I believe that one of the most universal feelings is worry. I think many of us spend a good deal of time worrying about things that haven’t happened yet or things that we’ve done in the past. And just because so many of us dedicate time to worrying about things, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. I believe that if we spent less time worrying about things that haven’t happened yet, we’d find more happiness and peace in our lives.
I have a mantra when I find myself wandering down the worry spiral: if it’s out of my control, it deserves freedom from my mind too. We spend so much time worrying about things that are out of our control, and as a result, we suffer. Although these worries are valid, they don’t always serve us well. For example, it’s only natural to worry about having enough money to pay our rent, but I’m arguing that if we’ve done everything in our power to make ends meet, your mind deserves to rest.
It’s human nature to fear the unknown. Things may be going well for us at one point – we have a secure job, enough money to pay our rent, solid relationships, etc. And then life happens, meaning that problems arise and our circumstances become different. This is when worries seep through the cracks of our minds.
So how do we cultivate a worry-free mind when we have things to worry about? It goes back to one of my favorite sayings: if it’s out of my control, it deserves freedom from my mind too. We can start by differentiating between what’s in our control and what’s out of our control. If we can take action on things that are within our control, then we should! For example, if you’re not feeling well, you should absolutely make a doctor’s appointment. The key here is, once that appointment is made or tests are run at that doctor’s, it’s officially out of your control.
What we’ll discover if we work on developing this skill is there’s a lot of space to be free of thoughts. Our minds love to worry, but if we train ourselves to not let these worries in, we’ll find that we have more space to dedicate to other, more helpful, thoughts.
It’s hard these days to avoid watching the news. And these things we see on the TV can be very worrisome and scary. At the same time, we have very little control over what happens in the world. Consuming all of this media can be exhausting, especially if we do it daily.
One obvious thing we can do to fix this is to limit our screen time and replace that time spent consuming media in nature or on a hobby instead. This doesn’t mean cutting ourselves off from the world entirely, but it is possible to stay informed and not exhaust ourselves as a result.
The second thing we can become more aware of is the fact that we don’t have control over other people’s lives. For example, I’ve been a clinical psychologist for decades, and even though I love my clients and care about their well-being, their worries and concerns leave my office right when they walk out the door. As much as I care about these people, I don’t have control over their actions. I try to apply this same mentality to my friends as well. I’m happy to provide advice and support, but I do my best to not take their worries on as my own.
In addition to letting go of our worries about the world and our friends’ concerns, we must monitor our own worries too. This step can be tricky because we have to differentiate between what we’re in control of and what we’re not in control of. And if we’re honest and we really look at what’s going on in our lives, there’s so much we don’t have control over. For example, let’s say we’re out of work and we need to find a job. We keep ruminating over this and it keeps us up throughout the whole night. Being out of work is really scary, and is a valid concern. However, there isn’t much that can be done at 3 in the morning. That time would be better spent sleeping so we can get the rest we need to apply for jobs in the morning. Once we’ve spent our day applying to jobs, calling old coworkers, and updating our resume, we can shift our attention to our family, friends, or self-care. As important as it is to find a job, it’s impossible to search for one 24/7. When we’re “off the clock,” the best thing we can do for ourselves is be present and enjoy the moment.
Another example is perhaps we’re single right now but we want to be in a relationship. We can of course put ourselves out there and try to meet people, but we can also put time and effort into other things like our friends, family, work, or hobbies. We can’t force someone to fall in love with us, but we can try our best to live a fulfilling life until the right person comes along.
One of the best ways to set aside our worries about things out of our control is to live in the present moment. That means if we’re watching a TV show that makes us laugh, we pour our attention into that, or if we’re going for a walk outside, we focus on that, or if we’re having a delicious meal, we only focus on that.
When we let go of the notion that we can control everything, we’ll find so much more space for peace and happiness. I also predict that you’ll feel more energized than you have in a long time because your mind will finally have a break from the worry cycle.
That is probably the greatest freedom I received when I made the conscious decision to let go of the things I can’t control. I discovered that I had a lot more space to play with life and participate in things I found beauty in. Letting go of the uncontrollable variables helped my life flow in a way I had never dreamed of. This is available to all of us, as long as we can remind ourselves of this: if it’s out of my control, it deserves freedom from my mind too.