Do you find yourself worrying over every little thing? Asking yourself if you should enroll in that extra class, move to a bigger place, or look for a new job? And while you’re worrying about those decisions, are you also wondering if you’ll be able to pay your bills next month, if you’ll get the raise you were promised, or if you’ll ever find your future spouse?
This is totally normal. In fact, most people are going through the same thing – constant worry.
There’s a perfectly good explanation for why you tend to worry about so much stuff all at once!
The environment these days is delaying what you want in return.
Most of the decisions you make occur in a “delayed return environment,” which means that you do not benefit immediately by your choices. This also means that the majority of your worries deal with issues of the future – what will happen tomorrow, or next week, or even next year if I make this one decision now?
Because we are so future-oriented, our stress levels tend to be sky high. Our brains can’t deal with thinking too far into the future. Why is that?
Our brain is wired to immediate reward in return.
The human brain evolved to make decisions in an “immediate return environment.” In other words, our modern brain took shape while we were still cave dwellers living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Then, our worries were more immediate in nature: how to get food, find water, and seek shelter from inclement weather.
For hundreds of thousands of years, humans existed in an immediate return environment. It was only about 500 years ago that modern society began, and with it, the switch to delayed return environment. The changes since then have been too fast for our brains to keep up with! Evolution is a long, slow process.
Enter: anxiety, stress, and worry. In today’s world, you are much more likely to suffer from chronic anxiety or worry all the time. Most of the things you worry about have no immediate solution. Because your brain is designed to prefer immediate results, you feel anxious when that doesn’t happen.
So, how do you fight this lag in evolution? What can you do to stop worrying and feeling anxious about the future?
Find something that you can control.
Stop worrying about if you’ll get a better job. Instead, control how many jobs you look for in a week. Set a goal of sending in 5 applications a week and track that goal. If you’re worried about not making new friends in your new city, start keeping track of how many new people you meet every day. Worried about saving enough for the downpayment on a house? Instead, focus on how much you save on a monthly basis.
The trick is to focus your energy on the things you can measure. By having something tangible to measure, you start taking control of your life and stop letting the future give you anxiety. Making sure you save $100 a month won’t suddenly make your life problem-free, but it will take away a little bit of the unknown.
Count your immediate returns.
Do yourself a favor. Try to focus on the immediate returns in your life instead of the delayed returns. Start this new habit this week. Don’t put it off.
Worried about being healthier? Start counting your daily servings of fruits and vegetables instead. Worried about saving money for a new car? Start reducing your daily splurges by preparing lunch at home and cutting out the morning coffee from the coffee shop on your way to work.
Just because your brain didn’t evolve fast enough to deal with modern life doesn’t mean that you can’t outsmart it. As soon as you start living your life with immediate returns in mind, your constant worrying will slowly melt away.
Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io
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