How to Stop Worrying: Influence Your Circumstances
A great way to stop worrying is to influence your circumstances. Here is a firsthand account of how this technique worked for me.
Are you a worrier? You’re not alone. A recent survey showed that 86% of adults consider themselves to be ‘worriers.’ Constant, excessive worrying not only wastes time and energy, but can also lead to anxiety, which ultimately leads to dire mental and physical health consequences. Furthermore, many people don’t know how to stop worrying.
I’ve got some news for you, and it probably won’t come as a shock:
You have no control over many things that happen in life.
I know what you’re thinking: you’ve heard this before – we all have. But many people refuse to accept this and continue to worry about the things they can not control. Some of these people become control freaks. They try to force people or circumstances to change in order to prevent bad things from happening.
I’ve got some more news for you.
No matter what the circumstances are, you can’t force things to go your way.
If you try and force things to happen, your efforts will likely completely backfire. And in the off chance you happen to succeed, things will most likely feel contrived and unnatural.
Fortunately, while you can’t force circumstances, you can influence them. I can’t force my son (who has high-functioning ASD) to become friends with his neuro-typical age-mates, but I can provide the tools he needs to assimilate with neuro-typical children. I can influence his mind and his behavior to give him the best chance at a solid, stable upbringing, despite his disability.
One way to stop worrying about things you can’t control is to influence your circumstances. Here’s a story about how I was successful doing just that:
Stop Worrying and Influence Your Circumstances
One of the secrets to becoming a good influencer is to focus on your behavior: lead by example and be a great role model for others.
I have used this technique to stop worrying about my children. Well, maybe not stop worrying – maybe worry less is a more accurate term, since we never stop worrying about our kids, do we?
Meet Olivia. She recently turned 7.
Olivia inherited a lot of traits from her mother: fabulous good looks, incredible intelligence, and just a smidgen of modesty. But one thing she did not inherit from me is my natural ability to strike up or carry on a conversation with someone she just met.
I am the type of person who can talk to anyone, at any time, about pretty much anything. And people love to reciprocate, whether I know them or not! The cashier at the food store? I can have a comprehensive conversation with him about the weather. The woman in line ahead of me at Chick-Fil-A? An in-depth discussion about how our kids only eat the waffle fries, not the chicken nuggets.
I can talk to anyone. And I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember.
But when Olivia meets someone new, she is shy. It doesn’t matter if she is meeting an adult or another child her age. Truth be told, there is a huge difference between Olivia at home and Olivia when she meets someone for the first time.
Olivia at home:
“Mommy! Guess what? Guess what, Mommy? At school… we are doing this project… and it was for art… we had to draw our favorite things on our piece of paper… and I drew rainbows and unicorns on the piece of paper… and I was about to draw a flower… because I know you like flowers, Mommy, and so do I… And I wanted to draw a red flower… because red is my favorite color… and this boy stepped on the only red crayon we had… and it broke… it broke, Mommy, and I was so mad at him, but then I found another red crayon… and I drew my flower…. But then I couldn’t find the green crayon to make the leaves… so I am going to get my green crayon now and finish my flower.”
She talks. All. Day. Long. And if she is not talking, she is singing to herself or anyone who will listen.
Olivia when she meets someone for the first time:
At first, I tried encouraging her to be friendlier. “Go on, Olivia, tell her how old you are. Tell her where you go to school. It’s okay, you can talk.” The encouragement would usually be met with a silent response or a voice so small you could barely hear it. The longer this went on, the more aggravated I’d become. Before long, I would find myself frustrated to the point where I no longer cared so much about her ability to hold a conversation. It became more about the fact that she wasn’t doing what I asked.
Forcing her to overcome shyness and social anxiety was not the answer. I had to switch gears, to stop forcing and start influencing.
I stopped forcing… and started influencing
When summer rolled around, I enrolled the kids into week-long summer camps. You know, so they could experience new things, make new friends, get out of the house for a few hours so I could get some work done… And did I mention get out of the house for a few hours? Anyway, one particular week there were no camps available for Olivia. So, we spent that week at Camp Mommy. We did art projects, made s’mores, and played with Barbie dolls. We made memories. It was delightful. And exhausting.
Well, I had completely forgotten about a photoshoot that my business partner and I had scheduled right in the middle of Camp Mommy. Naturally, it could not be rescheduled. And, of course, I failed to secure a sitter. I thought to myself, “She’s going to sit there for 2 hours with nothing to do. I guess she can color in her coloring books.”
My daughter and I went to the photoshoot with coloring books and 152 crayons in tow. Olivia greeted my business partner, Gin (who she had already met on several occasions), barely acknowledged the photographer (who she had never met before), and quietly sat down to color rainbows, unicorns, magical ponies, and so on. The photographer tried to engage my daughter – but she wasn’t having any of it. She hid behind the coloring books, color color color. But as soon as the photoshoot started, the coloring stopped, and Olivia watched me like a hawk.
There was nothing formal about the shoot. The poses were candid and meant to capture the true spirit of our partnership. The pictures of Gin captured depicted a blue-haired yoga instructor with a Zen demeanor and a caring spirit. My images captured the essence of the brainy, pensive scientist wearing a lab coat. And the pictures of both of us together showcased just how well we work together – how our differences balance each other out while our similarities complement each other’s strengths. The poses were natural and effortless, and our confidence in ourselves and each other was evident.
It was evident to my then 6-year-old daughter, too.
The change was remarkable
As the photoshoot continued, she was no longer the little girl hiding behind her crayons and coloring books. Olivia was actively participating: holding the reflector for the photographer, arranging props, cheering us on. And by the end of the shoot, she was all smiles, high-fiving the photographer before we left the office.
Two weeks later, Olivia started first grade. Her first assignment was a show-and-tell assignment, where she had to sit in front of the class and talk about four items that she brought in which represented her interests. At the end of the school day, I met her as she came off the bus, her face beaming. “I got up in front of the whole class and talked about my things, and I wasn’t shy at all. And I even told them that I helped the photographer!”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Influence for the win. It’s a work in progress, but I’m on the right track. I am confident that one day, Olivia’s shyness will be one less thing I have to worry about.