There is a thief that has robbed me repeatedly over the past 20 years, both in my personal and professional lives. I have never recovered anything that this thief has taken from me, but I have found ways to protect myself against being violated again in the future.
This thief has a name, and its name is Worry. It's taken from me two of the most precious things we have on this earth - peace of mind and the sweet gift of time.
And Worry is a practiced burglar. It sneaks in, quietly at first, innocuous and small, like a speck of dust or a tiny seed. And then the seed sprouts, grows and takes over, like a cancer. Before you know it, that thing - whatever it is that's causing you worry and stress - becomes the only thing you can think about, making it impossible to do anything else. Your mind becomes polluted, and you get to the point where you can't even function. You lose any joy in the present moment, sleeping is out of the question, and your entire personality can be changed.
The funny thing is, the thief isn't even real. All of this happens in your own mind as it spins a fictional tale of what might happen "if" or "when". For it turns out when Worry comes in we become extremely skilled at telling dark and twisted stories about our impending doom.
I remember one time when Worry blindsided me on what should have been a fun night out. My future husband and I had moved to Los Angeles with a handful of possessions and little money. Although we were both working, paychecks were sporadic at best, and they never came in as fast as the bills did. We were working hard to build a life for ourselves but at that time all of the unknowns felt like a mountain that was exhausting to look at, let alone climb.
Somehow in the midst of all of that, we managed to scrape together enough money to go and see a Joan Baez concert at the Greek Theater. But unfortunately, Worry followed us there too. No sooner had we sat down than it hit me full force. I felt an uncontrollable panic start to take over. "Oh, my goodness," I said, wringing my hands. "What are we going to do? We don't have any money. We are never going to be able to figure this out. We have no backup plan!"
My tirade went on and on, as John tried to talk me down and back into the present moment. It helped a little but the feeling of panic never really went away, and the night that should have been so pleasant was absolutely stolen away by my soon-to-be familiar companion, Worry.
Worry became a regular visitor during the ensuing years and took from me many beautiful days and countless nights that could have been spent in rejuvenating slumber. I recognized that Worry never served me well. It never helped to solve any actual problems, or do anything constructive, but it wasn't until years later that I finally figured out how to protect myself from its unwanted presence.
After living with this thief for too many years, I highly recommend the following techniques to protect your inner peace:
- Be very protective of the messages you allow into your consciousness. Newscasts, violent or disturbing TV shows and films, and negative "scare-mongering" people have no place in your life. If you can't eliminate them completely, you at least need to tune them out.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.