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Let It Ring | How To Stop Worrying

July 27, 2021

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Are you a worrier?

Me too.

Here's a quick trick to help quell those thoughts and stop the worrying.

It takes some practice but it's well worth the try.

Red Garden Rose

Is anyone out there a worrier? 

Because I am...a big one. And I often wonder if I'm all alone.

I can't remember when it started, this bad habit of mine.

Perhaps I got a double scoop when traits were being dished out in the womb.

A love a words, proficiency with a glue gun, a dash of mediocre sewing skills and a big ole spoonful of worry.

Or maybe it was the jolt of losing my dad at a young age

You know, nature vs nurture.

In reality, it was probably a combination of both. 

Although, frankly, I don't think nailing down the origin of my tangled brain really matters all that much. 

No. If anything, at this point, I just want to know how to stop. Worrying is a terrible waste of time and energy and it doesn't actually solve anything.

Does it?
 
Unfortunately, over the years none of the little memes or sayings I've heard have done anything to cure me.

And trust me, I've heard them all. 

Worrying just means you have to live through a poor experience twice.

Worrying is like a rocking chair, gives you something to do, but doesn't get you anywhere.

Worrying doesn't take away tomorrow's troubles, it takes away today's peace.


My brain takes them in, knows they make sense, but then just goes on worrying without missing a beat. 

Old habits die hard.

Red and White Roses In A Vase

Or maybe it is genetic.

I remember a conversation I had with my mother a few months after I got married. I asked her if it felt freeing to not have to worry about me anymore since I was married and out of the house. 

Naive girl that I was.

She laughed and said no...she would always worry about me.

Furthermore, she now had another person to worry about, too. And considering that she had four children all of whom were married, some, at the time with children of their own, the worry was compounded.

Now, she said, it was exponential.

Yikes. At 26, and not yet a mother myself, I hadn't thought about that. 

I also hadn't thought about the fact that maybe all mothers didn't worry so much.

Maybe mine was just gifted. And she passed that gift onto me. 

A gift that maybe she received from her own mother...hmmm.

But again...not something I spend a lot of time contemplating, because what good would the answer really do?

Tree Lined Path

Instead, I've tried to focus on ways to change my behavior. I've listened to conventional wisdom and tips doled out by therapists and other learned souls.

If you can't name it, you can't worry about it.

Wait to worry, until you have something to worry about.

Or my favorite, Scheduling some worry time. The trick here is to relegate worrying to one designated hour a day. 

Unfortunately, my brain is a rogue. It functioned as it saw fit, despite my best attempts at outsmarting its worrisome ways. 

To be honest, after several rather chaotic years, many spent taking care of a sick parent, I threw my hands up in the air and gave in to the idea that this is just who I am.

And I should accept it.

Until. 

Until one day a few months ago, my daughter came home with some new words of wisdom. Words a friend had shared with her, and knowing her mother well, she felt compelled to share them with me.

She said, the thoughts in your brain are no different than the telephone.

It rings every day. And you hear it making noise.

Your attention is immediately drawn to it and your instinct is to pick it up. You've been conditioned. 

Cell phone on table and worry is calling
When worry calls, don't answer!

However. Sometimes it's spam. Or a neighbor you don't have the time to chat with right now. Or a business associate after hours. 

So you don't answer. 

You don't lament about not answering the call. You simply notice it and do nothing.

You just let it ring.

Brilliant.

Now, having been a student of mediation for many, many years I know this tactic well. And I'm very good it at...when I'm meditating. Or in the moments shortly after.

On a day to day basis though, the worry has a way of evading my zen inducing tactics and I'm right back where I started again.

But this was a new way of looking at old habits. It was a very clear metaphor with a very simple message. 

Let it ring.

How easy is that?? Ignore the noise, walk away and carry on free of those pesky worries. 

Fabulous.

So I did. And it worked great.

Well, for the first two days or so. Until I had the most startling realization.

My phone was ringing all.the.time.

Seriously, it rang 24/7, non-stop while I was awake and even more concerning, while I was asleep.

Yup, even my dreams were tense.

Exhausting.

In one respect, I guess you could say the exercise was successful. I was able to clearly see how my brain works and that I spend way too much worrying about some very inconsequential things.

Unfortunately, on some level I think already knew this...but the larger issue remained.

How to stop that blasted phone from ringing in the first place?

Zinnias

Well, at 53, I'm pretty sure this old dog can't. Not completely anyway.

And certainly not in a cold turkey kind of way.

But with a little more intention and maybe a pair of ear plugs and some very loud music, I know I can stop the majority of those spammers who live in my head, from circling back again and again. 

Simply by ignoring them.

Eventually, they'll get the message that calling me isn't worth the effort. 

I'm unavailable for that kind of chatter.

And no one's going to pick up the phone. 

I'm just going to let it ring.

Do you answer?

How To Break The Habit: Stop Worrying

  1. Hi Kim
    I am a worrier too. Some days it is just hard to be human. Worry I think is in most of us. Our minds just go there. Especially women. We are emotional creatures and with that brings worry. We worry about our parents, children, their children, our friends etc. We worry when they are having issues. We worry together like it is a club we all belong too!!! I think it is a trait that most of us have. Learning to cope and figure out how to make the worry not become so big it overwhelms our lives. That is the hard part like you pointed out. Gosh if they could just come out with a pill that turns that part of our brain off to be restful and peaceful. Happy Tuesday. xoxo

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    1. Kris, you just summed it all up so eloquently. We are emotional creatures, caregivers and nurturers by nature. If we could learn how to turn off the overthinking, worrisome thoughts, while keeping the warmth and empathy, that would be amazing. ❤️

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  2. I'm a worrier as well. About answering the phone, my home phone I answer when I want to. If I don't recognize the caller it isn't going to be answered at all. And I don't keep my iPhone on. Only when I need it, which is rarely. Now my iPad I use a lot.
    Brenda

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    1. I think it's hard to escape the worry monster, Brenda. Now the telephone is a different story! Like you, if I don't recognize the caller, I don't answer...any phone! It's a lot different than when we were young. Everyone ran to the phone when it rang!!

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  3. You have described me and my worry habits to a T. My mom was a huge worrier too. Many years ago when she was dying I had an anxiety attack. I was helping to take care of her while trying to manage my household at the same time. I thought that I was having a heart attack so my husband rushed me to the ER. I was mortified (but relieved) when I was diagnosed with an anxiety attack. They gave me Xanax and sent me on my way. I don't want to rely on drugs so I have tried all sorts of things to calm myself. I went through a couple of weeks recently where I was overwhelmed with worry and anxiety. The one thing that has been so therapeutic for me is exercise. I go to exercise classes and I push myself into physically taxing my body until my anxiety is exhausted and depleted. I also pray which is a source of comfort.

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    1. Briana, I'm so sorry to hear this. You've been through a lot and I totally understand the anxiety attack during your mother's illness. There's nothing easy about that situation. I remember feeling the same way when my mom was sick. Walking into the nursing home some days, I thought my legs were literally going to give out underneath me. I too use exercise, walks on the beach are my go to, and meditation and prayer, as well. I think one of the biggest comforts is knowing there are others out there like us...who have very active phones!! Hugs to you my friend.

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  4. As you know, I'm a worrier and I can totally relate to it affecting your sleep. For me, worry needs to be kept in a box. I focus on other things to keep my mind busy, but that box always seems to be there. Sometimes, the worries sneak out of that box, but I refuse to let them overwhelm me (or, at least I try), soooo, back in the box they go with the lid slammed shut! At least it sounds good......

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    1. That sounds a little like my Scarlett O’Hara approach to worry…I'll think about that tomorrow. 😉 And I can just picture your worry box, Ann. It’s a thrifted, pattern beauty that looks great on the shelf..as long as, like you said, it stays slammed shut!!

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  5. still falling into the worry trap occasionally but "worry about nothng
    pray about everything" is helping beyond words.When I catch myself i have a conversation with God and let Him take care of it. After all, I am just going around in circles of what if's and accomplishing nothing when He has the perfect answer.
    Hope this helps

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    1. That's a great quote, Brenda! Thanks for sharing it. It does help. ❤️

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  6. Oh, yes, my dear. Add me to the worriers list. I like to think of worries or bad thoughts in general as pesky gnats that I can shoo away. But I still struggle with it. And goodness, doesn't the media like to keep us there all the time? Lordamercy!

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    1. Yes, pesky gnats indeed!! Another great analogy for my word loving brain. Thanks, Kim. And oh boy, the media definitely focuses on worry inducing headlines, especially lately. I'm much happier in blogland, reading about decor and DIY than I am watching the news. No thank you!!

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  7. You are definitely not alone - I am also a worrier, and get anxious about SO many things. I have often used food as a mean to literally push down my worry and anxiety. When I get my eating under control, all those worries come back up, ugh. I had gained 40+ pounds over the last 3 years due to a major house issue (massive water leak while I was gone for a month in June 2018 - I came home to 4" of water throughout my house and acres of mold - all covered by insurance, thank God!), several family issues, and then of course, covid. In January of this year, I got back on my weight watchers and lost those pounds. However, that meant all the worry came bubbling back up. I read a quote attributed to Prince Philip that his advice to the young royals was to 'just get on with it'. For example, I've been working on my yard (replacing some areas of grass with decomposed granite). I purchased 3 yards of the stuff last spring (May 2020), but I can only pick up 1/2 yard at a time with my truck. I had picked up 2 yards of it, but then got busy with other things. I kept thinking that I should go talk to the place and see if I could still pick up the final yard. I worried and worried about it for months, worried about how they would react and if they would trust that I had really paid for it or tell me it had been too long (my receipt was too faded to be read) - I literally lost sleep over this! I finally gave myself a good talking to - the worst that could happen is they say 'no' and I'm out $40. I finally went there last weekend and they laughed (with me) and loaded me up. A silly anecdote, but the idea of thinking through the actual worst case scenario and how I would handle it did help me push through. Sorry for the long essay, but this really hit a nerve :-) I'm sending prayers and good thoughts out for all the worriers - especially those with serious troubles.

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    1. I think so many of us can relate to your comment, Patty, and appreciate your thoughts and prayers. It's exactly that kind of situation that I worry about that I didn't even realize I was worrying about. There have been so many larger, really big, issues in my life over the past few years and of course, lately, but those little worries can be equally as taxing. Those are the ones I'm trying in earnest to ignore. I like your tactic of taking it to the end and the 'just get on with it' advice. Practical and true. I'm glad that your situation worked out well and that you shared with us today.

      A friend actually messaged me that she loved the post, but she really connected with the comments. They made her feel better, knowing she wasn't alone. So I think your good thoughts are already working! Take care!!

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  8. Kim, it looks like worry is a state of mind that affects most. I know it does me and always has. When the kids were little I worried when they went on a field trip, or stayed overnight at a friends. I worry when it is time for a doc appointment, or waiting for the results of a medical test. I worry for my daughter (who is 60) whenever she has a doc appointment. I worry when Jake has to get on a plane and go someplace for his job. I worry whenever Jerry gets behind the wheel of the car until he returns home. I only worry about physical things though, never have I worried about where the money is going to come from, and there should have been a lot of worries about that way back when. I tell myself that it is silly to worry until you know for sure, but it is just something inbred in my DNA, I think. I have no smart answers for it.. As far as that phone ringing, in my mind, the telephone is the dumbest thing ever invented. Now that there is such a thing as caller ID, that is one worry that I don't have! Let it Ring!xxoJudy

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    1. Judy, I could've written your comment, word for word. I'd just have to swap out the names, but your worries are essentially my worries. I think it is in our DNA. I always marvel at those who can shrug things off so easily. I wish I was born with a little more of that! Alas, that was not in my recipe. So it is what it is as my very smart husband says, and like others have said, while I don't want to see anyone else suffer, it's comforting to know that I am not alone. xxoo

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  9. We are all worriers, to different degrees, perhaps? Or is it just how we cope? I'm a worrier, for sure, and the only way to not "answer my phone" is distraction. I can't just ignore the ring, I've got to find something else to distract me from hearing it. I can't say that I can distract myself from worrying to the point of the phone being on silent mode; but I can lower the volume by doing something else. That said, my most "worrying" time of day is bedtime, when there are no options for distraction, and sleep is difficult because of all that ringing in my head.

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    1. Amy, I can relate. I can't really get to silent mode either, but when distracted, I can catch a break for a bit. And oh boy, bedtime is the worst. My husband just rolls over and falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow, but not me. That's when the worries seem to wake up!! Thanks so much sharing today. I know it helps tons of people to hear about how others are feeling and coping!! Here's to a quiet evening!!

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  10. I didn't realize I was a such a bad worrier until my son turned 18. My husband & I were heading out for a date alone...the first one after our son's birthday. We're in the car ready to go when my husband stops, takes my hand, looks me in the eye & very sincerely says....."Honey, I just know we're going to have a good time. No matter what happens...if we die in a wreck Joel will be ok. He's legal & no one can make him do anything he doesn't want to do."

    Feel free to roll around laughing (eye roll) Okay, so maybe I did worry quite a bit over the years of him being totally alone in the world if something happened to us...or being forced to live with someone he didn't want to live with. Ha!

    I do think we have choice though. We either give in to it & feed it(too much media, gossip, ect) or we choose to turn away from it. The phone illustration is so good. I'm a Christian & I Timothy 1:7 has really helped me with worry. " For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." Especially the part about a sound mind. Most worry is irrational or overblown & that's not the product of a sound mind. So I pray & claim that promise.

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    1. Mother worry is a hard one to reason with, Jenny, and I’m right there with you. It takes a lot to keep my mind on track sometimes. It seems like prayer really does help a lot of people. I should do it more, I remember when my mom was very sick, I used to read from a prayer book at her bedside and it always made me feel better...Thanks for the reminder and for sharing today.

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  11. Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer! Then talking to some of my friends about my worries who tell me to pray, LOL!

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    1. Prayer seems to be getting a lot of votes today, Ricki!!

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  12. I'm a worrier too. I'm good at praying and handing things over to God - and then picking them back up again! Several years ago the girl who did my hair was expecting her first baby. She told me she couldn't wait until the baby was born so she could quit worrying. I told her that this was just the beginning of worrying.
    The thing is - so many things I worry about never even come close to happening, so I remind myself of that when I start up again.

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    1. Oh Mari, that poor girl!! Haha. She reminds me of me…I remember being so uncomfortable with my first baby as the due date approached. I couldn’t get comfortable to rest and I told my mother that I couldn’t wait until the baby was born so I could get a good night’s sleep! Um. Hello…

      And yes, I agree that picking it up again part is a hard habit to break, but you’re right, lots of things we fixate on never happen. I need to focus more on that!!

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  13. It's good to have different techniques to cope with worry. Clinical anxiety can be safely and effectively treated with medication. Just as you wouldn't hesitate to take medication for a heart condition or an infection, an imbalance in brain chemicals (serotonin, dopamine etc.) can be treated with the appropriate medication. I think people are reluctant to talk about this because there's a stigma about taking medication for "feelings" or some are worried about being considered "crazy". If you're having persistent feelings that effect your everyday life, talk with your doctor or a therapist. It really can help. :)

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    1. I agree Rachel, it is good to have different techniques. What worked yesterday might not work today and vice versa. I also agree that despite the great strides made in the area of mental health over the past few decades, there is still a stigma. I also agree that there's a lot of help out there and it can be valuable!

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  14. I am not a worrier. I think though, as with any habit, you are on the right track to deal with it. It'll just take some time to create new habit pathways. A new default so to speak.

    Also practice casting your cares on our heavenly father. He will carry them for us.

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    1. Lucky lady!! I really do think it's temperament and you're either born with the tendency or you're not. Or perhaps your very strong faith is the reason you don't worry. There does seem to be a lot of comments about the power of prayer!!

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  15. Kim I really needed to hear this today. I have been worrying for years . My Dad died last year but before that I was constantly worrying . He had Parkinson's and was falling almost weekly. Sometimes I would be in the Er twice a week. When the house phone rang ,especially at night I would jump…will I have to throw on shoes and run to the hospital?Will he be okay? Can I sneak him his non formulary medicine so he does not turn to jelly? Since his passing I am sleeping somewhat better but I’m now worried about my two recent college grad daughters. Will they complete their masters?. Will they find a job with benefits? I had a flood in the crawl space that I discovered Thursday night. I had at least 80 boxes down there. Mostly decorations for the holidays but it was a huge wake up call that I need to purge….and so now I’m worrying about that. The other night I had so much on my mind when I went to bed. Bob falls off as soon as his head hits the pillow. I was talking to him over his snoring! Just venting. His last words to me were: Susan please don’t ramp things up”…….grrr
    You are not alone my girl!

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    1. Hello Susan, my friend. I have to tell you, this comment hit a little too close to home. I could've written it myself...so much so that I showed it to my husband and my own girls and they just looked at me speechless. I remember those days with my mom and the falling. I think I still have a mild case of PTSD from them. And the girls...exactly. My heart goes out to you about your dad. And the flood. Never a dull moment is there? Thanks for sharing and I'll be thinking of you...and hoping you can let your phone ring a little this weekend. Or mute it altogether!! ♥️

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    2. We have a lot in common. I can’t tell you how many times I read “there’s no crying at the nursing home’ and told people about it. You are a compelling writer my girl!

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    3. Thank you, Susan. I'm truly humbled.

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  16. I come from a family of worriers. Going to grad school and becoming a counselor in my forties helped me to learn new coping skills. Did it sop it completely? Nope, but I am able to manage it better. I like the ringing phone idea. xo Laura

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    1. That was a smart move, Laura. I'm sure you have tons of great coping strategies. I often wonder if therapists have better luck employing them than we do, of if worries plague them just as much...

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  17. I'm a worrier, too, but mostly about the health and safety of my family. When I start to worry about something, I ask myself "Will I care about this in 5 years?" Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I'm learning not to be hard on myself because I worry. I use it as sort of a prayer and a way to get closer to God. Good luck and bless you for sharing!

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    1. Thanks Ellen, I feel very blessed that so many are so willing to share their stories with me and their coping mechanisms. While I hate to see anyone suffering, it really does help to know I'm not alone. I love the 5 year tactic...that's so important. Some things are just not worth worrying about and that gives me the reminder to cross them off my list! Love it!! I hope you have a worry free weekend!!

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  18. Hi Kim,
    Oh I am with you, I worry too. And with our world and our country in the state it is in.. I really worry about the future for my sons.
    I actually had one of my Meals on Wheels participants share this advice with me... she lost her husband two years ago. She said "learn to enjoy each day, because we don't know what the next day will bring, so just do your best, be happy and love."

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    1. She's so right, Carla...so right...xxoo

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    2. Carla, what I say is "You never know when the last time will be the last time. Have something to say ?"
      Myrna

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  19. I need to show this to my husband, he is the worrier in our coupling. I taught myself years ago how to silence the worry wart. However, he still likes to come out and play - often! I love the phone metaphor, it so eloquently put into words kind of what I do to stop the worrying.

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    1. You guys sound like you are a good pair...you balance each other out. That's awesome.

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  20. When I saw the phone, I laughed. If it rings, shoot it. In this area we are flooded with calls and rude aggressive people who want to buy your home for cash. My message says "My home is not for sale and I have insurance"
    Worry and I are best friends, but when I am gone, who will worry for me ? Just stay busy.
    Myrna

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    1. Myrna, I hear you loud and clear with those spam phone calls. Around here we just warranty phone calls. "Your warranty is almost up..." We have no warranties on anything so I don't even answer. Crazy how the phone ringing used to be such an exciting sound and now it's an annoyance. Also, I love your advice, just stay busy is awesome!! Thanks friend!!

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  21. Kim, I know a lot about this subject, and, in fact, it's the topic of my Monday Morning Encouragement today. I hope you'll stop by and read what I have to share. As I mention in the post, I'm a recovering worrier. Hugs.

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    1. Hello Nancy! I have been trying to set aside some quiet time to listen to the video that goes along with your post for a week!! I told myself today that I was going to make it a priority!! I will keep you posted and thanks for sharing!! Hugs!!

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