Tiny Spark Series: Could We Just Not?

Imi Woods is the inspired artist and talented writer behind Art By Imi. Her paintings are joyful, perfect strokes and snapshots of life, and her words are just as vibrant.

Today, Imi talks about fear and fretting, a scared place so many of us have visited or are currently visiting. Enjoy her Tiny Spark and take it to heart. I know I did. I’ve wafted towards windows ever since I read her words. Now you read, too. This might be just the thing to calm your worried mind.


Obsessive compulsive worrying: could we just… not ?

 Obsessive Compulsive Worrying (OCW): The medical term for when a person always has to have at least one thing to worry about obsessively at any one time.

 I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that I have it. Or at least used to.

 Symptoms include:

  1. Over-analyzing small details and feelings
  2. Constantly going over and over the worry in your mind
  3. Using negative labels for yourself
  4. Obsessively Googling about your worry
  5. Believing that the way you feel in that moment will last forever
  6. Experiencing stress-induced health complaints

I have worried obsessively on and off since I was about 14 years old. I didn’t notice properly until I was nearly 19, when I figured “I must just be a worrier.” I didn’t consider the possibility of change. I just accepted that when I had a spare minute, I would fill it up with worries. Sometimes I never told people my worries. Other times (and my university friends will vouch for this) they would be a topic of conversations both spoken and unspoken for days on end. If I caught myself not fretting, I would sabotage myself and subconsciously search for something new to worry about. (I must add that the majority of this time, I was still quite happy. Before you start to worry.)

At the tender age of twenty-and-three-quarters, my worries became real. Or at least, I thought they did. Ever heard of the acronym F.E.A.R. (False Expectations Appearing Real)? I had it big time.  Once I got started, I just couldn’t stop, so they mounted up inside me, saturating me and overloading me. I became really ill.  I escalated matters by going over points 1-6 for several months, falling deeper and deeper into the hole. I fed myself the belief that no one would want to talk to me because I had nothing interesting to say. I wasted half a year wallowing.

And then I fought back. One tiny step at a time. I didn’t do anything big or glamorous. I didn’t meet a guru, I didn’t even start yoga.

  1. If I found myself worrying, I wrote it down and gave myself a specific time that I could deal with it later. I insisted that it wasnt necessary to think about now.
  2. I took my list of worries, and added all of my current worries. Even the less obvious, wriggly ones. I needed to get them all of them out of my head. I then took myself out for a walk to my special place, sat down and worked through my worries one by one. I effectively CBTed myself. I countered my worries with positive alternatives and reinforced them through repetition. When I was done, I ripped up the sheet of worries and disposed of it somewhere far away.

(Sometimes now if they are mounting up, I admit them aloud just to get them out. Then (this is embarrassing) I blow them away, or slam the door on them, or waft them out of the window and wind it up really quickly, releasing the negative energies far away.)

3. I banned Google. It causes obsessions and worries to multiply seven fold by feeding your negative beliefs under the guise of “truth”. Challenge the beliefs that are being fed to you. If you don’t want to believe something, then don’t!  I have grown to realise that positive belief and faith are a hell of a lot stronger than alleged “truth”.

 4. I painted. Painting has been truly remarkable for me. It makes my mind go blank. With no worries and no over- analyzing comes a more content, happier and healthier person. It has also brought me immense pride, renewed my confidence again. I make others happy by creating something beautiful and meaningful. Wow. 


I repeated these steps for several months consistently. It was not quick, and at some points I would blab that “I feel like I am back at square one”. There is still room for improvement, but I have come SO far. I know I won’t go back because I’m going forward.

 Today, let me challenge a common belief. Change is possible. Don’t sweat the little things. You don’t need to worry anymore. You could always just… not.


Do you worry yourself sick? 

What helps to calm your fears & concerns?





Upcoming Tiny Spark:

Um, Me

Monday, January 28



38 thoughts on “Tiny Spark Series: Could We Just Not?

  1. I’m a low-level worrier myself — that is, I feel an anxiety I can’t put my finger on unless I make my self stop and analyze it, and at its root is always some worry. It sucks! Can I say that here? Meditation helps, and so does counting my blessings and remembering that worries change with the seasons.

    1. Oh, Jim. I talk about my lady parts and the bowel movements of a three-year-old. You can TOTALLY say “sucks” 🙂 I’ve been told I can worry any given thing to death. It’s my first reaction to freak out.

  2. So, so good. I have found myself to be quite the worrier lately and have not been sure how to curb that nasty habit. Thank you so much for sharing your journey from worrier to truth-believer! Now when I feel like I should worry I just WON’T! (And Google, you are grounded.)

  3. I’m always amazed at how writing things down so they don’t have to stay in my head really takes a load off, even if it’s just the darned grocery list. It’s nice to know there’s a way out of that rabbit hole!

  4. This is really scary. It’s totally me– I just never knew there was a name for it! And like Imi, the only thing that stops my worrying is painting or running. I’ve told Ben several times I wish my computer didn’t have Internet so I could write freely and joyfully without stopping to look up whatever thing I’m worried about (today it’s omega 6 oils and if I should throw out the brand new canola oil I just bought.) LOVe her work.

    1. Thank you very much, I fret about supplements too but then I figure its more likely to do me good if I don’t worry and believe it will work. Thanks for your kind words!

  5. I am (still) a recovering worrier. At the height of it, it was paralyzing. The process to make the cognitive changes is ongoing and man, it feels good to move from that. What has supported me the most is my faith and exercise. Being ‘present’ instead of worrying about things is a challenge but well worth the work.

  6. Thankfully my worrying has decreased over the last few years, but it will on occasion sneak up on me, wake me up in the middle of the night and keep me up for hours. I literally have to force it out of my head and imagine I am lying on a beach before I can fall back asleep. Or if it happens when I’m awake going for a walk or writing it down (like others) helps. Thanks for sharing.

  7. When we learn to enjoy the moment, despite life’s inherent uncertainty, we return to the flow of living. Getting into the zone via painting, music, or exercise helps.

    Love the painting!

  8. http://agrippinglife.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1775&action=edit

    Well done.
    I just did a post recently on OCD but I think your post might be better because it’s a personal account. The way in which you deal with it, instinctively, is wonderful. Obviously it can be overcome. I know when I’m under stress my obsessions and compulsions rear their ugly head. There’s a really good book called “The Art of Possibility” which encourages people to think outside of the box, make up their own rules to life, whatever works. It’s a great read. It’s not specifically for OCW but you could apply it to this.

  9. I would love to just not worry…ever!
    It’s easier said than done though.I It’s hard to not worry…but I’m trying and my husband is definitely helping.

    BTW, I’m hosting a cute Valentine’s day giveaway on my blog.Please visit and pass the word around.

  10. I go through phases of worrying, but they’re becoming fewer and further between the more I see that everything tends to turn out OK in the end. (There’s always going to be the final lights-out, of course but apart from that!)

    I wish I could have understood it sooner, though. My worrying had physical impacts that continue to this day, although I’ve gotten my worry (largely) under check. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to have faith, not fear, because I would have avoided so much pain.

    But, you know? I’m here now, and here, thinking over this lovely post, is a lovely place to be. 🙂

  11. I think I used to have a mild form of this OCW deal. I’d often worry about something so much that my worries actually came true and then I’d become even more depressed because I felt like such a loser.
    Big kudos to Imi for helping herself climb out of that hole. On a slight tangent, what a coincidence Tori, that you chose to feature Imi’s post on worrying because my most recent post was on something similar (just on a more lighthearted note). Great minds think alike. 😉

  12. I do worry, but it doesn’t cripple me (as much), anymore. Once upon a time “worry”, for me, equaled two perforated ulcers, constant migraines, and all-over body pain. It took a major life event – like a massive kick upside the head – to make it (painfully) clear to me that stressing about the fingerprints on the windows, or the nutritional value to fat ratio of my breakfast bar, or whether that woman over there is talking about me, was just an excuse to spin my wheels. Worry felt like action, so I would bury myself in it, to feel like I was doing something about it. If that makes any sense 😛 Now, if I’m worried about something and I can’t do anything to change that something, I acknowledge it and move on. If I CAN do something about it? Well, then I’m too busy doing to stress myself out. 🙂

    1. I need to remember this comment, read it next time I am full-speed sprinting into a pile of worry. I busy myself freaking out about something before I stop to think if and how I could fix it.

  13. It wasn’t worry, it was depression, but I got out of mine in a similar fashion – small steps. The first one is ALWAYS the hardest, in my case, just getting off my ponderous posterior. (40 lbs more ponderous than today, 6 years later.) If you count all that’s wrong, you can spiral into your own little black hole – which you know all too well. It’s concentrating on the positive, be it moving or not obsessing, that can ALSO lead to a spiral, out of the black hole this time.
    Well done!

    1. Spiral is the PERFECT word for that, isn’t it? I have a bad, bad way of letting the smallest issue morph and grow and become all-consuming. Then I realize that I’m just dog-piling every single fear or worry or concern onto my shoulders all at once.

    1. I’m a worrier for sure. When I first read Imi’s post I just nodded Yes to everything. It definitely isn’t a very productive habit, to sit there all worked up over the smallest things!

  14. Your last technique (number 4) jumped out at me. I usually can’t get myself to stop thinking or worrying about something, but I can shift my attention toward something else. I’m always amazed by how easy that really is.

    Great post. Thank you for writing it.

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