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Letting Go of the Worry That Weighs Us Down

“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.” ~Eckhart Tolle

As a child, I remember my daily walks to elementary school. It was an uphill walk for the most part. Quite symbolic of later years, now that I think about it.

I would walk to school every morning with my backpack filled to the brim with things that weren’t even necessary for my day at school. I had extra clothes, toys, and books. It was so heavy that after a few months the straps would begin to break down due to the pressure.

Fast forward a few decades and the backpack I was carrying was a metaphorical one yet just as heavy, if not more. A backpack filled with spinning thoughts and unnecessary worries.

I often visualized it as a backpack filled with bricks, with every spinning thought and worry symbolizing its own brick. I’m fairly sure I had enough bricks to build myself a 10,000 square foot home.

It got to the point where the bag was so heavy, some days all I could do was stay in bed and sleep to relieve the pressure.

The constant worry over every aspect of my life, big or small, would consume me.

On any given day I could wake up and worry about things such as my social anxiety escalating to the point of a panic attack to not consuming my protein shake in an adequate time after my workout.

It was exhausting, yet on some level comforting because I believed I was maintaining some level of control with all the worry.

However, it wasn’t control at all; it was simply another uphill walk carrying a heavy, unnecessary, self-imposed weight on my back.

I didn’t unload my backpack overnight, but gradually as I strengthened my trust muscle.

I strengthened this muscle when I started letting go of the tight grip I was trying to maintain over my life and trusting that everything would work out for the best when I stopped trying to control everything.

When you think about it, gripping something tightly with your hands is forceful, hard to maintain, and tiring.

And it’s no different in life.

When you choose to have faith that everything is going to work out for the best, when you release the struggle, that is when your backpack will become lighter, and you will no longer have to spend your life walking uphill.

Do you remember being a child and running down a hill? How you could go so fast, it almost felt like you were flying.

You didn’t think about where you would land at the bottom. You didn’t try to control your speed. Heck, you didn’t even worry that you could possibly trip and take a massive face plant.

You just ran with all your might. And if you fell and scraped your knee or maybe even took that face plant, you would cry to fully release the pain but you knew you would be okay and would be back to run that hill again.

I now believe you will know you have emptied your backpack of all its bricks when every day becomes like running down a hill like a child.

So here is what I learned on my journey to lighten my backpack filled with ‘bricks.’

Other people’s bricks do not belong in your backpack.

I believe the sensitive souls and the caregivers of this world tend to carry the greatest amount of other people’s bricks.

Let’s take my backpack, for example. For years I carried around my parents’ worry around having enough money for basic necessities.

After witnessing and emotionally absorbing my parents’ struggle from being financially abundant in the 1980s to desperately trying to keep their business afloat during the early 1990s recession, my backpack was overflowing with a weight that was never meant to be mine.

It wasn’t until about five years ago that I realized I had been carrying around these worries needlessly.

I wasn’t struggling with money; in fact, I was doing quite well financially, yet I had this underlying fear of not being able to provide for my daughter and that my financial means would be taken away suddenly.

I was basically recreating my parents’ worry from twenty years prior.

So how do you lessen the weight of others?

Often all it takes is the realization that other people’s expectations and worries about the world do not need to become ones you hold for yourself.

They cannot become yours unless you allow it.

It’s also important to note that you carrying their weight doesn’t free them of the weight, it simply multiplies it.

You came into this world with zero bricks, you will leave this world with zero bricks, so it makes sense to live your present life the same way.

All this pressure we carry around is simply the baggage we picked up along our journey through life.

When we started interacting with the world around us, observing and listening to others, that’s when we began to fill our backpacks.

However, when it’s time to transition out of this earth, those repetitive thoughts and heavy worries will cease to exist. So why not release them now and save yourself the ‘backache’?

Worry is not an emotion of the present.

It’s an emotion of a projected future, one that has no guarantee of occurring.

Seems funny to give something that much energy with no guarantee of it even happening.

However, we do it all the time.

The moments when you are fully present you will feel no weight on your back, this I know.

Sometimes all that weight just needs another place to reside.

Spinning thoughts and worry create a heavy energy that can weigh you down.

Sometimes all it takes is transferring that energy to relieve yourself of the weight.

I now carry a notebook that’s used specifically for writing down any worries or thoughts I want to let go and release.

The simple act of getting it out of your head and down on paper can be enough to feel lighter again.

Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself if you are having a hard time freeing yourself of the backpack.

What am I scared is going to happen if I let go of the worry and control?

Many fears are completely irrational, but if you can be okay with the worst-case scenario, then that fear loses an incredible amount power.

For example, I used to carry a lot of fear around my investments falling through.

To calm that fear I visualized the worst-case scenario, which was me losing everything and basically being on the street.

At first, it was scary, but I then began to feel an inner calm come over me that let me know, regardless, I would be okay. No matter the situation, I would prevail. I would find a way; I always did.

After that, the fear lost its hold over me.

How am I benefitting from continuing to carry this weight on me?

Even patterns we perceive as being negative can give us a positive payout.

For me, carrying around all that weight was giving me a false sense of control. As long as I was constantly thinking and worrying about something, I had control over the outcome. At least I thought I did.

That false sense of control was my positive payout.

Once I understood what I was getting from hanging on to the weight, it was much easier to release it.

I was able to see that trying to have that level of control was exhausting and I could choose trust instead.

The amount of unnecessary stress and pressure us humans often carry is staggering.

However, no one can force us to carry that backpack. We picked up that bag ourselves.

But that also means we have total power to take it off and run downhill whenever we choose.

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About Lisa Jeffs

Lisa Jeffs is a success coach, speaker, and entrepreneur. Lisa is dedicated to helping purpose-driven leaders step into their power and create the life and business of their dreams. Her work as been featured in publications such as Thrive Global and YFS Magazine. You can connect with Lisa via her website or Facebook Page.

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  • Worry is the movement of uncontrolled reactive thinking fueled by fear. The fear precedes worry and looks for outlets in the form of worry thoughts, activities and behaviors. To break free from the prison of this emotional habit we must take care of the underlying fear. This we do by developing a conscious and friendly relationship with the fear, which we cultivate through mindfulness meditation on the fear itself. See the fear as being like a lost child, separated from its parents in a crowd, in utter terror. What the child needs is to be reunited with its parents; what fear needs is to be reunited with your True Self. This is the goal of meditation as taught by the Buddha.
    Boulder Center for Online Mindfulness Therapy

  • krzkatie

    As soon as I got to work this morning, I started feeling like I was going to have a panic attack, so reading this post was really helpful. I, too, grew up in an environment where the prevailing atmosphere was that “the other shoe’s going to drop!”. Bad things lurked around every corner. I have been living in fear of bad health, financial problems, and you know what? I’ve made it through some pretty tough stretches of time during the last 7 years; (there were times that I was overdrawn in my checking account the day after I got paid) and I’m still here!
    I’m hopeful that doing baby steps, I will be able to live in the moment, and ease up on myself, have some fun, and back off of worrying about stuff that may never happen. I liked what Lisa Jeffs said about the bag of bricks – we come into the world without any, and when we transition out of this life, we’ll do it without any. Thank you for a most timely article!!!

  • Lisa Jeffs

    Thank you for sharing a bit of your story krzkatie. I appreciate you! I have no doubt if you continue taking steps toward releasing your backpack that, that is exactly what you will do! For me its been a process and sometimes a brick will find its way back in but reminding myself I will always be OKAY no matter what comes my way always lightens the load.

    Warmly,
    Lisa

  • Lisa Jeffs

    “Worry is the movement of uncontrolled reactive thinking fueled by fear”… this is great! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • Katie Schultz

    I love this backpack and brick analogy, thank you so much!!
    Are we ever too old to run full speed down a hill?? I guess we start *worrying* too much about breaking bones or something, right?

  • Lori P

    This post is fantastic. I love your metaphor and advice here–so deeply moving. I will be referring back to your words often. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lisa Jeffs

    Thank you for the lovely feedback Lori. I’m glad you found value from the article.

  • Lisa Jeffs

    I think you’re right. We start worrying what will happen at the end before even starting . I feel like an adult group run down a hill is in order ;). Thank you for your comment Katie, I appreciate you taking the time.

  • Namrata Kumar

    That’s beautiful. I love the imagery of backpacks n bricks. It’s true. Carrying someone’s brick doesn’t lessen theirs. Lighten your backpack. Love it

  • Williams Daiks

    I love this part…”Worry is not an emotion of the present. the imagery of the back packs and bricks makes me smile…its actually true…

  • Lisa Jeffs

    Thank you Namrata. I appreciate your comment!

  • Lisa Jeffs

    Thank you Chris. I’m also able to so vividly see myself running down the hill :)… I appreciate your comment.

  • Lisa Jeffs

    Thank you Williams :D. I appreciate your comment.

  • Aliyah Dignam

    I found this wonderful quote about worrying: “Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere” – it takes time, practice and patience to realize just how useless and exhausting this ‘activity’ truly is…

  • Lisa Jeffs

    That’s a great quote!