I'm a worrier.

It's inherited. Or more likely, it's ingrained.

My grandfather worried. My mother worried. I worry.

About really dumb things. I'm talking about things that no one else worries about.

For example, growing up there was a rule in the house: If there was a lightning storm, you could not be on a telephone connected to a landline.

That's because there was the possibility that lighting could strike a telephone pole. It would then travel through the telephone wire. Eventually it would find its way through the house wiring. Ultimately it could exit through the telephone handset and strike a person dead.

Now before you start laughing. Every year, two people die from lightning strikes to phones connected to landlines. That's MythBusters confirmed!

Even though it's a legitimate possibility, the odds of this happening are 2 in 7 billion. You'd have a better chance of becoming President of the United States - the odds of that happening are 1 in 10 million.

Which brings me to the point: Worry leads to mental clutter. We store stuff in our brains because we worry it will be too hard, or too tedious, or too tiresome.

Worry also leads to negative self-talk. We worry that we're not good enough, that we're not smart enough, that others won't like us and think less of us.

Worry is worthless, and you'll soon see, usually not real.

Here's how I've learned to cope - especially when worrying about being hit by a falling meteorite (1 in 1.6 million odds, if you're wondering).

Step 1: Write It Down

The bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing says to discard and organize your cluttered physical space all at once (not bit by bit over time).

David Allen in Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity says to put everything that's occupying your mental space down on paper - freeing your mind to think clearly.

Same thing with mental clutter and negative self talk. If it's on your mind, get it out of your head and on paper.

That way you can clearly see what's going on.

Step 2: Ask Yourself, "Is This Real?"

Now, look at all you're worried about. Look at all the negative self-talk. Ask yourself if it's real.

The book The Worry Cure recounts a study done by Cornell University of people's worries. What they found was 85% of worries never happened.

Never.

Ever.

Step 3: Ask Yourself, "Could This Happen?"

If you are honest with yourself, you can get rid of 85% of the items on your list.

(Once you get them out of your head, don't put them back in!)

Luckily, there's good news for what remains on your list.

In the study mentioned above, Cornell discovered that if a worry did happen, 79% of people handled it way better than they feared they would.

That means you've got this!

Step 4: Ask Yourself, "What's the Paper Napkin Plan?"

For a brief moment, let yourself think what would happen if one of the remaining 15% of worries happened or were true. What's the worst possible outcome?

Don't make a big deal about it. Make a "back of the napkin" plan on how you'll deal with it. No more, no less.

Remember: In all reality it's not going to happen, and if it does, it's going to be a lot less scary than you think it will be.

And with your back of the napkin plan, you'll know what to do if it does.

Step 5: Forget About It

It's time to forget about it. It's time to let it go.

You have a plan if it turns out true or happens to occur. That's all you can do.

Don't let worry, mental clutter, and negative self-talk rent space in your head.

Take if from a reforming worry wart: Lightning doesn't usually strike. Meteors don't often fall. You're better than you tell yourself you are.

Get rid of the mental clutter. Let go of the negative self talk.

Life isn't as bad was we worry it is.

Published on: Sep 14, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.