According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common forms of mental illness plaguing the United States. In fact, roughly 18.1 percent of the population falls prey to anxiety disorders every year.
As someone who is more solution-focused, and not at all prone to dwelling on negative feelings, anxiety has never taken full hold of my life. I have, however, been known to worry quite a bit about whether things will work out the way I want them to — much like anyone else.
After all, when one puts in a lot of hard work and effort, and has done all they can to mitigate against risk, one expects results! So, to tackle that perfectly warranted dose of worry, I invented the Worry Jar, and made a game of gambling with my life.
What Is a Worry Jar?
My Worry Jar is literally a jar — a mason jar to be exact. But what makes it special is how I use it. The idea first came to me in December, when I befriended someone who was extremely unreliable.
We would make great plans to head out, and they would cancel at the last minute for the most ridiculous reasons. There was always a 50/50 chance that I would either be out having the time of my life, or listening to ten-texts’ worth of worthless excuses.
At first, this 50/50 ratio put me in an obvious state of anxiety (the regular kind), whenever we made plans. As someone who works 7 days per week, any time off means rearranging my schedule to make time for outings. This is easily done, but only worth it when those outings come to fruition.
So, rather than continue to obsess over whether or not these plans would work out, I started to place bets with my Worry Jar. Here’s how it works.
How to Gamble With Your Life: No Losers
As I mentioned, the idea for the Worry Jar started with my unreliable friend, who for all their good intentions, can never seem to get their schedule right. But as January came about, I found myself using my Worry Jar to make bets against virtually all big uncertainties in my life. Here’s how.
If there is some cause for worry or uncertainty that is likely to make me lose sleep at night, I make a bet against it. My bets are usually $20 cash. If my worst fear comes true, then I take $20 from the jar to soothe my poor aching heart. But if things work out for the best, my reward is the happy experience, and the jar gets $20.
If you are a pessimist, like I sometimes am — or if you are suffering from anxiety and depression — that Worry Jar starts to fill up. Because there is simply no way that every bad experience you imagine will come to pass, and when it does not, you owe the jar.
Of course, the obvious temptation is to take the money in the jar whenever it suits you. Suit yourself, but I impose 25 percent interest on myself for doing so, and yes, I do pay every cent. As with any self-help tactic, discipline is key.
What Gambling With My Life Did for Me
At first, this was all just a silly game I played with the jar I kept my pocket change in. But over time, that Worry Jar really gave me peace of mind. The fact that there was money in the jar, just like my half-empty bottle of rum cream in Message in a Bottle, became a constant reminder that things are rarely, if ever, as bad as they seem.
That reminder got me through some dark times earlier this year, when the negativity of people around me started to permeate my own life. Almost every American I ran into was suffering from a war with negative emotions. Because of this, I eventually found myself in a position where my only negative thoughts came from everyone else’s!
Thankfully, not only did the Worry Jar remind me of all I should be grateful for, it also provided me with quite a bit of pocket-money when I finally decided to empty it. After all, you can’t just have the money sit there forever. There has to be a time limit, or a goal.
So how much money did I save up? $124 — or $144 if you count the $20 I earned the night before, when my ride left me stranded at work.
I took that $144 with me on my trip to Utah and Colorado last week, and barely swiped my card for the entire trip. Why should I, when I had my tax-free gambling earnings to dip into? 😅
We all have our obstacles in life, and as someone who lived through child abuse and its resulting trauma and depression, I will ALWAYS maintain that a positive mindset focused on solutions is always the best way forward, and eventually the best way out.
Your solution may not be the bottle of Jamaican rum I used to measure my progress in 2016, or this mason jar I started using in 2017. But if you need reminders of how far along you are on your path to happiness and self-improvement, then I highly recommend getting started with your very own Worry Jar.
If any of you have tried something like this before, or intend to, I would love to hear all about it in the comments below.
Stay tuned for those posts about my Worry-Jar-sponsored adventures in the desert out west, starting next Friday!