Somewhere in my life, I picked up the behavior of worrying. About money, mostly, but I can worry about anything, really.

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I don’t believe I was born worrying, so I must have learned to worry from past experiences and from watching people worry—probably my parents. Actually that’s good news. If you, like me, have struggled with learned worry, that means that we can unlearn this debilitating behavior.

I can’t report that I’ve completely won the battle against worry, but I have turned the corner where worry no longer controls me.  If worry is wreaking havoc on your life, there really is something you can do to put worry in its place.

Worry is useless. It doesn’t do anything. Worry cannot control the future or change the paste. It can’t pay a bill, solve a problem or cure an ill. But it can throw you into emotional paralysis.

Worry weighs heavily on your heart. And it is a very heavy, crushing weight. 

Worry toys with our imaginations. It exaggerates the size and scope of a problem. Worry is like magnifier with a power of 100x. It makes problems look much larger than they really are.

Over the years I’ve learned four practical steps to win over worry. You may think this sounds silly, but just go with me. It really does work:

1. Designate a specific 15-minute period of Special Worry Time each day in which you will do nothing but worry. As worries come up during the day, jot them down but do not worry about them. You’ll do that later.

2. Take control of your mind. You have a unique ability to choose you thoughts and what you will think about. When nebulous, negative thoughts creep up that you have already added toy our list of worries, send them away. Find something to do with your hands. Refuse to allow those worries to enter your mind now. They will have their time later.

3. Set an alarm for your Special Worry Time. Each day, when the alarm goes off, drop everything you are doing. Find a quiet place where you can concentrate all of your thoughts and mental power on your list of problems. As you worry and you discover things that could happen, write them next to that particular worry. Now really worry about those possible outcomes as well. Pour your heart into it. Worry without ceasing for a full 15 minutes. Do not allow thoughts of peace, joy or happiness to creep into your mind. Do not seek contentment—only worry. When 15 minutes are up, stop! No more worrying until tomorrow this time.

(Honestly, I doubt if there will be a next time because you will learn quickly how exhausting and totally non-productive it is to worry.)

4. Find a more productive alternative to worry. Exercise is a great way to ward off worry. Reaching out through a phone call or message to a friend or relative dealing with a more difficult situation that what you are facing will quickly put worry to rest. If you’re a person of faith, I suggest also talking to God. Tell him what’s worrying you. Unlike you, he’s someone who can do something about it.

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