A couple of weeks ago during our pre-bedtime wind down, the Little Chap and I were curled up together reading my old Mr. Men books, many of which I’d not read since I was a kid. We came upon ‘Mr. Worry’ which, for the uninitiated, is a woeful tale of a round, blue man riddled with anxiety about everything you could think of (assuming a rise in global terrorism and a decline in our ice caps aren’t in your purview). A truly troubled soul was poor Mr. Worry, and as we read I kept everything crossed for an upturn in his mental wellbeing.
Not to be disappointed, [SPOILER ALERT], he meets a kindly wizard who tells him to write down every single worry he has. Mr. Worry is to then bring him the list so he can weave some Mr. Men magic and ensure none of those things ever happen. The next day Mr. Worry turns up at the wizard’s house with a long snaking list of all his penned worries.
With bedtime successfully implemented, followed by a lightning fast costume change into my jim-jams, I got to thinking about the story and it occurred to me that, just like Mr. Worry, there were a few things on my mind; things that had been kinda keeping me awake at night or generating a low hum of anxiety during the day. So I decided to put pen to paper and make my own ‘Mr. Worry List’.
I wrote down eleven things. And do you know what? I instantly felt better, even in my wizardless state. My initial observation was to note they were all pretty benign things and I took a moment to gratefully acknowledge that I was lucky to have such an innocuous list.
Nine of the eleven things simply required some effort and graft on my part to reach a resolution. These were practical tasks, with tangible solutions, such as the creation of a new spreadsheet before I could tackle my business accounts, booking an oven cleaner as clearly I couldn’t face doing it myself, making a technical call to sort out a tenant dispute. Slightly tiresome and certainly dull jobs but totally fixable and really nothing to lose sleep about.
Only two of the eleven things were trickier and more daunting (in terms of finding solutions that is, certainly none were of life and death importance). And even looking at the two tricky things, I realised one of them could actually be broken down into a series of smaller practical steps (albeit lots of them, probably over a good number of months) but it could, in essence, join the ranks of the other nine practical tasks. Until I’d actually written this particular worry down, I’d just seen it as a huge, complicated mess that would fry my brain every time I tried to think about it. Writing it down was key to breaking that negative cycle. It just shifted something. Helped me get my pragmatic on.
It’s so strange how many of us can worry about unattended tasks and allow them to become shapeless, gelatinous globs of anxiety. It’s only when we face them head on, one at a time, that their form becomes clear again and the unease lessens as we see a way forward.
So my friends, I urge you to take a quiet moment to write down your own Mr. Worry list, get it out of your head and onto paper and I’ll bet you’ll feel a hundred times better just having a clearer perspective and getting back in the driving seat. If your list feels overwhelming (hell, Mr.Worry used a whole roll of till receipt paper), tackle one of the easier items on the list first to help gather some motivation; there’s nothing quite like ticking things off for gathering momentum. Or see if any of them can be broken down into smaller, more manageable actions, this has made ALL the difference for me.
I’d love to hear how you get on; what insights you glean from the process. There may not be a kindly wizard offering to take care of all our worries, but facing our fears and taking positive action has got to be a close second? I think there’s a special kind of magic in that.
Header Image: Copyright Roger Hargreaves 1978
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