by Kathi Szabo
Are you one of the many who complain you never have enough time?
You’ll read that book when you have more time.
Getting together with an old friend will happen when you have more time.
You’ll start a side hustle when you have more time.
That massage will get scheduled when you have more time.
Yet, we know, we never get more time. There are 24 hours in a day or a total of 1,440 minutes. A week has 7 days. There never will be 8, 7 is all you get. There are 365 days in a year and occasionally 366, but never more than that!
Time is constant. It is not changing. Yet we continue to complain, not get things done, and wait till we have more time.
You may have heard me talk about Stress, and that Stress, as a mathematical equation simply is all our pressures less our capacity. But Capacity is Not Time. But many of us have high levels of stress because we believe there is NOT ENOUGH TIME.
Well, let me tell you…
There is always enough time.
But many of us tend to do this one thing that sucks our time away, again and again.
Now you may be thinking it’s scrolling on social media. It’s not.
Think it’s watching too much TV. It’s not.
If you’ve ever been in meetings with no agenda or leadership, you may think that’s it. But no, it isn’t.
Got kids? You may be thinking it’s all their activities – but hey, that is definitely not a waste of time! That’s just being a parent.
So what is this one thing that hijacks all our time?
Worry! Allowing our mind to spend its energy focused on concern without taking any action.
It’s that last part that makes it a time-waster! Without action, we’re just spending our energy without solving the issue. We’re stuck in a primal state of no action. When we are worrying, we are engaging the sympathetic nervous system. We’re in freeze mode. Doing nothing but thinking of our problems.
It’s even worse when we worry about potential problems. Things that haven’t even happened yet.
Why do we worry?
Think about it for a minute, why do you worry?
Worry is not the same as problem-solving. Problem-solving is a good use of our time. But problem-solving is a powerful use of our brain. We are focused not on the distress of the problem, but on solutions. When we are problem-solving, we are looking at what action to take.
When we are worried we are questioning. Why did this happen? What if things get worse? What-if’ing everything.
Now if we can use what-if to define solutions, basically using WOOP, a method psychologist Gabriele Oettingen created to help create solutions for obstacles that most likely will present themselves before they do. Creating solutions is not worrying. That again, is problem-solving, a good thing.
It’s a fine line between worry and WOOPing!
So why do we worry, meaning why do we obsess about a problem but take no action, don’t try to problem-solve, just incessantly think about it?
I don’t have the answer. It makes no sense. Yet we all do it.
I found myself doing a lot of it this past week. And even though I know it was not helping me in the least little bit, I decided to observe it.
What did I notice?
Worrying used up all my time and energy.
Now I didn’t sit and worry, I did things. I cleaned. Scrolled through social media. I watched the news. I even tried to tell myself that researching herbs and farms was not worrying. And maybe it wasn’t. But it was all distractions as my mind kept coming back to worry.
Worry, my mind distracted by thoughts of fear or indecision, stopped me from achieving the simple tasks I set out to do. These persistent worrying thoughts held me back from achieving what I intended to do for the day.
Why? Because I was in a primal state. Instead of engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, I spent most of my time in the sympathetic, Fight, Flight, Freeze. I was not thriving, I was barely surviving. When we are in a primal state, which is whenever we are engaged in the sympathetic nervous system, we do not make good use of our time. Our energy is sucked right out of us.
Worry is the same as FREEZE. Worry keeps us from moving forward.
- Thinking something will magically change, we freeze without finding solutions.
- When we feel overwhelmed we freeze without making a decision or taking action.
- We Freeze because maybe it’s not our problem to solve.
Let’s look at #3 first.
Worrying about someone else’s problems
We all have people we love that we want to help when they have problems or are feeling down or depressed. It’s difficult to not worry about them. But ask yourself, is worrying helping them? Instead of worry, do something. Call them. Be a sounding board. If they ask for specific assistance, do it. Yes, help them as much as you can. But when you begin to do down the road of worry, notice it. Think, “Is there anything I can do that will help them?” If not, accept that because you refuse to worry about them does not mean you don’t care. Let them know you are there to listen, to help them take action, but if there is nothing you can do, let go.
This is where the Serenity Prayer comes in.
“God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
When we know the difference, we can let go. If we are mindful of the fact that we cannot change anything, we can see that worry does nothing. It solves nothing.
Letting go, not worrying, does not mean that we don’t care about our loved ones. It does not mean that we won’t take action if we can. It simply means we are not helping them and we are not helping ourselves when we sit and worry.
Let’s move to #2
Worrying without taking action
This kind of worry is where we pretend we are problem-solving, but in reality, it’s just another form of worry.
This is where we WANT to solve the problem at hand, but, going back to the serenity prayer, we don’t always have the courage to take action.
We research and analyze all potential solutions, yet we just keep on doing that, refusing to make a decision and take action.
We are locked in FREEZE mode. No action just worry. Thinking of all the what-ifs, but not committing to any solution. In the business world, we call this “analysis paralysis.” It’s great to analyze things to make an informed decision, and take appropriate action, but when all we do is keep coming up with potential steps to take, we are wasting the valuable time given to us. That set amount of time that never changes.
Why don’t we commit to a solution and take action?
The number one reason is we are scared of making the wrong decision. So instead of making any decision, we do nothing.
But is any decision a wrong decision? Why is it that because we make a decision that does not produce our desired results, we say it was the wrong decision?
What if we were able to say that any decision gets us closer to solving the problem at hand. If we don’t get the results at first, we learn from that. The next decision may bring us closer to the ultimate solution. We now know more about the problem and what will and not work.
Taking no action is the ultimate wrong decision as it guarantees nothing will change and are stuck exactly where we are.
So how do we let go of fear? I find the easiest way is to believe that no decision is wrong. That every decision, every step we take, leads us closer to whatever we desire. Once we believe there is no such thing as failure, we empower ourselves to make a decision.
Let’s move to #1.
Worrying about the problem by ignoring it
Have you ever found yourself worried about something, so you decide to clean out your closet? Or maybe you decide to go grocery shopping or do the laundry.
Our mind is still thinking about the problem, but unlike scenario #2, here we just focus on the problem and we don’t even think of potential solutions. We avoid solving the problem. But we don’t let our minds let go of thinking about it.
This is different than letting go because we can’t do anything about it. When this type of worry appears, it uses up all our energy as we keep thinking about the problem, but then shifting our focus to mundane tasks. It doesn’t stop the worry really, it just prolongs it because the problem is still there.
Many times we are grouchy when this worry presents itself. When we snap at our children or spouse or co-workers. We’re anxious because we have this problem to solve but we don’t even want to think of the solutions. It may be because we don’t feel we have any control or maybe we feel we are not capable. Both are inaccurate.
We always have control. Making a decision is entirely within our control.
Not capable? We can do more than we know. Perhaps it’s just believing the words of Napoleon Hill, Author of Think and Grow Rich, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
Deciding we have full control of our lives and that we can achieve whatever we desire, is the first step in not letting this type of worry hijack our days.
Take time back
Once we learn to observe our worry patterns, we can begin to take action as to how to resolve our problems rather than waste time worrying.
Notice that we’re avoiding the problem and instead of weeding the yard we actually sit down and identify solutions.
We can notice when we have numerous solutions, but we continue to fret and analyze our options. Then we can stop and decide on one solution, letting go of any fear, knowing that the result, whatever it is, gets us one step closer to resolving the problem.
When we cannot change things, when it’s someone else’s problem and all we can do is offer support, we can let go. And when we let go, we can move forward in resolving those issues within our power.
Make use of a Forest Bathing Invitation I use… The Worry Stone.
Find a stone, tell it your worries, and then ask the stone to care for your worries. Leave it in the yard where you can come back to it when you are ready to take action. They will not longer be worries, but problems to solve. Let the stone have your worries, so you can have your time!