How to Deal with Worry when the World Is a Mess

how to stop worrying

We all know the clichés about worry, right?

You know: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

– Leo F. Buscaglia

Or, one of my favs: “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”

– Swedish Proverb

And a litany of similar bits of wisdom. They seem to be all the rage today.

But while we can understand this, even know it in our hearts, that doesn’t make dealing with worry any easier.

One thing people tend to agree on—no matter how diverse their political leanings—is that the world today is one big, fat mess. Just turn on the news to see the horrors occurring in real time, which seem to keep coming at lightning speed.

Yep, lots of issues in our biosphere today.

And that’s just the “outer” culture, which doesn’t even count the personal worries we all may have. And we all have issues we’re facing (or we’re not striving for a high-enough goal!).

I’ve just been through a season of this, and got tons of opportunities to work on worry. You know—the 3 AM wake-up call that seemed to arrive with precision. And one thing I know for true is that there are NO good thoughts at 3 AM.

So what’s the answer to how to stop worrying in such a world? What can we find to anchor our own domains, and thereby begin to move the collective one forward?

As cliché as this one sounds, the thing that kept me sane was staying in the present moment. I know—easier said than done as well. But asking 2 questions keeps me there.

First off: Do I have what I need right now, in this second/minute/hour/day?

I learned this one long ago, when as a starving artist, often the wolf truly was howling at my door. When the cupboard held precious little. When I didn’t know how I was going to pay the next month’s rent. But I had food for that day. Something to eat and a roof over my head.

By remembering that right now, right this second, I had all that I needed calmed me.

Second: Is there something I can do about the situation right now?

Or today? Or in the near future? So often it feels as though there is nothing we can do. But pretty much always, there is. We just have to be able to hear the guidance.

And it’s tough to hear the guidance in the midst of worry and panic.

So, Third: Trust.

I can say for true that when you trust in something higher than yourself, the burden is lifted, if just a hair. When I learned that the Universe did, indeed, have my back, my life changed.

All people have their own beliefs, so exactly what you believe isn’t the point here. But when you find that piece of the divine that you can trust, can bank on, using spiritual tools that resonate with you, life changes.

Fourth: Trust that divine spark within you.

Whether you believe it’s God speaking to you, or the gentle nudge of your intuition (or that it’s part and parcel of the same energy, in the end), we all have a guidance system that resides deeply within the heart.

I’ve never known mine to be fallible. Yep, times existed where I questioned said advice until I didn’t follow it, and boy, can I attest to that insanity!

But when I calm myself, breathe, meditate, hear clearly, the answer always comes. If that’s only the next step for me to take.

All of this speaks to getting quiet—however you get yourself into that place—calming the breath, calming the emotions, letting those stress hormones seep out no matter slowly, and listening, truly listening.

That’s when the next step appears, like a yellow shining road.

In all my life, I’ve never seen worry help one blessed thing.

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Because in the end, all those clichés about worry are actually true, no? In all my life, I’ve never seen worry help one blessed thing. It does rob you of the present, and of finding a way to go forward.

If 3 worries head toward you on the road, at least 2 of them really will fall into the ditch before they get to you. And the third most often disappears or morphs into something manageable.

One thing I learned through my own long worrying life, lol, is that I was using worry as a crutch to actually keep myself from going forward. I know, what a disgusting realization! Using worry as a defense is not a happy thing.

But by knowing that, I also learned to understand worry for what it is in my life.

Or as Abraham Hicks says: “The feeling of worry is an emotional indicator that if you keep beating this drum, you are using THAT as an excuse to slow down this thing that you want.”

And that helped me focus more than any other thing on what I want rather than what I fear.

How do you deal with worry?

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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42 comments
Candess M Campbell says April 26, 2017

I love this Susan! “One day at a time” and “what do I absolutely have to do today?” are helpful for me too. I listen to Abraham Hicks almost daily when I am getting ready in the morning. Last week I hit a low and when my granddaughter called she started pre-paving with me. It was delightful! You hit it on the nail when you identified Trust as being an important step! Great blog!

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    Susan Malone says April 26, 2017

    I knew we were kindred spirits, Candess 🙂 And how wonderful that your granddaughter pre-paves with you! I just love that!

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Colleen M. Story says April 26, 2017

Oh interesting the idea of “using worry as a crutch,” Susan. I’ll be thinking about that one today. You’re so right about slowing down and getting quiet and trusting. Hard to do sometimes but so helpful. I frequently remember the character Rudolf Abel, masterfully played by Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies.” He was captured and in jail and facing a very uncertain future and was always calm as as cucumber. Tom Hanks, who played the American James Donovan who was trying to get him a fair trial, would ask him, “Aren’t you worried?” And Abel (Rylance) would answer, “Would it help?” I always ask myself that question when worry pops up, and the answer is always no! :O)

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    Susan Malone says April 26, 2017

    OH, my, Colleen–I absolutely LOVE that: Would it help? That will stick with me too! Thank you!

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Lori English says April 26, 2017

Susan.
Nice way of dealing with the worry wort. Having and trusting that things will work out is a great way of look at your life. Believe that they will work out and take the necessary steps to ensure you are doing your part. Good article. Lori English

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    Susan Malone says April 26, 2017

    That’s the key, isn’t it, Lori–believe things will work out and take the necessary steps. That works!

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Bel says April 26, 2017

You couldn’t be more accurate. Sometimes, worry catches up with me and I forget how useless it is but then I catch myself and I stop. Very insightful post.

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    Susan Malone says April 26, 2017

    We all do that, don’t we, Bel. The good news is you catch yourself!

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Tamuria says April 26, 2017

Susan, there is so much truth in all of this. I especially agree with “there are no good thoughts at 3 am”. Worry really does rob you of the present and of course, it solves nothing. Like you, I try to put myself in the present moment and follow that up with gratitude for the things in life that are going well. That seems to help push the worry away.

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    Susan Malone says April 26, 2017

    That’s what works for me too, Tami. Sometimes it’s more of a challenge than others 🙂

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Robin says April 26, 2017

Easiest way for me to deal with worry is to keep my plate manageable – being proactive so my plate does not get too full. And I know I do what I can to help the world; if we each do a little it adds up to much.

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Mona McGinnis says April 27, 2017

When worry prevails, I work at calming my mind, sometimes with meditation or journaling but more often with physical activity, i.e. walk, housework, gardening. This is an effort to dispel that energy. Then I think of your second piece of advice: is there anything I can do about it. Here’s another cliché for you: Worry is like rocking in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

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    Susan Malone says April 27, 2017

    I do physical activity to get that energy out too, Mona. And I love that cliche!

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Beverley Golden says April 27, 2017

Recently I heard someone discuss the distinction between worry and concern. Being concerned can be okay and set you into action, while generally being worried is just a big energy sap. I’ve attempted to look at the moments when I am feeling stressed to see if it is worry or concern. That’s helped. I also just started a mindfulness-drumming workshop with the intention of having more tools to come back into the moment, I do fly into the future a lot, to be able to objectively see the situation for what it is. Thanks for sharing your experiences and tips, Susan. We truly are living in high-stress times and often that stress leads to worry, whether it is warranted or not!

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    Susan Malone says April 27, 2017

    Oh, I so agree–being concerned is a wake-up call, which sets you into action! Love that. And yep, the times are high-stress, aren’t they, Beverley. I’m ready for them to be a’changin’ 🙂

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Sue Kearney says April 27, 2017

I love the Buscaglia quote: “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” Thank you for enriching my heart.

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Cathy Sykora says April 28, 2017

The world is a mess. That statement alone makes me a little anxious. Great advice! You are right, worry does no good. Gratitude, action, divinity ….and then, surrounding yourself with goodness. Thanks for a great post!

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Jonita D'souza says April 28, 2017

Lovely article. This is great example of living in the present moment and in this very exact moment I am OK … I know worry only leads to more worry. good tips here.

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    Susan Malone says April 28, 2017

    The ‘in this very exact moment, I am okay,’ helps bring me back to sanity, Jonita!

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Vatsala Shukla says April 28, 2017

I love the way you’ve outlined the 4 step Anti-Worry Plan, Susan. I usually follow a similar method to take the sting out of the situation which might be giving me a reason for concern. I have a 5th step in it which is to keep praying to God to show me the way or give me a flash of inspiration. It’s good to have the Divine as an ally when the worry is a serious one and there are many variables outside of our sphere of control.

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    Susan Malone says April 28, 2017

    I so agree, Vatsala. And I find if I can get quiet, trust that divine, and listen, the next step comes . . .

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Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com says April 28, 2017

Hi Susan! You KNOW that I agree with you on all this don’t you. No matter how difficult things might seem it does no one (ourselves included) any good when we worry. What’s the saying, “if you pray…why are you worried?” and “If you worry…why bother to pray?” I also like to remember that whatever I am seeking seeks me. Like a boomerang…worry comes back to us. Much better to spread hopefulness wherever we go! ~Kathy

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    Susan Malone says April 28, 2017

    “Whatever I am seeking seeks me.” Just LOVE that, Kathy! What a great way to say it!

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Geniece Brown says April 28, 2017

Hi Susan,

I too have never seen worry help me one bit! I believe that God has my back and all sides for that matter. Sometimes I still get caught up in worrying about some things but those are the times that I have to take a moment of silence and take some of the very steps you outlined above!

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    Susan Malone says May 1, 2017

    Isn’t that just it, Geniece–we all sometimes still get caught up in worry. It’s called life, no? But having tools sure helps us through it!

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Reba Linker says April 30, 2017

“Do I have what I need right now, in this second/minute/hour/day?” This is it, isn’t it? The key is always to bring our awareness into the present. When we do, worry gets smaller and the present gets bigger, unto we realize that worry is almost like nothing at all, perhaps just a speck of dust on our beautiful present!

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    Susan Malone says May 1, 2017

    Ah, Reba, I love that–worry is just a spec of dust on our beautiful present. What a great image! I’ll be using that.

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Sonya Kolodziejska says April 30, 2017

This speaks a lot of emotion to me. I have had some dark times over the last 18 months and i have learned that if i can’t do anything about it at that moment, then i stress for half an hour and then i do my best to let it go. It is all in the mindset.

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    Susan Malone says May 1, 2017

    Doesn’t it just work great to give yourself a time limit, Sonya! Wallow and then let it go 🙂

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Apolline Adiju says April 30, 2017

One of the reasons why I stopped watching the news is because I didn’t want to see “the horrors occurring in real time, which seem to keep coming at lightning speed.” One of the ways I use to stop worrying is keeping myself busy all the time and having my days planned and scheduled.

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    Susan Malone says May 1, 2017

    I take complete news fasts all the time, Apolline. Funny too–when I come back, nothing’s much changed. Just more horror!

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Marissa Zurfluh says May 1, 2017

I have the hardest time with trusting people. I never used to be skeptical however over time I have gated that part of myself.

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    Susan Malone says May 2, 2017

    What a great thing to work on, Marissa! The root of trust is within 🙂

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Jennifer Quisenberry @ The Awesome Muse says May 2, 2017

I have to admit, this is something I’ve really struggled with lately. There’s so much going on politically that it feels like we’re in a perpetual state of “the sky is falling” mode. I’ve frankly had to limit how much news and media consumption to once a day or so. Having it coming at me non-stop greatly increased my stress and worry.

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    Susan Malone says May 3, 2017

    I’m with you, Jennifer. I am taking more and more frequent news’ fasts!

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Tandy Elisala says May 2, 2017

Wow. I love this article, Susan. You are spot on about everything here. I ask myself the questions you ask, like: Is this within my control or influence? Is there truth to this? Is this something I can turn over to God/Source to handle? Can I TRUST myself and this situation to be resolved?

Worry and fear sucks the energy out of us. I am getting better at recognizing worry for what it is – a disruption and distraction and shift to what I CAN do.

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    Susan Malone says May 3, 2017

    I just love those questions, Tandy! Now, following those will definitely get us back to a state of peace. Love this!

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Lorii Abela says May 3, 2017

Trust is a biggie. Since the mind can get used with being worried, one cannot be comfortable wondering what would be the outcome. The more common negative trigger though is that things will not turn out well.

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    Susan Malone says May 3, 2017

    Interesting, Lorii–the mind can get used to being worried. I hadn’t thought of that, but so true!

    Reply
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