Do You Worry Too Much?

When I was twenty seven, I felt inexplicably sad and couldn’t shrug off my “funk,” so I went to a therapist for a few months. After I’d settle into one of the many armchairs in her cozy office, she would stare at me and just wait for me to start talking. It was kind of awkward…but talk I did! I told her how I worried about my job, my family, my friends, my dating life, random passersby on the street…I was plagued by my worries!

And she told me the BEST thing ever…

Picture that the Grand Canyon is your life–your past, present and future. Start envisioning the various parts of your life within the canyon: Over there is the day you were born, your third-grade choir performance, your job as a babysitter. Picture your present: There’s your apartment, your friends, your mom, the book you’re reading right now. Picture your future: There’s your next vacation, the love of your life, your future children, the Top Chef finale. :)

Now, my therapist told me, picture the enormous Grand Canyon and drop your worry into it. Whatever you’re worrying about — your cranky boss, your dating life, a salty comment from a friend — will be barely visible. “See how tiny it looks?” she says. Suddenly your problem will seem much, much smaller in comparison to the grand course of your huge, rich, long life.

Brilliant, right? Since then, I’ve done the Grand Canyon visualization trick (many times), and it really works.

Are you a worrier, too? What’s on your mind right now? How are you feeling these days–good, bad, ok? When it comes to worrying, we can really nail it sometimes. :) xoxo

P.S. Remember Anxiety Girl? Also, my elevator phobia.

(Grand Canyon photos by Adam Schallau and via Famous Tourisms. Illustration by Natalie Dee)

  1. Rita says...

    So glad you’re talking about mental health and wellness!

    The strategy of making my worries seem small has only helped me for the short-term (like, 2 minutes), because some worries truly feel consuming (such as having a soul-crushing job, or feeling hopeless).

    However, a therapist recently taught me a strategy on how to manage worries for people with anxiety: set aside worry time. And whenever you feel yourself worrying about something, remind yourself that you are going to address all those worries later (for example, at 8 pm). Then at 8 pm, let yourself worry. Give into the worry for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, etc. She told me that most people find they cannot worry for that long. I found a)this strategy good to manage my anxiety and b)she was right – I couldn’t actively focus on the worries for that long (I got bored!).

    She also told me to write down worries and place them into two buckets: 1)can be problem solved and 2)hypothetical worries.

    I recently learned these techniques and they’ve helped a little so far, though it still takes practice. Hopefully others find it helpful too.

  2. Diana says...

    Glad I randomly found this page. It seems to work and calm my anxiety. Thank you! :)

  3. Carly says...

    As a college student struggling with anxiety, this is something that has changed my life!!! I’ve always thought nothing would help, but this does! Thank you so much, Cup of Jo! Xx

  4. Sarah says...

    Whenever I stumble across posts of yours that reflect on your 20-something years, they truly resonate with me. I’m in my mid-20s, and have all of the worries you mentioned above… and then some! But there is peace in knowing that these thoughts are normal and par for the course. Thank you for your continued wisdom <3

  5. I says...

    Oh dear! My therapist, instead of talking about the Grand Canyon, made me picture the space: all things that bother me, I can “make them as little as I can” and then kick them with my finger up in the space.
    Probably he is too much into science fiction.. but it works so so so well!
    I lol reading your trick, now I know I’m not the only one using this kind of trick!

  6. Sarah says...

    I’m new to your blog and already loving it. I stumbled upon this post and as a 27 year with anxiety about all the things in life I can’t control, this visualization is perfect. I’ll share with my therapist =)

  7. Love this, Joanna! And I actually have a blog called “The Adventures of Anxiety Girl”. Check it out if you like & I’ll try the Grand Canyon technique with worry. :) Really enjoy your blog & have especially enjoyed exploring your motherhood around the world series recently!

  8. I’ve found myself using this trick a lot lately. Just wanted to say a quick thank you for sharing it with all of us. :)

  9. Ahh I love this and just sent it to everyone near and dear to my heart. Thanks for sharing, Joanna. This was just what I needed.

  10. Thank you for this post; I really love this idea and found it on a day when I really needed something like this!

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  12. I Jo. Just came here today randomly when I was rechecking beautiful blogs I met years ago.
    Then clicked on the Relationships and wedding bar and stooped by this article. I AM THE ANXIETY GIRL.
    Yes, i worry to much.
    Thank you for sharing this trick, I’ll certainly feel more comfortable the next times I feel lost..last night was one of those times.
    And the next morning, today, found out i’mm not the only one…and I’m 27, so still in time to make a change. Thanks to your post.
    Thank you :)

  13. I wish it worked for me, I am now 27 and just so worried. Maybe 27 is cursed….once we turn 28 all will get better?

    Thank you for the post!

  14. I wish it worked for me, I am now 27 and just so worried. Maybe 27 is cursed….once we turn 28 all will get better?

    Thank you for the post!

  15. this is EXACTLY what I needed to read! Thanks for linking to it on your most recent post. My husband and I are in the middle of that really scary period of finishing grad school and finding a job and I don’t know how anyone comes out of it without losing their mind! It helps to remember that this period of our lives is only temporary! Thanks Jo!

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  17. This is seriously so great! Thanks for the visualization. I recently started my own blog. If you are ever interested the link is! Thanks for the inspiration! Keep writing, you’re great :)

  18. Thanks for sharing! I am normally a very relaxed care-free girl. But.. I totally get my anxious moments. My boyfriend is a superstar and always notices. He’ll ask if I’m feeling a little anxious and snuggle me and force me to chat and everything goes away. Other times I’ll admit to him, “Ben, I’m anxious” and he knows it’s real because I refer to him by name when I need something… (oops) But this is perfect for the (many) moments I can’t rely on another person to monitor my emotions. Thanks Jo!

  19. That was a very nice thought to ponder upon. I’m currently looking for a way to keep myself calm in the face of a situation that I might not be able to change. At least not change in the direction that I would like it to go. So I’m very happy I found your beautiful site. It’s so full of joy and thoughtfulness. I’m learning a lot from it. So thank you very much for your time and effort in making it.

  20. That was a very nice thought to ponder upon. I’m currently looking for a way to keep myself calm in the face of a situation that I might not be able to change. At least not change in the direction that I would like it to go. So I’m very happy I found your beautiful site. It’s so full of joy and thoughtfulness. I’m learning a lot from it. So thank you very much for your time and effort in making it.

  21. Lol, so I googled “cup o’ joe” because I’m editing my manuscript and wanted to make sure I spelled the expression correctly, and found your blog. Great to meet you fellow blogger and writer!

  22. Be a warrior not a worrier :)

  23. Wow! What a great post! I just happened across your blog tonight and boy, I am so happy I did.

    Being 26, I’ve definitely done my fair share of worrying. Some even affectionately refer to me as a “worry wart.”

    I really enjoyed your therapist’s solution. The Grand Canyon itself is a great visual and its enormity really does put things into perspective.

    Thank you for sharing! :)

  24. That was wondeful, just what I needed.

  25. I came by my worries honestly.”I inherited them from my Mother!” The Queen Mum of Mortifiers,and Martyr!LOL

  26. Hi Jo. I always reference back to this post. I’ve shared it with tons of friends and my parents. Brings me to tears just reading it again. Thank you!

  27. I’m definitely a worrier. In fact, I stayed up half the night last night with anxiety over job hunting.

  28. This is so great!!! This is exactly why I recently started making these bangles that say “It Doesn’t Matter”…because it truly doesn’t!!!

    I try to look down and remind myself that “it doesn’t matter” as much as possible (although of course some thing DO matter!)


  29. Anonymous says...

    Yes, Yes, Yes…worry about so many, many things…in some respects, I have great reason to worry…2nd time in 5 years battling cancer, so now I am a worrier given so much more to worry about…I live down the Jersey Shore, can make it to the ocean in about 10 minutes (off season, that is) but I take a large cup of coffee with me, watch the waves come and go, its relaxing…but as the wave crashes and the water slowly retreats, I toss my worry to the ocean…I do feel better once I leave. Our problems are always going to be with us, we are stuck facing them head on, but the “act” of tossing them away is refreshing…it gives your mind that needed break…truth will always be worry does nothing, its the action that does it but the mind needs that break sometimes to deal/face it head on!

  30. Thanks for this post! I really needed to hear this. <3

  31. Will you believe me if I tell you I worry so much and I feel so stressed that I haven’t slept peacefully since one year?
    Dark circles are starting to look creepy and hair fall is showing up badly. I don’t know if I’m exaggerating or if I’m really turning into a zombie. But man I really want to be happy and relaxed.

  32. What a great post Joanna! I’m a constant worrier so I most definitely will be giving the Grand Canyon visualization trick a try. Thanks for sharing!

  33. Wow, great post. So true about keeping worries in perspective. It seems like a lot of people in my generation worry that they’ll never have what they’re looking for… such as my friend assuming she’ll never be able to afford the ranch she wants, or another friend worrying she won’t have a husband/kids. How do you find inner assurance that everything in your life will end up ok for those major life landmarks?

  34. Hi Joanna, I love following your blog and found this post especially helpful. My schoolwork sometimes really stresses me out and the analogy of the Grand Canyon just puts things into perspective for me right away and makes me realize my grander goals and joys in life. Thanks so much!!

  35. This comes at just the right time. I worry about whether moving into our new tiny flat is the right move. About whether I will have a job in 4 months. Which country we should be living in seeing as the one we’re in now is self-destructing before our eyes. And amongst all of this, when should we start trying for a family. It seems that time is our biggest enemy. But it’s ok, cos we’ve got the Grand Canyon!

    Maria xx