How to Stop Worrying and Start Living

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
Category: Motivational
Genre: Self-Help
Carnegie says in the preface to How to Stop Worrying and Start Living that he wrote it because he "was one of the unhappiest lads in New York". He said that he made himself sick with worry because he hated his position in life, which he attributes to wanting to figure out how to stop worrying.

Book Summary - How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

Key Insights

Fear and worry are normal emotions, but they can be hurting you more than you realize. How you feel mentally can affect how you feel physically. It is critical to find ways to reduce your anxiety and mitigate the damage.

In How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Carnegie brings together a variety of strategies and techniques for addressing anxiety. These lessons are taken from others’ experiences or theories as a collection of methods that may help you with worry less.

You don’t have to accept fear and worry. To help deal with anxiety, you can change your frame of mind, redirect your focus, and fix what you can control.

Key Points

Stress is bad for you.

Your body responds to anxiety and worries with a stress response, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. In this state, your heart races and your blood goes to your brain and away from other organs. During a stress response, you may experience symptoms like lightheadedness, nausea, and other digestive issues.

Chronic stress, which can be diagnosed as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, can lead to other serious health issues over time. For example, stress can lead to mental health, respiratory, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal issues.

The way people often cope with stress can also make health problems worse. With anxiety, there may be more smoking, drinking, and overeating. All of that is already bad for your health and becomes worse when combined with the effects of stress.

Understand why you’re worrying and what you can do about it.

If you’re concerned, you should analyze what is going on. A lack of clarity about the situation only makes the anxiety worse. According to Herbert E. Hawkes, Dean of Columbia College, people generally don’t bother with facts when they’re worried and this confusion can cause worry.

There are three steps for this analysis. First, figure out what you’re worried about. Second, identify what is causing you to worry about it. Third, brainstorm what you can do. Think about all of this from a realistic perspective. How likely is it that what you’re worried about could actually happen? Also, how much does it matter in the big picture?

If you know what is causing you to feel the way you do, you can think practically about how to solve it. Also, if you realize that whatever the worst-case scenario you’re worried about isn’t that dire, you can help yourself calm down.

Make a decision and don’t second guess yourself.

When you make a decision, commit to it. If you question whether or not you made the right decision, you will create unnecessary anxiety.

Once you analyze your problem and figure out your path forward, you do not need to go back to analyzing the problem. You already considered your options when evaluating the issue. Trust that you made a sound judgment call with the information you had. Returning to the analysis phase will only undermine your original decision.

If you act decisively, you will eliminate the worry and stress that comes from being uncertain about the choices you made.

Accepting the worst-case scenario neutralizes fear.

Worry comes from a fear that something bad is going to happen. For example, anxiety in a relationship may come from a constant fear that the other person is going to leave.

Another strategy for managing stress is inspired by Buddhism. Buddhists see acceptance as a means of achieving peace. If you are not concerned with what you want or don’t want, but simply accept what is there, you can get rid of your worries.

To use acceptance to eliminate worry, you start by accepting the worst-case scenario. Then, you figure out what you can do to make that easier or better. Using the same example of a relationship, you have to first accept that at some point the relationship will be over because of a breakup or one person dying. You then make the best of the relationship for whatever time it lasts.

Focus on the present.

Stress is often focused on the past or the future. Maybe you’re replaying a meeting at work and kicking yourself for what you could have done differently. Or, maybe you’re worried about a big presentation coming up.

The present should receive your full attention. Of course, you need to plan for the future. But you do that by focusing on the work that needs to be done now to set yourself up for the best possible outcome in the future.

Worrying about the past and future have little use. You can’t change the past and you can’t control the future. Focusing on the present reduces the anxiety from thinking about the past and future. It also allows you to enjoy the present more.

Think critically about criticism.

It is natural to worry about what others think of you, but consider what criticisms are worth your time. Focusing your attention there will reduce anxiety related to criticism.

Some feedback offers a chance for growth. If your boss tells you how you can improve a sales pitch, you should incorporate that into your work. Think about whether or not the criticism you’re receiving is constructive. The feedback that you can act on and learn from are worth your attention.

On the flip side of this, if the criticism is just an insult, baseless, or something you can’t act on, ignore it. Don’t give it attention because it will just allow you to worry about how you’re perceived.

Criticism about what you do should also be separated from who you are. Remember that constructive criticism is not about your character. Just because you forgot something during your presentation doesn’t mean you’re stupid.

The right type of criticism is not something to worry about. It is an opportunity to improve. Decide what is worth your attention and forget about the rest.

Focus on others instead of worrying about yourself.

The more time and attention you give to others, the less there is for your own worrying thoughts. Spending time with your family and friends, giving to others, and performing acts of service.

Serving others makes it harder to worry about yourself. Seeing and helping those that are less fortunate can reduce your personal stress. Your problems will no longer seem as big as you thought. You might also be more grateful for what you have instead of worrying about what you are missing.

When you give, don’t expect anything in return. The expectation of gratitude from the recipient can set you up for disappointment or frustration. You may worry about how your actions will be perceived. Instead, just give for the sake of giving. If you focus on your action and not the reaction, giving can bring you joy and reduce your stress.

Higher power can be a source of comfort.

This is not just about organized religion. If you believe there is something more out there, it can help make your worries seem not as big. Thinking about the eternal likely dwarfs your problem. Spirituality, higher powers, and prayer can help shoulder the burden of stress by helping you feel less alone.

Acting happy can help you be happy.

Your mood can change your behavior, but your behavior can also change your mood. If you focus on acting happy, even if you don’t feel it, your mood may slowly shift until you aren’t really acting anymore.

Without having to walk around with a fake smile, you can try to think more positive thoughts. If you dismiss the negative thoughts and focus only on the positive ones, your mindset will become more positive.

You cannot control what happens around you, which may cause you to worry. However, you can control your reaction to it. React with positivity and gratitude. This frames events to help you feel more fortunate.

Positivity may not just help how you perceive the events around you. It may even impact what happens to you for the better. This belief comes from the law of attraction from the New Thought movement in the nineteenth century. Positive attracts positive and negative attracts negative.

Act happy and think positive to reduce worry, change your mindset, and improve your outcomes.

Make your work enjoyable.

If you are doing a job you hate, you’re probably miserable. Ideally, you would go into a career that makes you happy. But what can you do if you feel unable to leave a job you hate?

Disorganization at work can magnify stress. If you stay organized and on top of the trivial tasks, you won’t be worried about those. As you control more stress factors, the job overall will become less stressful. Hopefully, it will become enjoyable.

Rest before the fatigue sets in.

If you let yourself get exhausted, you will be more anxious. For example, if you don’t sleep enough, you won’t be as capable of responding to issues calmly. Instead, you may get worked up easily and be faced with unnecessary stress.

Unfortunately, the negativity of worry and stress can also cause fatigue. This creates a cycle of negativity and exhaustion that can be overwhelming.

The solution is to ensure that you approach fatigue with prevention in mind. If you need sleep, try to take a quick nap instead of trying to power through. If you have had a rough day that has taken an emotional toll on you, take time to relax. Don’t wait until it wears you down completely.

Instead of being bogged down by anxiety or fatigue, you are in a better physical and mental position for work. Regular rest and relaxation help you do a better job.

The Main Take-away

Chronic stress is physically and mentally damaging. You have to manage your worry in order to focus on living a happier and more productive life. Worry can be alleviated by thinking realistically about your problems and what you can control, focusing on the present, maintaining positivity, and thinking beyond yourself and your issues. Keep worries at bay by relaxing even before you become tired.

About the Author

Dale Carnegie went from his humble roots in Missouri to becoming an influential public speaker and writer. After college, Carnegie worked in sales and saved up to move to New York City. He worked as an actor before teaching public speaking at the YMCA. His 1936 bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People remains popular today.


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