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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

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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