Worrying about things you can’t control — like the state of the economy or someone else’s behavior — will drain you of the mental strength you need to be your best. Obsessing the things we can’t control is useless. It takes us out of the game. We have to choose to be in the game.
There is nothing wrong with reminiscing from time to time especially if you are thinking about something that inspires you. However, spending too much time in the past can pose some problems.
“When you spend too much time reliving the past in your mind then it is easy to start feeding your worries about the future. When you spend too much time in the future then it is also easy to get swept away by disastrous scenarios.” The wisest thing you can do is just focus your time and attention on the present where you have the power to decide what works for you and carry out what you want to do. So live in the present, take the time to savor the moment, breathe, and enjoy what it has to offer.
It’s often hard not to care about things you can’t control whether your partner will do well on a work presentation, what the weather will be like for our flight, and so on. The problem is that caring about things you can’t control takes your time, zaps your energy, and keeps you from working on the things you can control. To reduce your stress and start leading a happier life, you need to let go and stop caring about those things you can’t control.
There are certain situations you simply cannot change. This doesn’t mean you should just give up on everything and drift along, allowing anything to happen to you and your life. Believing you control nothing is just as unhelpful as believing you control everything. It takes an understanding of that balance to find a place of true happiness in your life.
The ‘Worry Box’ strategy can be quite helpful in effectively addressing ruminating thoughts about something over which you have no control.
First, clarify whether you have control over the issue you are worrying about. For instance, you have an important assignment due for work tomorrow you have not completed, so are feeling anxious. It would not be appropriate or helpful to try to stop feeling anxious. Rather, you need to complete the assignment, right? So these sources of anxiety might be entered on a to-do list and completed. But when you identify that you are worrying about something you have no control over, or should not take action on, then you have confirmed that your anxiety or worry is unproductive and unhealthy. For these types of worry, you might try an activity called the “worry box.”
When you realize you are worrying about something you shouldn’t act on, jot it down on a small piece of paper, about the size of a Post-it note, or a 3x5 card, cut in half. Place all of the little slips of paper into a special box you have affectionately dubbed your “worry box.” This should be a small enough box to be kept out of sight, like under your bed, in the back of your closet or in a drawer. Assign yourself specific times to have permission to pull out your worry box, and obsess over all the slips of paper you have collected since your last worry session. It is important to schedule these at least slightly less often than you typically find yourself engaged in unproductive worrying. So, for instance, if you tend to have a few times each day when you notice yourself worrying for no good reason, then you might allow 15 minutes every other day to pull out your worry box contents. Be sure to set an alarm so you do not spend more time than you have allotted for this activity. Then be careful to extend the scheduled times out further and further as you notice you are worrying less each day. Once you come across a slip of paper with something written on it that no longer concerns you, dispose of it.
Being thankful for the things that are going well in your life can help you find more to be grateful for every day. Practicing gratitude regularly can help you feel more in control of your life and the things that you can’t control will begin feeling less overwhelming. In everything, give thanks!