Worried older woman

Worrying isn't helping you or protecting you. Now's the time to break free.

As a college senior, one of the final barriers I had to graduate was to complete student teaching in an elementary school and a high school.

I was lucky to be paired with two cooperating teachers who were truly incredible at their jobs. Each was seasoned in their careers and had taken their music students to exceptional levels of accomplishment.

But, their personalities couldn’t have differed more. One was high strung and anxious, the other was positively tranquil. 

It was in that moment I realized for the first time that worry didn’t equate care, or success. As someone who’s always been inclined towards anxiety, I had never pulled apart the threads of worry and concern. Realizing that I could care about and invest in something from a position of security was a new and important lesson as a young adult. 

J.K. Rowling once wrote, “Worrying means you suffer twice.” When we worry, we allow sorrow that might come to take up residency in the anticipation of something hard. So often, our worries are magnified beyond the reality, tied to worst case scenarios of things outside of our control. Moreover, worrying drains our energy. When we worry, we give our time and minds over to playing out possible scenarios and outcomes that may be outside of our control.

Yet, breaking free from worry can feel near impossible when you’re under the weight of it. But, stopping the pattern of worry is both possible and important to do for your mental health. The first step out of chronic worrying is to acknowledge that it’s a bad habit, and not an essential part of caring about someone or something. Devaluing its importance and naming it for what it is will invite you into an awareness when that negative pattern begins.

Negative feelings and fears are still going to be a part of your life, so giving yourself space to process those concerns in a healthy way is crucial. Prayer, meditation, journalling, counseling and confiding in a loved one are all valuable ways to lament the sad, hard things on your mind in a healthy way. Each of these practices invites you to acknowledge what you’re feeling and release control of the thought from the toxic loop that worry creates.

Grounding down and acknowledging what’s true and good in the present moment is an important part of processing through and releasing worry. When you allow yourself to be fully mindful of your present reality, it reminds you that the things you’re afraid of that are feeding your worries are all possibilities, but not current realities. If those fears should come to be, you can deal with them in their time.

Releasing worry can sometimes be a bigger job than we can do on our own. During the uncertainty of the times we’re living in, many people are struggling to feel safe and calm on their own. If you find yourself consumed with worry and are unable to break out of it on your own, seeking help from a counselor, therapist or pastor can help equip you with the tools you need to break free. 

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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.