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Stress-Relief Kit: How to Worry Better

Worry operates a lot like clutter. It mounts, causes anxiety, gets in our way, and keeps us from getting things done. I don't really believe it's possible to quit worrying, but I do think we can worry better.

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Here's my system:

  • Get yourself a small journal -- I dig the little Moleskine ones -- and keep it with you at all times.

  • Start to be very vigilant about hearing your thoughts: this is key.
  • When you hear yourself worrying, whip out your notebook and write down all the things you're worrying about. Make a list. We love lists, right?
  • Make a date with yourself every Sunday to review what's in the notebook.
  • Make a promise not to worry about the things on that list until Sunday. Each time you catch yourself returning to a worry, gently but firmly remind yourself to wait until Sunday.
  • Plan to allow yourself an hour on Sunday. Open the notebook and attend to each worry as if you were handling a pile of clutter or an inbox full of emails.
  • I like the DRAF system: Discard, Refer, Act, File.
  • Assign each worry in your notebook one of these actions.
  • Discard it if there's nothing you or anyone else can do. This can mean turning it over to God, a higher power, to the Universe, or simply accepting that it's not something that's possible to resolve. Be honest and be realistic. No hoarding. If you or someone else can't actually do anything about it, out it goes.
  • Refer means pass it over to someone else. Delegate it. Ask for help. Or, if necessary, do some research, learn more about what you can do to help yourself around this worry. Talk to a friend, a partner or a professional about it.
  • Act on it if you can. These are juicy ones. Life is hard enough, ladies. If there's something on that list you can handle, have control over or can get behind you, do it now. Worrying makes things harder. We do not want things to be harder. Get crackin'.
  • File it away. Literally. If you're anything like me, the worries you file will mainly constitute worries about something from the past. If it's over and done with, ladies, take out a sheet of paper, write that worry on it, and put it in a file. Label the file: Completed. This means you let it go. Date the sheet of paper and include your initials. Mean it. Make a big, bold line through that worry in your notebook. Repeat as necessary.

And then, ladies, comes Monday. Start again, noticing your thoughts.

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