We all get anxious and worried from time to time. We think about bills that need to be paid, or about the risks of a business venture we’re embarking on. What we don’t think about is how this worry and anxiety is ruining our lives and slowly killing us.
If you suffer from anxiety, you need to purge it from your life. And psychiatrists and pills can get you only so far.
Fortunately, there is a solution. In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living (Amazon), Dale Carnegie shares his lessons on how so many have turned their lives around and thrown worry to the curb.
That is what this book is: a collection of successful and time-tested recipes to rid our lives of worry.
Focus on the Present
One of the biggest causes of anxiety is focusing too much on the future. I am often guilty of this.
What happens is that when we focus on the future is that we ponder scenarios that could end poorly for us. We tend to ignore the positive outcomes, even though we are capable of visualizing success.
The future is today… There is no tomorrow. The day of man’s salvation is now. Waste of energy, mental distress, nervous worries dog the steps of a man who is anxious about the future…
By focusing on what’s in front of you and living for the moment, you can’t be worried. You’re not distracting your mind with ‘what-ifs’, rather everything you focus on requires your full attention, not allowing your mind to spend time thinking of negative thoughts.
This brings up an issue: Should we live like each day is our last?
‘YOLO’ and Carpe Diem are the mantra of modern society. People focus too much on immediate satisfaction, and can’t plan for the future. Carnegie teaches us how to reconcile this:
By all means take thought for the tomorrow, yes, careful thought and planning and preparation. But have no anxiety.
3 Steps for Getting Rid of Worry Fast!
Throughout the book Carnegie uses multiple anecdotes to demonstrate how people were able to overcome crippling worry, and completely turn their lives around. Take the example of Willis H. Carrier.
Carrier, the founder of the Carrier Corporation and pioneer of air-conditioning, faced setbacks prior to his breakthrough with AC. He was overcome with worry, which made him physically ill. Instead of endlessly writhing in pain and anxiety, he came up with this simple 3-step solution:
Step I. I analyzed the situation fearlessly and honestly and figured out what was the worst that could possibly happen as a result of this failure.
Step II. After figuring out what was the worst that could possibly happen, I reconciled myself to accepting it, if necessary.
Step III. From that time on, I calmly devoted my time and energy to trying to improve upon the worst which I had already accepted mentally.
Another example was a man named Earl Haney who had worried himself to the brink of death because of an ulcer!
I arranged for a casket, put it aboard ship, and then made arrangements with the steamship company— in the event of my death— to put my corpse in a freezing compartment and keep it there till the liner returned home.
Death was staring him right in the face. But instead of worrying he accepted his faith. He resolved to make the most of his remaining time on Earth and went traveling. He also implemented Carrier’s 3-step solution:
First, I asked myself, ‘What is the worst that could possibly happen?’ The answer was death. “Second, I prepared myself to accept death. I had to. There was no choice. The doctors said my case was hopeless.
Accepting the inevitable allowed him to purge worry from his mind. He enjoyed himself aboard the ship and his travels. He returned home nearly 100% recovered!
Avoiding Mass Panic and Hysteria
Our modern society always tends to find something to worry about. Whether it’s Zika or global warming, our overlords seem to propagate some concept of impending disaster. This is a sure way to worry yourself into a fit.
Carnegie discusses an excellent example from his adulthood. In New York, there was a seeming outbreak of Smallpox. Officials went door-to-door encouraging people to get vaccinated. This put people into a great state of worry.
[Worry] an illness that, during the same time period, had caused ten thousand times more damage than smallpox.
People had gone into hysteria over the possibility of catching Smallpox. This lead them to be constantly worried.
When the media or government is hyping up a threat, be skeptical. This does not mean be ignorant, but realize that the power players are usually not looking out for your best interest.
More Ways to Stop Worry
There are a ton of strategies Carnegie lays out in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Here are a few that stood out:
Idle Hands are the Devil’s Plaything. When you have nothing to do all day you’re more likely to allow worry creep into your mind.
Get busy. Keep busy. It’s the cheapest kind of medicine there is on this earth— and one of the best. To break the worry habit, here is Rule 1: Keep busy. The worried person must lose himself in action, lest he wither in despair.
As I prayed and as I read those words, a miracle happened: my nervous tension fell away. My anxieties, fears, and worries were transformed into heart-warming courage and hope and triumphant faith.
For atheists and agnostics, prayer is not a feasible course of action. Yet, for those who are religious or have belief in God, consider starting a daily prayer ritual. There is something inherently relaxing about praying that you will benefit from.
Get Rid of Time Sucks
Don’t let negative people steal your time and energy:
I began to place stop-loss orders on other worries besides financial ones. I began to place a stop-loss order on any and every kind of annoyance and resentment that came to me. It has worked like magic. “For example, I often have a luncheon date with a friend who is rarely on time. In the old days, he used to keep me stewing around for half my lunch hour before he showed up. Finally, I told him about my stop-loss orders on my worries. I said, ‘Bill, my stop-loss order on waiting for you is exactly ten minutes. If you arrive more than ten minutes late, our luncheon engagement will be sold down the river— and I’ll be gone.’ “
Arguing is a huge waste of time, especially when it involves trivial matters:
Pericles said, twenty-four centuries ago: “Come, gentlemen, we sit too long on trifles.” We do, indeed!
Focus on The Positive Things in Your Life
We tend to ignore all the positive things in our lives, and only focus on the negative. For example, someone who got fired from their job will still have a roof over their head, food in the fridge and hopefully money saved up. People around the world suffer from crippling poverty and would love to be a temporarily unemployed Westerner.
About ninety per cent of the things in our lives are right and about ten per cent are wrong. If we want to be happy, all we have to do is to concentrate on the ninety per cent that are right and ignore the ten per cent that are wrong. If we want to be worried and bitter and have stomach ulcers, all we have to do is to concentrate on the ten percent that are wrong and ignore the ninety per cent that are glorious.
Count your blessings— not your troubles!
“Yes, go to bat with yourself every morning. We talk a lot about the importance of physical exercise to wake us up out of the half-sleep in which so many of us walk around. But we need, even more, some spiritual and mental exercises every morning to stir us into action. Give yourself a pep talk every day.” Is giving yourself a pep talk every day silly, superficial, childish? No, on the contrary, it is the very essence of sound psychology. “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” These words are just as true today as they were eighteen centuries ago when Marcus Aurelius first wrote them in his book on Meditations: “Our life is what our thoughts make it.”
Helping others not only helps us focus on the aforementioned concept of focusing on our blessings, but giving back to others makes us feel good and keeps us busy.
A third of the people who rush to psychiatrists for help could probably cure themselves if they could only do as Margaret Yates did: get interested in helping others.
I scrunch my forehead when staring at a screen. This physical tension leads to mental tension.
Take a deep breath. Sit up straight with yours shoulders back and relax.
What is the answer to this nervous fatigue? Relax! Relax! Relax! Learn to relax while you are doing your work!
A messy house is a messy mind. (See: How to Get Organized).
If you visit the Library of Congress in Washington, D. C., you will find five words painted on the ceiling— five words written by the poet Pope: “Order is Heaven’s first law.”
It’s Time to Stop Worrying and Start Living
Worry and anxiety is gettngyou nowhere. In fact, it’s holding you back more than you can imagine.
Here we are on this earth, with only a few more decades to live, and we lose many irreplaceable hours brooding over grievances that, in a year’s time, will be forgotten by us and by everybody. No, let us devote our life to worth-while actions and feelings, to great thoughts, real affections and enduring undertakings. For life is too short to be little.”
Use the concepts and techniques I’ve outlined here to start transforming your life today. Better yet buy the book to get the whole story.