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How To Stop Worrying So Much & Start Living

Are you a worry-addict-in-denial? It's time for rehab.

Inspiration

There are people in my family who are worry-addicts-in-denial. If they have a sore throat, they talk about the possibility of it being cancer. If they are short on cash for rent, they already see themselves out on the street. If their significant other doesn't pick up before the third ring, they've resigned that they are being cheated on. Ugh. These people are extremely exhausting to be around, so I can only imagine what it's like to actually be them. Oh wait. I've got a clue. It's listed right there in the definition of worry—"to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts; fret". Did you catch it? When you make the choice to worry—because it is always a decision; it's not something that "just happens"—you have chosen to torment yourself. What in the world?

If, despite what the dictionary says, you don't believe that to worry is an ultimate form of self-torment, check out some points from WebMD's "How Worrying Affects the Body" article. Worrying has a way of affecting your appetite, your sleep patterns, your moods and your relationships. Some physical results of worrying include headaches, nausea, muscle tension, the inability to concentrate and bouts of anxiety. In a nutshell, worrying can make you feel like crap, stress out the people around you, and ultimately paralyze you with doubt, fear and angst. And here's the thing—once you're done worrying, not only is the thing that you're worrying about still lingering around, but your worrying has probably made it that much worse. Basically, worrying does what the late newspaper columnist Emma Bombeck once said—"Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere."

Another thing that I've concluded about worry is a lot of people who do it are in denial about something else that it reveals, that they are a control freak. Think about it. When it comes to most of the things that we worry about, aren't they usually connected to things that we want to control but are totally out of our hands?

Y'all, the more that I unpack this worry thing, the more I know that if there's one habit that all of us must rid ourselves of, it's worry. And chile, there's no time like the present to do just that!

Stop Creating So Many Hypothetical Storylines

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I always think it's funny that, when topics like "drama queen" come up, automatically some folks get triggered. It really shouldn't bother any of us to hear the rundown of what a drama queen is (or does) unless it's a bit of a "hit dog will holler" kind of thing. Even then, if you see yourself as being one, there's no time like the present to make a change—if you want to, that is.

Anyway, although the typical definitions of a drama queen include things like mood swings, constant complaining, throwing temper tantrums, being a constant attention-seeker and always stirring up trouble, I personally think that a totally underrated sign is someone who is always making mountains out of molehills. You know the kind—their man calls to say, "We need to talk" and, before he can call back, they've already decided that, not only has he cheated, but he probably has a baby on the other side of town. Or, there's an impromptu staff meeting at work, and they walk into it in tears because they can already imagine themselves living in a cardboard box.

Your day-to-day life already comes with enough plots, twists and characters. Significantly reduce your chances of becoming a worry wart by refusing to feed off of hypothetical storylines that your imagination is trying to freak you out with.

Do the Best That You Can. Consistently So.

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Something that is mad freeing is knowing that, at the end of the day, you did the absolute best that you could. Not in some categories of your life—every single one of them. I can personally attest to this because, when I know that I've let the ball drop on something, it is a whole lot easier to get nervous, anxious or worried than if I did all that I could. An example of this is a time when my rent got lost in the mail. My landlord was telling me that if it wasn't found, I'd have to pay it again. Whatever. I had proof of payment. It was gonna be what it was gonna be. But back in the day, when I was an impulse shopper and writing checks all over the place, sometimes rent time would roll around and I'd be freaking out because I didn't know if I truly had enough in my account or not.

See the difference? When you know that you've done what is within your control, what else can you really do? It's when you have to face that you've been back steppin' that worry is able to creep in. The good thing about this particular point is it's a reminder that a lot of what we worry about ceases to be an issue if we simply operate in excellence and leave the rest to the Universe to figure out. (The check should up, by the way. In case you were wondering.)

Avoid the Need to Get a Dozen Different Opinions

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This is a gem of a point because, if you're someone who has wired yourself to have to speak with a billion people before making a decision, not only does that mean you don't trust yourself as much as you should, it also explains why you may be prone to worrying a lot more than what is needed. Case in point. I recently found out that one of my main writing gigs was dissolving its company. When I shared this news with someone, they began to panic, seemingly on my behalf. "What are you going to do about your bills?", "Do you think it's time to get a full-time job?", "How can you handle this type of uncertainty?" Goodness, girl. I was actually doing just fine before I brought you into the mix. Lord.

When you're going through a challenge or trial, it's natural and, to a certain degree, even wise, to get another person's insight. Just make sure that you source out the kind of individual who will bring the kind of perspective that will make matters better not worse; someone who will help to make things clearer, not more confusing. Oh, and try and keep the number of individuals that you consult with down to a minimum. The more voices you hear, the harder it will be to listen to your own. And, the easier it will be to find more stuff to worry about—thanks (but no thanks) to all of the "extra" that they will bring into your psyche.

Stay Away from Negative Energy and People

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On this site, we tend to talk about toxicity quite a bit—toxic family,toxic friends, toxic significant others…you name it. Well, a surefire sign that someone is a toxic individual is if they are negative most of the time. Negative people are the ones who always think that things are too good to be true. Not only that but they blow small things totally out of proportion; they dwell on the bad circumstances in life; they thrive off of gossip; they tend to be self-deprecating; fear is always consuming them; they are stagnant because they rarely take risks; their moods are always leaning on the side of pessimism; they don't know how toforgive themselves or other people; they are chronic complainers; they dwell on the past—geeze. I could go on and on, but I don't want you to let the negative energy of even exploring all of this to bring you down.

The interesting thing about worry, as it directly relates to negative people, is negativity is what fuels them. And, fascinatingly enough, a lot of negative folks remain on the "glass half empty" side of life because negativity makes them, well, lazy. They would rather just assume that nothing is going to go right than to worry about it—or try and make things better. This means that negative people will not only feed seeds of worry and doubt, but if you stick around them long enough, you can transition from worrying to not caring about what once concerned you at all. And rarely is apathy ever beneficial or good

There is scientific evidence to support that negativity is not only really bad for your health, it's mad contagious too. If you want to quit worrying so much, but you're always around negative energy and people—yeah, good luck with that.

It's pretty much like trying to avoid the flu when you share a bed with someone who's got it. It's not impossible but, at the same time, it's pretty probable that you'll come down with it. Eventually.

Think of the Worst Case Scenario. Then Let It Go.

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No matter what you're going through in life, there is always going to be a worst case scenario. But, as they say, 85 percent of what we worry about actually never happens. Still, I think a part of the reason why worrying wears a lot of us out is because we're expending so much time, effort and energy trying to talk ourselves out of the worst case scenario rather than considering and then letting it go. A good example of this that comes to mind is, when I was a little girl, I actually missed a flight that ended up going down. As a child, I never gave it much thought. Oh, but as an adult, I have. I travel, but flying isn't my absolute favorite thing in the world to do. It's because I know that I could've crashed on one.

One time, while on the way to Alaska, one of the little planes that I was on felt like a piece of paper in a tornado. I hated every moment of it. But the man next to me looked at me and said, "If it's your time, it's your time. What can you do about it now? Calm down." Ever since then, I've applied that way of thinking to just about every issue that tempts me to worry. I think about the worst thing that could happen, I make peace with it, and then I let the thought go. It might seem weird, but once I'm in the head space of "Whatever it is, I can face it because God's got me," there is a sense of calm and tranquility that makes me almost fearless. Hey, don't knock it until you've tried it.

Take Things One Day At a Time

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Remember how I said earlier that most worriers have issues with control? I meant it. Think about the last thing you worried about. Did it have something to do with what was going on in the now or something that could possibly happen tomorrow, next week or even six months later? There is a Scripture in the Bible that says, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." (Matthew 6:34—NKJV) No matter what your personal spiritual beliefs may be, you've gotta admit that this is a real pearl of wisdom in these words.

One problem with worry is it causes you to take the focus off of what is right in front of you. Instead, you tend to put your energy and emotions into something that may or may not happen in the future. As a result, it robs you of time and the ability to handle what's before you with excellence. Matthew 6:34 is right. Tomorrow will be here soon enough and you can best believe that it will come with its own set of concerns. But since tomorrow isn't promised, why not concentrate on what you can be sure of? Right here and right now.

Quit Overwhelming Yourself

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There's someone I know who's always telling multiple people all of their business. Then, once their business gets out, they're all stressed out because they don't know who leaked it. SMDH. This is what feeling overwhelmed can be like—you feel somewhat burned out, if not completely overcome, all because you've taken on so many things that you don't really know how to trace your own steps so that you can complete everything. And when you've got tons that needs to be done, of course, it's going to cause you to worry.

I know a lot of us ladies think that we're the masters of multi-tasking, but there is plenty of research that proves otherwise. While we might do "OK" with trying to do five things at once, we'd be much better off doing one thing at a time. It will keep our stress levels down, so that we can concentrate on doing each task in excellence. And, as a wonderful bonus, we can learn the art of saying "no" more often.

Doing one thing at a time is just one more way to stop worrying as you much you probably do.

RELAX

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No one is able to relax when they are worried all of the time. How do I know this to be true? Because some antonyms for worry include—calm, trust, sureness, confidence, reassurance, contentment and joy.

In this world, we all are going to experience highs and lows. That's a part of life. But as the late Rep. Elijah Cummings once said that he always asked his children, it's important that when "the lows" come that we ask, not why is this happening to us but why is it happening for us? By taking on the second approach to our circumstances, we can settle our spirit down more. Then, by doing something along the lines of meditation, yoga, prayer, sleeping or even just chilling out on the couch and watching something that will get our minds off of what's trying to stress us out, we'll be better equipped to take it on.

Worry hates it when we're relaxed because it knows that it can't really get to us whenever we do. Bottom line—do what you can, release the rest. In a nutshell, that's the key to training yourself to stop worrying so freakin' much.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

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Originally published on November 9, 2019

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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