A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?"
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."
She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."
Remember to put the glass down.
(Courtesy of Jimmy Harmon)
I use this anecdote ALL THE TIME with my students (well technically I ask them to hold my water bottle to really make my point!). It's wonderful to see the light bulb that goes off for them. "Putting the glass down" can be as simple as taking a timed break for breathing and decompressing, calling a friend, journaling, going for a walk or jog, listening to music, baking a new recipe. Any activity that brings a smile or a big sigh of relief is the equivalent of "putting the glass down".
If you needed more convincing check out this Ted talk where Psychologist Guy Winch discusses "Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid".
If you find yourself having a hard time committing to this tactic, I really do encourage you to hold a glass of water out in front of you for at least 1-5 minutes (which in itself is a break from the constant worrying and ruminating) but then see if the light bulb doesn't also go off for you and you finally allow yourself to literally, and figuratively, put the glass down.
Once you've put the glass down, you might also revisit some of our posts (here and here) about mindfulness!