Dear E & V,
I’m not a worrier, but I am.
I have friends and family that worry much more than I do. I like to think I provide them with a sense of calm, that the world isn’t as scary as they think it is.
It’s not that I don’t have worries, I do.
I worry about providing for you while also being present in your life. I worry that I’m going to stay stuck in a job I don’t like because I’m too afraid to just quit. I worry that I’m not doing enough for you as a father to support your growing emotions.
I have vague worries that an obstacle will pop up in our house search or that I’ll make a bad impression for the Hazmat class I’m taking.
Sometimes they get to me. When I’m by myself and have time to think, my mind starts to pull worry from the back of my mind. It sucks.
I could go on and on about all the rational reasons why you shouldn’t worry. I love Buddhism and Stoicism because they both provide a supportive philosophy for why worry is useless. But when you’re in the thick of it, rational thought is a poor tool to battle emotion.
So I worry, but unlike many of my friends and family, I’ve found ways to not let it control my life.
Here’s the best piece of anti-worry advice I can give you that works miracles for me:
Take a deep breath and go for a walk. Remove yourself from the anxiety-inducing environment.
While I walk I acknowledge my worry — but then I acknowledge that it’s also wonderful to be outside (even when it’s raining). I acknowledge that it’s wonderful to see a blue sky and feel the sun on my skin, or that it’s amazing to hear the sound of rain drops on my coat, or that it’s refreshing to feel the bite of the cold on my nose.
That puts things into perspective for me. Life is too short to be worrying about unimportant things or things out of our control. It’s much more enjoyable to appreciate the little things that make life beautiful and to do what you can to make life wonderful.
If you want to deal with your worry directly, there are two ways to confront it depending on the source of the worry:
- If it is something you can control, then you can use it to propel yourself to action. Example: You worry about being prepared for a test, so you study harder for it.
- If it is something you can’t control, you resign yourself to your fate: hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Resign yourself to the chaos of reality but make yourself adaptable and resilient to any result. Example: You worry that Trump or Bernie (pick your poison) will win the next election.
If you really really want to adapt to whatever life throws at you, explore the concept of “anti-fragility” — growing to a stressor instead of maintaining a neutral or diminished state.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb explores it in Anti-Fragile: Things That Gain From Disorder , but all his books are worth reading for gaining the most from life (he is my favorite modern-day philosopher). Anti-fragility can be summed up as a kind of Post Traumatic Growth Order — the opposite of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
If you can learn to reframe negative experiences in a way that helps you learn and grow as a person, you can make yourself anti-fragile. It’s not easy — most worthwhile things in life aren’t — but it will probably help you live a much better life in the long run.
So the next time you start to notice worry taking over your life — take a deep breath and go for a walk. You can’t control what life throws at you, but you can control your reaction to it.
I am a Father, Husband, Cowboy Philosopher, Volunteer Firefighter, and Professional Dilettante. I am nothing and I am everything. But when it comes to our relationship: I only wish you wonder and happiness.