherwise either hasn’t been rejected by somebody they loved or has no heart.
The fact of the matter, however, is that the more you worry about getting rejected the more likely you are to become seriously anxious or depressed.
When you worry too much about rejection, you end up self-isolating and going into a pattern of hiding away.
You may also pursue relationships where you settle for somebody you don’t really want, since at least you know they won’t reject you.
This is the wrong move, and potential rejection is always the price we pay when we take a chance.
We all worry about death now and then, at least almost everybody I’ve met.
But there’s something weird that happens with this:
The more you worry, the more anxious and panicked you get to the point that it can become almost impossible to live.
I know firsthand, having had a really debilitating panic disorder for years mostly focused around a visceral fear of death or feeling like I might be about to die.
I was so focused on whether I might die any moment that it was impossible to live or even do almost anything.
The same goes for everyone to some degree: death is something that’s going to cross your mind and trouble your heart at times.
But try your best not to spend too much time worrying about it. It’s not going to change the outcome and it could end up robbing you of valuable time and experiences you’ll one day wish you could have back.