The trouble with worrying (and what to do instead)

The trouble with worrying…

Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do but it gets you nowhere.

Erma Bombeck

Worry’s been worming it’s way into my life of late. And maybe yours too?

From personal health concerns to a global pandemic, I’ve been having some trouble with worrying.

I know. Worry’s not all bad.

In small doses, worry raises our game. Captures our attention, drowns out distractions and focuses our mind on what matters most. Worry can spur us on, to slay our to-do lists and stay out of danger.

But the trouble with worrying comes when it begins to overwhelm us. Dominating our days and destroying our peace.

Too much worry wears us down.

When we dwell on our worries, they grow. Wreaking havoc on our health and our happiness and creating stress in our systems. Our blood pressure and heart rate increase. We lose sleep. Eat too much, or not enough. Become forgetful, jumpy and difficult to be around.

Worry narrows our focus. And while that’s super useful for getting stuff done, danger lurks when we lose sight of the big picture. Worry weighs us down and warps our thinking. Fearing the worst rather than hoping for the best robs us of resources, resilience and a sense of perspective. Worry distorts our reality, clogging up our thinking as we go round and round, over and over the same ground.

Action is the antidote to despair.

Joan Baez

Worry keeps us stuck whereas action propels us forward, building momentum and moving us on. Action kick-starts a shift in our thinking, clearing space for new ideas, possibilities and opportunities to reveal themselves. Taking action is about taking charge of how we respond to whatever’s happening around us. So we no longer feel hopeless or powerless. Moving instead to a place where we feel, at least a little more hopeful and powerful πŸ™‚

But first, a few things to remember…

It’s okay to care

Worry comes from a good place. We’re humans, social beings who care. If we didn’t care about anything, there’d be nothing to worry about. Be gentle with yourself, avoid adding layers of guilt on top of the worrying. Worrying about worrying’s the worst πŸ™‚

Worry is in our DNA

Worry is part of our heritage as humans. Our ancestors genetic legacy – the evolutionary advantage of a cautious nature passed down the generations. Anticipating danger at every turn, we’re experts at spotting the stumbling blocks, the hazards ahead and the risks involved.

Not everything is our business

Byron Katie encourages us to consider whose business we’re in –

  • our own business (our own personal challenges)
  • other people’s business (their personal challenges)
  • or the universe’s business (freak weather, any weather, natural disasters and so on)

It’s not easy to stay in our own business, we’re human and we care. But accepting that not everything is our business and recognising whose business it is can help us identify what to do next.

So what can we do instead of worrying?

Get real

While dwelling on our worries can be dangerous, letting them fester and build in the background isn’t likely to help either.

Feeling uneasy without quite knowing why? Sometimes we need to go deep into our worries, be honest about what’s really bothering us and maybe even give ourselves permission to panic, just for a teeny tiny moment. Setting limits is vital here, we don’t want to get stuck at this stage.

Exposed to the bright light of day, some worries shrink all on their own, but if they don’t, at least now we know what we’re dealing with.

Make room for doubt

However certain we are, none of us knows everything. And that’s reassuring when it comes to worry. There’s always more to learn and new information that might come to light. Whatever we’re worrying about, it’s unlikely we have all the facts.

Especially when we’re worrying outside our own business, take comfort in the knowledge that we don’t know what we don’t know. But someone else might, and probably does πŸ™‚

Have faith

Worry arises from uncertainty. And while we can never be sure what’s round the next corner, we can build faith in our own and other’s ability to cope when we get there.

When we’re the one being worried about, sometimes it feels insulting and hurtful, as if our loved ones aren’t sure we can cope. Wearing our worry like a badge of honour, declaring to the world how much we really really care, can ruin our relationships. Yet shifting our attention from the issue itself, to strengthening those relationships benefits us all.

Not only do we feel less alone. But chances are we’ll find others are better equipped than we thought, way ahead of us in their thinking and they’ve got this covered πŸ™‚ And if they don’t, then the connections we’ve made allow us to learn more about what might actually be helpful and be in a position to offer it, should we be asked.

Writing down our worries is a useful tool for clearing our minds. But taking that a step further and building our own booster list can be a life-saver when our reserves are low and we’re struggling to cope. Looking back at the kind words of others, the progress we’ve made and the moments we’re proud of, can boost our resolve and drive us on, determined to tackle whatever awaits us ahead.

Look for the positive messages

With the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to look back and see the positives that come out of the most dreadful of times. Whatever we face in life, we learn from it. And we can hang on to that hope, even in the midst of the messiest moments, even when there seems no way any good can possibly come of this.

Of course, looking on the bright side while also peering down a pit of despair is much easier said than done. But while we’re waiting to ride out the waves of our worry and for those chinks of light to reveal themselves, there are choices we can make, steps that we can take that’ll help or hideously hamper this process.

For me, watching the news is a no-no, bright lights, fast-paced, emotionally draining. While reading the latest news online, just once or twice a day feels far less of an onslaught on my emotions and much easier to pull away from if it starts to feel too much. We can’t control everything we’re exposed to but we do get to take charge of where we focus our attention. We can choose to surround ourselves with positive messages, mantras, quotes, books and videos that inspire and delight us rather than dragging us down.

Celebrate small wins

We don’t have to tackle everything all at once. But rather like choosing where we focus our attention, we get to choose the direction we’re facing.


The power of five.

Read a little, try a little, wait a while, watch.

All strategies we can use to gently, intentionally head with purpose towards what we want, rather than the outcomes we dread. And for every move we make in the right direction we can celebrate knowing we ‘re on our way πŸ™‚

Seek out good company

Facing our worries alone is tough but for many of us, asking for help, is even harder. But whether or not we’re ready to share, spending time with those we love can make even the darkest moments, a little brighter.

And for those times when there’s no-one around or we’re not ready for company, there’s always our internet besties. Creating a list of blogs and YouTube channels that build us up when we’re feeling down can be a valuable go-to on those days we’re feeling stuck or isolated.

Take a break

Sometimes when we’re consumed by our worry and our fear, it helps to step away. Even for a moment, shifting our gaze away from our worry helps us recharge and reset so we’re better equipped to rise to whatever challenges lay ahead.


Smiling is a powerful signal that we’re okay. And in case you think this is veering too much into fake it ’til you make it territory, I prefer to think of it as…

Practice it, until you perfect it πŸ™‚


Moving our bodies moves our emotions. Straightening our posture, stretching our bodies and shifting our gaze up and outwards all help to ease tension. When we get physically active, our brains release feel-good chemicals and we start to feel happier.

Any old movement will do but if like me, you’re a fan of walking and yet you can’t get outside, check out my favourite walking workouts here.

Fresh air and light

Spending time in nature lifts our spirits and can widen our perspective. And even when we’re not able to take a walk in the countryside, it can help to make sure we’re getting enough light and fresh air. Open the curtains as soon as you wake up, throw open the windows and take some deep breaths.

Drink water

Many of us don’t drink enough water. Even mild dehydration strains our system, physically and emotionally. Drinking water boosts our energy and our brain power, helping us think more clearly and act with intention. Downing a glass of water mindfully relaxes and refreshes our minds as well as our bodies.

Have fun

Taking time out from our worries to visit our joy lists and have fun might seem like a stretch, a frivolous waste of our time. We feel guilty and irresponsible, fearing that others will see us as heartless and uncaring.

Yet following our joy is an act of self-care and a powerful example for others around us. Doing what we love helps harness the power of hope, it builds our resilience and our confidence. Leaving us better placed to find the energy and enthusiasm we need to deal with difficulties and cope in a crisis.

Sleep on it

Getting enough rest is vital to our physical and emotional health. But it can be tough to prioritise our own sleep when we’ve got little ones, work to do and so much we want to accomplish. Yet skipping sleep is a false economy, affecting our mood and stifling our creativity.

The world often seems a friendlier place after some sleep and if not, at least we’ve got more energy to face it. Consider setting yourself a bedtime, following a night-time routine and even taking naps to recharge and refresh πŸ™‚

Let me know in the comments, what’s helping you in these worrying times?

If you’re looking for more relief from your worries, I recently posted some soothing quotes for scary times. I’d love to know what you thought of them.

For more posts on intentional living, click on Living at the top of the page.

And if you’re an intentional home-edder or you’ve found yourself unexpectedly homeschooling, check out the Learning archives.

May all your worries be little ones πŸ™‚


  1. Yes, I relate to this! Particularly like this: “Sometimes we need to go deep into our worries, be honest about what’s really bothering us and maybe even give ourselves permission to panic” Oh yes… definitely. Thank you for these thoughts!

    1. Hayley says:

      Thanks for your comment Alice, much appreciated. Been plenty of opportunities this year to go deep and also to work on not staying in that panic zone too long πŸ™‚

  2. Very timely, Hayley! I absolutely love the Erma Bombeck quote and hadn’t been familiar with Byron Katie but it gives a really concrete way to process worry. Thanks for this:).

    1. Hayley says:

      Thanks Erin, yep I love the way that quote shows how worry can keep us stuck. And I’m so glad to introduce you to Byron Katie, I’ve found her work really useful over the years πŸ™‚

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