Worry and panic
I was chatting with someone the other day about this issue. In came up in regards to someone they know is who dealing with an overwhelming change in their life. The constant worry and fear of what’s going to happen has overwhelmed them to the point where they don’t eat, sleep or do much of anything. It sounded so familiar and the answer seems so obvious, but it can be one of the hardest things to learn to do.
Of course, the answer is similar to the way you handle a huge project at work. You work on, and worry about, one piece at a time. You don’t finish all the various parts of a project at once, you work on part, finish it, work on another part, etc. Yet, when it comes to our personal lives, this is exactly what we try to do.
We drive ourselves to distraction worrying about things that we have no power to work on! When I was suffering from depression, this is exactly what I did. I spent so much mental energy worrying, and being afraid of everything, that eventually I didn’t have the energy to get out of bed, go to work, or take care of myself in any way. That is the sickness.
It took years of therapy and anti-depressants, but eventually I learned to live life the way I approach work. When I’m faced with major changes, or just every day fears, I do what I can do, and don’t worry about what I can’t. The trick is to identify what you can do.
So, when you’re faced with being unemployed, for example, you do what you can do. You come up with a plan to look for a new job. You read books on job search techniques and get in contact with anyone who might be able to help you find a job. You start budgeting your money better and eliminating unnecessary expenses. You don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the national unemployment rate, the state of the economy or what your neighbors are thinking about you. That’s wasted energy, because you can’t do anything about those things. They are what they are, and they are going to be what they’re going to be, whether you worry about them or not. So why bother?
Remember your goal is to find a new job. That is the part you have to work on, so work on it. Don’t try to take on the big picture of how this might affect your plans to buy a house in “X” years, or start a family, or save for your kid’s college. Until you find a job, none of those things can be worked on. When it’s time to work on those things, you’ll work on them, but until then, don’t.
This might seem a bit cold, and calculated, for some of you, and to some degree it is. I’m not advocating a non-emotional state of Mr. Spock-like logical living. That’s not healthy either. What I am advocating is living in the now, dealing with today’s problems. When you are faced with climbing a flight of stairs, you don’t worry about climbing all 10 steps. You step on the first step, then the second, and so on. Eventually, you get to the top, but not without working on each step on the way, one at a time.