The Simple Trick That Helped Halt My Constant Worrying In Just One DayI just wish I’d done it years ago.
by LARELL SCARDELLI
I’m a worrywart. There, I said it. I think 10 steps ahead about everything, propelling my mind into unnecessary future anxiety. If I have a small weekend trip coming up, I’ll think about what I’m going to pack a week in advance. When I bring my cat outside for an afternoon of gardening and napping, I cringe every time I hear a car pass. If I’m out for a run, I think about my to-do list at work, and when I’m at work, I can’t help but consider the next task in my home projects. Yes, this mindset has the benefit of keeping me organized, but it also takes me out of the moment.
To help cope with my worrying, a friend recommended I read The Little Book of Letting Go by Hugh Prather. Worry, Prather explains, is a form of fear. Like, if I don’t pack a week in advance, something detrimental will happen. Prather writes, “Keep in mind that although they have their roots in the past, all forms of fear point to the future.” I never thought about my worry as a fear, but after reading this book, it all clicked: I’m afraid of messing up, doing a bad job, and being late for an event in the future. It was clear I had some letting go to do.
THE ASSIGNMENT: WRITE DOWN EVERY WORRY AND CONCERN
Prather is specific, honest, and personal in his 30-day spirit and mind cleanse. Throughout the book, he offers releases, or little assignments, to do over time. My favorite release was in chapter two, and the best part is it only takes one day. “From the time you awake to the time you get ready for bed, write down any fear that crosses your mind including worry, vague apprehension, or nagging suspicion,” Prather instructs. The first time I tried it, I kept a pad with me all day and jotted down things like, “The hour-long commute to my new job will be horrible” and “My cat will run into the street and get hit by a car.” As silly as they sound, these were things weighing down on me, consuming my mind at every restful moment.
Once you’ve made a list, the next step is rate your fears from 1 to 10—10 being absolute certainty. That night, I jotted numbers down as I went through my list of 11 fears, noticing a lot of them were low, but meaningful to me. I kept the list on my bedside, and over the next few weeks, checked it, as Prather instructs, to see if anything happened the way I feared it would. Guess what? The drive to work is a breeze. I’m grateful for the time to listen to an artist’s whole album (my CD collection is pretty great right now), and dig into some books on tape. My cat? Still alive and fluffy as ever lounging under our Alaskan pine tree. “When most or all of the fears you have had sufficient time to occur, fold the list and put it in your purse or wallet,” says Prather. “Let this be your new identity card.”
So here I am, 5 months later, and while some fears still have to work themselves out, others have vanished from my mind. I love this exercise, because you’re proving your future-self wrong. It works with both big and small fears, reducing a loop of worries to a false list with numbers. I do this release every so often to get rid of mind-baggage and to remind myself that being attached to the future is a fear, not a reality. The exercise is almost a lesson in trust, forcing me to accept the motion of life and let things go.