I remember being in a team exercise in the early 2000’s, with a small consulting firm I was a part of. The goal of the exercise was to discover more about ourselves and get to know others. But then, plot twist! – the attributes that you had identified about yourself were used as a label to group people.

The label that was used to group me together with others that had some similar attributes, was “worrier.”

Really?? Worrier?!

I felt embarrassed and exposed. The assignment as a group started with talking about how our category/label makes things difficult for us at times, but ended with us talking about how we use it as a strength. I seriously didn’t remember that last part until this memory came up for me recently (I had only remembered that feeling of being labeled a worrier).

I’ve been a worrier pretty much my entire life. Worry has been an emotion I’ve learned to understand more over the years along with it’s super annoying cousin, over-thinking. On my best days, I can settle on the fact (or tell myself) that worry is helping me in some way – avoiding something dangerous, being concerned about others, and being thorough in planning for the future. On my worst days, it makes me less productive, less helpful, and mentally consumed.

What do I do when worry creeps into life now?

I ask myself: am I in control of the next, right move?

Usually worry for me comes from a place of not feeling in control. If I’m not in control and I’m worrying, I might make a move to put myself in a scenario where I can think more – take a walk, go to the gym, play golf by myself. This helps me slow down and think through what the next right move might be, giving it the time it probably deserves. And the next right move is often convincing myself to be patient, and let things play out organically versus wrapping myself up in some draining predictive paralysis.

Right now there’s a lot of worry in the world. Especially in our professional lives. Layoffs are happening at all of the largest tech companies, which has taken many by surprise. Leaders have had to deliver horrible news to people they care about, that undoubtedly they lost lots of sleep over – worrying about the words they’ll use, the reaction they’ll get, and the impact to people’s lives.

Despite being surprised, we have the power to be incredibly resourceful when we need to be. Being resourceful doesn’t mean we need to work through this alone – reach out to a fan (we all have them), call a relative, find a coach. Ask them to help you talk through times when you’ve been the most resourceful. Call that back to memory, and live it again, tapping into the best version of yourself.

Worry doesn’t have to be a prison without a key, it can be a tool that helps us unlock the inside job we need to do for that moment.

Here are a few resources about worry that I’ve appreciated recently:

1 // If you want to disassemble the engine of worry like a mechanic, check out this recent More To That post, “How To Beat Worry”, that breaks our worry-thought-concern process down, suggests a technique for “Worry Replacement” and gives us 3 proactive steps to wrap up. Stay with it until the end. (15 min read)

2 // We try to avoid worrying, but it’s usually trying to tell us something. This Hidden Brain episode explores how we can interpret the messages we’re getting. (52 min listen)

3 // “…worry is not a flawless tool, nor is it a free one. Worry bears consequences – a high price that often far surpasses its returns.” Lots of sobering points in this one, “Worry Is An Unhelpful Friend and a Shoddy Fortune-Teller“. (7 min read)

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