How to Stop Worrying

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There’s no shortage of things to worry about these days. The last few years have made us question how safe and secure we are in our jobs, financially, and even physically. But there’s zero benefit to worry. Listen in this week as we talk about why worry is lying to you and the 3 steps to take if you’re stuck in a worry loop. Listen and learn. Additional free resources:

Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman. I worked almost 12 years at Amazon and saw so many brilliant and successful overachievers burn themselves out and leave their jobs because they’re so stressed and anxious. But guess what? Having a successful career does not have to be at the expense of your mental sanity and personal time. There’s an easier way, and I can show you how. Let’s do this.


Question for you all: What percentage of your day would you say you spend worrying? I want you to think about this because today we’re going to dive into worry. It’s this sneaky little thing we all do, and it’s pretty socially accepted and sometimes, um, I don’t want to say encouraged, but we like feed into it. But there is zero benefit to worry. Not a single benefit to worry. And I want to talk to you a little bit about what I mean by that today. And if you find yourself being someone that worries a lot, I’ll offer you some things to try instead.


So just do a quick audit: What percentage of your day do you think you spend worrying about your job, money, relationships, kids, having them, dealing with them, getting everything done, and not forgetting something? I found before I kind of did this like mental audit, I would guess, truthfully, I spent a good 20% of my day in some form of worry.


So, I love me some Brené Brown. In her book “Atlas of the Heart,” I love the explanation she gives of worry, and I want to read it to you here for a minute. She says worry and anxiety go together, but worry is not an emotion. It’s the thinking part of anxiety. Worry is described as a chain of negative thoughts about bad things that might happen in the future. Okay, so I love how she’s like it’s not actually an emotion that we have, it’s a portion that makes up anxiety, it’s the thoughts creating that anxiety. That’s how she defines worry. She goes on to say, “What really got me about the worry research is that those of us with a tendency to worry believe it’s helping for coping. It’s not.” She says believing it is uncontrollable (which means we don’t try to stop worrying and try to suppress worry thoughts), which actually strengthens and reinforces worries. I’m not suggesting that we worry about worry, but it’s helpful to recognize that worrying is not a helpful coping mechanism, that we absolutely can learn how to control it, and that rather than suppressing worry, we need to dig into it and address the emotions driving the thinking. You guys, this is so good.


Okay, so worry is the thinking part behind the anxiety. We believe it’s a helpful coping mechanism. She says she’s like, “Nope, it’s definitely not.” We believe we can’t help it. It’s out of our control. It just happens. But that’s not true, and I love how she says when we try to suppress it, we actually strengthen it and reinforce it. When you try to suppress it, the reason it actually strengthens is because your brain is going to work to prove itself right. So if you just try to pretend it’s not there, it’s purposely trying to bring awareness to you to say, “No, this thing is right. This is dangerous and bad.”

There is no benefit and upside to worry, but we’ve got to dig into it and understand what’s behind it. Your brain probably believes if we worried about it, then it won’t happen, then we’re in a little bit more control of it. Let’s say, for example, you’re worried about losing your job. That’s a true, genuine emotion that you’re having, the anxiety about potentially losing your job. Worry is the thoughts behind that anxiety. When you’re having worried thoughts that create anxiety for you, you may be working some pretty crazy hours. Maybe you’re trying to highlight all the value you bring and the good things you do to leaders in meetings in a way that’s just a little bit weird. I know you guys worked with those people who sometimes you’re like, “Wow, okay, thanks. It’s obvious that you’re great and wonderful and did those things.” Like, we know when people are doing that, it’s not genuine to be like, “Hey, here’s this awesome thing,” when it’s coming from the space of anxiety because you’re worried. It shows. Humans are amazing at reading each other. You’re doing it for the wrong reasons.


When you have all that anxiety because of the worried thoughts, you’re more likely to make mistakes. You’re not thinking as strategic and big and outside of the box and coming up with these big ideas because your brain is just in execution monkey mode. And it believes if you worry and do all these things and work crazy hours and make sure people think you’re great and wonderful, then you’re in control of the future. Okay, the truth is you cannot control the future. Most of us can understand this logically, but emotionally, we get stuck in what feels like a very true matter of a worry loop.


I see this come up a lot with people that are worried they’re never going to be able to just get unstuck and figure out how do they be successful and happy at work and in their lives. So many people I talk to make great money, but they’re miserable. They’re working too much. They can’t stop thinking about work. They don’t enjoy life outside of work. They feel stuck. They worry that there’s no way out, that your life is just going to be this way. They worry that their only options are to either stay stuck, keep making a lot of money, keep having a great life on paper, and not have the kind of life you want and work ridiculous hours and not have healthy relationships. So, your options are either to stay stuck or to give everything up and basically just go live on government assistance, right? This is what our brain believes is these are our only two options. So, it tells us, “Let’s worry so that we don’t lose this thing.”


But here’s the thing: when you’re working from anxiety because all of your thoughts are in this camp of worry, you are going to stay stuck because you’re not trying new things. You’re spending your time worrying, trying to change small things. You’re spending your time complaining about it. You’re spending your time catastrophizing and thinking about all of these what-if things. You’re not actually working on solutions and finding a way to get over it. You’re just worried about what might happen instead of doing something about it right now. You already feel miserable. Why not feel scared and go try something? But again, when you’re stuck in this worry loop, it’s hard to do that.

Worry is a false sense of security because you’re trying to control what you cannot control, usually being the future or things outside of you, like people, like if that company lets you go or not. There’s also no satisfaction when you live heavily in the world of worry because when you worry about something, it just leads to more things because worry is these negative thoughts about potential bad things that may happen in the future. So, they’re hypothetical. They’re made up. And there’s no satisfying solution to a made-up problem because when you’re in this worry loop, your brain will find something else to worry about. You have the habit, you have the mental patterns of getting stuck in these thoughts of worry. There is no upside to worry, even like stress and pressure, there’s benefit to it because sometimes it makes us move forward and take action and do something, but there’s literally no upside from worry.


Some of my clients kind of push back on this, like, “Well, so I’m just not supposed to be prepared?” And I’m like, no, being prepared is very different than being in a space of worry. I was talking to one of my clients the other day, and they were very worried about being recognized. And this person is a very well-known, famous, recognized person where they live. And they wanted to make sure that there was always someone in the group that they would go out with their friends, they wanted to make sure that someone was always worried about making sure strangers didn’t approach them or that people weren’t sneaking pictures of them. And it was just interesting as we were having this conversation, I was like, so you do know, logically, having just like one person worry doesn’t actually stop people from approaching you or taking pictures of you, like it has no impact on that. If they do know that there’s a security guard person there, they may not be as inclined to approach you or take a picture, but that is you being prepared and taking care of yourself. Their belief was, as long as someone’s worried and on the lookout, we’re good. I’m like, no, be prepared, yeah, have some privacy, have some security, have some boundaries, yeah, but that’s not controlling other people, that is outside of your control. There’s no upside to worry. When this person was going out with their friends and it was their turn to worry because they believed no one else was worried about it, they’re just robbing themselves of enjoying the moment.


It’s fascinating to watch, like Taylor Swift, I look at, she’s someone who’s very famous and you could argue probably has a lot of reasons to worry when she goes out in public. I don’t even know the number of stalkers or crazy people out there or even just fans trying to get to her and say, “Thank you, I really appreciate you.” Like, that to me, I would have a lot of worry. But she goes out there and she does her thing, and I’m sure she has worry, don’t get me wrong, but she has set up a system, she is prepared for those sorts of things, she knows when I go out in public, people are going to come and invade my personal space, I need to have security here to protect myself, right? She’s not at home, never leaving the house because she’s worried someone might come up to her. She’s preparing very differently from worry. There’s no upside to worry. The same thing applies here. If you’re worried about losing your job or staying stuck in this job you don’t like or not finding a partner to marry or not finding a hobby that you really enjoy or not figuring out how to not work so much, when you’re just living in the space of worry, it’s actually robbing you of some of the good parts that are happening while you’re going through this hard thing.


So, if you’re feeling stuck in worry, here are three things I’d offer to you to try. First, ask yourself, what do I feel like I need to do to prepare for this thing that I’m worried about? I think of, like, financial situations. People are like, “Oh, don’t worry if you lose your job, it’s going to be fine.” I’m like, no, I believe there’s a sense of worry there, but how can you prepare yourself, set yourself up for success in case this thing happens that helps you not have as many worried thoughts? Maybe you need to have savings that you could use to live off of for 3 to 6 months and cover all your expenses. Sometimes, knowing you have that money in the bank helps you be able to manage your brain so that you don’t have to worry. You’re like, yeah, that would be rough if it happened, but I’ve got this financial security here I can lean on if I get to that. I don’t need to worry about that. If you’re really stuck in something that you’re worried a lot about, is there something you could do to prepare in case that thing happens? I’m not talking about go to extreme situations, I’m not talking about get obsessed with it, but yeah, have some financial savings. You’re worried the world’s going to implode, have some food storage and water on hand. If you’re worried your boss is going to be really upset about something, talk to them as soon as possible, tell them the whole truth, don’t surprise them, don’t wait for the time when you think they’re going to be worried.
The first thing I’d offer you to do is look at how could you prepare in a healthy, balanced way to set yourself up for success if that thing did happen. Okay, not all the things we worry about we can prepare for, but some of the things we can. Second, give yourself a real problem to solve. Remember, worry is hypothetical problems, and your brain loves a problem to solve. Go give your brain a real problem to solve. If not, it’s going to keep making up other problems. If you’re worried you’re going to lose your job, instead of worrying about all the hypotheticals, maybe give your brain the problem of, “Okay, how do I create time to prioritize networking or updating my resume or connecting with other people to see what the job market’s like out there?” Like, give your brain an actual, real problem to go and solve. It’s so much more helpful, and it’s so much more satisfying because there is an answer to a real problem, and you can totally go and find it.

And the third thing to remember is, Brené Brown states, worry, it can be controlled. Worry is a chain of negative thoughts about bad things that might happen in the future. So, the third thing, you’ve got to go manage your brain, you’ve got to manage the thoughts in your head, you need to be talking to yourself more than you listen. Your brain is designed to look for danger and things that are scary and things that could potentially go wrong. If you’re just listening, your brain is going to continue to feed you these worry thoughts. Go and talk to it, give it real problems to have, chew on purpose what you’re putting into your brain. If you want to learn to trust people and have healthy relationships, I don’t know, maybe stop listening to all the murder mystery podcasts and shows out there. I’m just saying, be careful what you’re putting into your brain. You need to learn to manage your brain, manage what you’re thinking, and learn how do you redirect your thoughts to things you already believe and are more empowering to get you where you want to go.


So, when you find yourself stuck in this loop of worry, just remind yourself, there is zero benefit to worry. Is there something I could do to prepare in case this thing happened? I’m going to go do that. Then, I remind myself, my brain loves problems. Let’s go give it a real problem to solve. I’ve got about 50 of them I could give my brain today. Let’s go solve those problems. And then, I just remember to talk to myself. I’m like, yep, I know, I hear you, but right now, we’re focused on this problem. Thank you, brain. I got you. All right, y’all are amazing. You got this. We’ll talk soon. 

If what you’re learning from this podcast is helping, this is just the beginning. Each week, I offer a limited number of coffee chats so that you and I can connect one-on-one and talk specifically about what’s going on for you. You’ll leave this call feeling more hopeful and motivated, but I’m also going to teach you a few things to try right away to get unstuck. Space is very limited, and these are free, so grab your spot before they’re gone. Click the link in the show notes or go to lindsaylymancoaching.com/chat and sign up today. You got this.

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Hey, I’m Lindsay Lyman

I spent the last ~12 years growing my career at Amazon. I’ve built teams, launched new products, and created my own jobs. As a certified coach, I teach people how to manage the noise in their head to feel motivated and valued at work again.

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