“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what clearly lies at hand”
Do you worry about your future?
What will happen, where will you be, what will you do and will you be able to cope?
Do you worry about your past?
What you did, mistakes you made, embarrassment you might have caused and what people now think of you?
Worrying about both the past and the future is something many people with anxiety and depression do.
Often one more than the other, and you’ll probably be able to answer fairly quickly which one it is for you.
For most it is the future.
Yes, everyone has things they would like to have done differently, but most general anxiety centres around – what is to come?
Will you be able to get what you want out of life?
Where are you going?
Can you cope?
When you frequently sit and think about this, it’s no wonder your panic rises and anxiety spirals.
It therefore isn’t surprising that worrying about the future is a common theme among many worriers.
Living day to day
One of the best books ever written on worry is by Dale Carnegie and called ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living‘.
A book which was written more than sixty years ago, but is just as relevant now as it was then.
In the book he talks about ‘Living in day-tight compartments’ – a reference to the water-tight compartments found on large ships.
This simply means:
“Just live each day until bedtime”
So what does this mean?
It means that you should only live for the day at hand.
- The Past – it cannot be changed, no matter how much you would like to. It’s impossible, you can only alter what is happening today.
- The Future – it cannot be known, there is no way to click your fingers and have it mapped out for you. All you can do is your best for today.
It’s so simple yet so true, and therein lies why it is so effective. Yet despite this it’s a concept many find hard to grasp.
If every morning you awaken determined to make the most out of your day and then get out there and do it, then your future will take care of itself.
Yes, you must be mindful of your future, taking care to plan and prepare for it. But do not sit and think about it, that only makes you worry more.
And what does worrying do?
It saps your motivation and drive and prevents you making the best of the day you have at hand.
For most of us there are roughly 16-18 hours of the day when we are awake.
How much easier is it to move forward when all you have to do is your best for that small time frame.
If you can just think about your life this way it will feel like a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders.
You can start the day by thinking, ‘Ok, so all I have to do is my best for the next 16 hours – that’s it!’
When you do this the day ahead doesn’t seem like such a chore. More an enjoyable challenge to show yourself what you can accomplish in that time.
Then when you get in to bed at night you’ll do so thinking, ‘I did my best for today, it’s now over and there’s nothing more I can do’.
Not only will you feel better but you’ll fall asleep faster and will sleep better too.
You’ll feel calmer and more content.
It’s like when you have a big task to do and people say ‘just eat the elephant one mouthful at a time’.
Our lives are too big to comprehend and to start worrying about all the possibilities which lie ahead – instead just eat life one day at a time!
Why should you try it?
Because it feels so damn good!
When you start thinking and living this way you’ll notice the following changes:
- Much less frequent negative thoughts about the future.
If they do happen just quickly remind yourself that if you have to worry it can only be about today and what you need to do. This is great because it makes you act on today’s tasks because they are at hand. This then shows you that worrying about future tasks is pointless because you cannot do anything about them until you reach that day.
- More motivation and energy
By doing more you actually have more energy and your motivation to keep going will continue to rise. This then has a knock on benefit, by keeping so busy your mind does not have time to think and worry, by the end of the day you’ll be worn out and ready for bed.
- Calmer and more relaxed at night which means you’ll sleep better
When you get in to bed you feel content and often even impressed with what you have achieved that day. You’ll know you did everything you needed to do that day and will have earned your rest.
- The enjoyment of facing new challenges
The more you do this the easier it becomes and the better you will feel.
Instead of worry and fear, you’ll start to awaken each day with anticipation of what lies ahead. You’ll enjoy doing more, accomplishing what is required and getting the most out of your day.
Yes it takes effort and a will to do this. But once you start to reap the benefits it quickly becomes easier, your brain learns this new habit and it becomes the norm.
How do you live day by day?
The basic principle is straightforward to understand, but as you’ll likely know, getting your mind to alter even just a small part of how it thinks can be tricky.
The following is a list of ways you can get yourself thinking and living day by day:
- Set a reminder. It can be on your phone, tablet, pc or whatever, to go off a few minutes after your alarm – just a simple message to remind yourself that you only have to live for this day ahead. Just do the best you can for today.
- Keep a ‘to-do’ list. Write down all the things you want to get done that day. By having a visual aid and being able to cross each item off as you go helps you monitor your progress throughout the day. You can write this the night before, but I like to do it first thing in the morning so when I wake up I can write it and then get stuck straight in.
- Only do one task at a time. If you try to take on too much at once you will quickly get overrun and will begin to feel like you can’t cope. Focus on one thing, do it as well as you can, and when done, tick it off and move on.
- Get your tasks done! No ifs, not buts, no excuses, if you have set yourself the task to do, get it done. There has to be that discipline to get the benefits. Of course, sometimes things come up which can make one or even a few items on your list impossible to then complete. If this happens, don’t worry about it. You’ll simply have these tasks for another day.
- Set aside time for enjoyment or relaxation. Towards the end of your day make time to do something you enjoy or just to relax a little. You’ll feel great when you get to that point because you know you will have earned it.
- Remind yourself why you’re doing it. If at any point during the day you start to feel anxious or depressed keep this one thought at the front of your mind: I cannot alter the past, I cannot predict the future, all I can do is my best for today – THAT IS ALL!
A dangerous practice for many is to yearn about feeling better. To sit and daydream about a time when they hope they won’t feel anxious or fearful of panic attacks.
But yearning won’t make it happen, all it will do is postpone that time.
It is also likely to fuel your worries further. So that you believe you won’t ever get there and in turn it prevents you doing what you need to do in order to start feeling better.
So what are you waiting for?
Take a little time today to sit down and make that commitment with yourself. Understand what is involved and then plan out how you will do it – make sure you start the next day.
Use your will and determination to make the positive changes to your thoughts and your life.
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