How to move past worry and stress

Do you struggle with worry and stress? If you’re like the students that I coached last week, you have at least some stress in your life, whether over school, family, friends, extracurricular activities etc. During the Dale Carnegie Generation Next 3-day workshop that I helped lead last week, the middle, high school, and college students all had one thing in common: a desire to stress less. worry and stress I’ve talked in a previous post about How To Stop Stressing and Start Acting by analyzing what you’re worrying about, what you can do about it, and then doing it. Students in the workshop found this process helpful as they realized that they often wasted a lot of time by stressing over something without actually doing anything about it. They also found a second, similar principle beneficial from the book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
  1. “Ask yourself, ‘What is the worst that can possibly happen?’
  2. Prepare to accept it if you have to.
  3. Then calmly proceed to improve on the worst.”
Although this process sounds very negative, let me demonstrate how it can help you see your stressful situation in a more positive light. Many of the students commented that a very recent stressful situation that they encountered was needing to make a certain grade on the final exam in order to pass the class. What happened most often was that the students were so worried about the grade that they couldn’t focus on studying for the exam. They realized that by applying the above principle the next time this happened would help them focus on studying. For instance, most the students had calculated the exact grade that they needed to make in order to pass the class. They then let this number intimidate and distract them from studying. Instead, if they mentally prepared for the worst (i.e. not making that passing grade), they could mentally accept that the worst that could happen would be them taking summer school. Although this wouldn’t be desirable, the future now doesn’t seem quite as unknown, scary, and stressful. This mental processing would now free them up to focus on the task at hand: studying. In the words of Dale Carnegie:
“Psychologically, it means a new release of energy! When we have accepted the worst, we have nothing more to lose. And that automatically means – we have everything to gain!”
Just as clearly defining your stress takes away some of its power, stating aloud what exactly is the worst that could happen, makes it less overwhelming. Oftentimes the worst isn’t as bad as we make it out to be in our minds.  
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