How To Stop Worrying And Start Living
"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength." - Leo Buscaglia
Worrying can be natural—some people worry about upcoming tests or challenging situations with uncertain outcomes. In addition, worry may not be unhealthy in every situation— it can sometimes spur individuals into action to solve a problem, prepare for an upcoming exam, or apply for jobs.
However, when worrisome thought turns into hundreds of "what-ifs," worst-case scenarios, doubts, and fears, it may take a toll on your health, sapping up your energy and interfering with daily functioning. Although it may be challenging to avoid worrying altogether, there are ways to reduce the frequency and severity of your worry. Learning to self-regulate, keep a positive outlook, and tackle your challenges productively can be possible.
Ways To Stop Worrying
Worrying refers to stressful, nervous, or anxiety-provoked thought patterns that are often repetitive or obsessive. If you want to reduce how much you worry, consider the following coping mechanisms.
Define A "Worry Appointment"
Choose a set time and place every day where you're allowed to worry as much as you want. For example, you might pick 5:30 to 5:45 pm in the living room. Try to choose the same time and place every day. During this time of day, your brain may be reminded that you have a set amount of time to worry. If a worrisome thought enters your mind at another point in the day, note it and remind yourself that you can worry about it later.
Telling yourself not to worry without having a defined "worry appointment" may not work because the worry may intensify the more you try to ignore it. However, postponing it can be helpful, as you'll know you can still deal with it eventually while keeping the rest of your day worry-free.
You might worry more when you are tired, hungry, distracted, or struggling to cope with life's circumstances. When the worry period arrives, consider the thoughts that worried you earlier, but only if they still seem relevant. If they do not seem important anymore, consider cutting your worry period short and enjoying your evening. A worry period can help you have more perceived control of your thoughts and worries and stop them from interfering with your daily life when you have other challenges to focus on.
Tackle Productive Worries
Consider creating a list of your worries and dividing them into those that can be solved and those that cannot. Ask yourself which worries are real challenges and which stem from "what-if" scenarios. Productive, solvable worries can be dealt with, which may allow you to stop thinking about them. For example, if you're worried about finding a new job for financial reasons, you can begin job hunting and plan a budget until you start the new job.
If you're a chronic worrier, your worries may be unproductive. They might be based on uncertainty rather than a real-life challenge, or they could exaggerate a challenge's severity. Uncertainty is neutral, so a positive outcome can often be as likely as a negative one. To stop chronic worrying, try to accept that uncertainty exists and focus on all aspects of the situation you can control.
There may be steps you can take to prevent a negative outcome or prepare yourself for this outcome if it happens. However, life can still be uncertain. You may find over time that events you worried about didn't happen, and those that did happen may not have been as problematic as you had expected.
Don't Assume What Others Are Thinking
In some cases, people worry based on assumptions about what someone else is thinking. Trying to read someone's mind often leads to an exaggerated situation in your mind based on a situation that isn't occurring. Instead, try communicating directly by asking questions and being honest. Being upfront about what you want to know may help you better understand someone else's thoughts, especially if they are honest with you.
If the person is thinking what you assumed, you have removed the uncertainty and can confront the problem. Healthy communication can also promote openness in your relationship and help you avoid unnecessary conflicts and negativity. People may not think about you or pass judgment as much as you might think they do. They may also be thinking about themselves, those closest to them, and what other people think of them.
Keep A Worry Diary
You might sometimes take on the challenging moods of those in your life. A worry diary could help you find the situations or people that cause you worry. Take note of the situation each time you start to have worrisome thoughts. Over time, look for patterns, and you may discover interesting trends. Once you have discovered these patterns, you can make efforts to avoid these people or situations.
Make Time For Meditation
A study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that meditation lowers anxiety levels and helps people gain control over worrying, emotions, and thoughts. You may be able to find free resources to calm your body and mind online and via apps or through meditation CDs. If you prefer a tangible support option, consider trying a worry stone, a smooth stone you can rub your thumb into when you're worried.
Working out can be an effective way to de-stress and release inner tension. Exercise can also make you more decisive, focused, and productive. Tackling physical goals in the gym or on your schedule could give you a perception of self-control. For example, if you know your body can tackle challenges, your mind may also be strong enough to cope with worries.
Talk About Your Worries
You might notice that speaking to certain people about your worries lets you gain perspective. Identify who these people are and choose your confidantes according to how they make you feel. If you do not have anyone to talk to about the worries bouncing around in your mind, try to let them out by writing about them. Getting them out of your head and reasoning with yourself on paper or a computer can help you to find clarity. In addition, studies show that expressive writing can improve mental health.
Talk To A Professional
Talking to someone you care about can be beneficial at times. However, a therapist can offer professional and evidence-based support that may help you reduce worrying in the long term. Millions of Americans see a therapist; you don't have to have a mental illness or diagnosis to work with someone.
If you struggle to reach out to a professional in person, you may benefit from talking to a professional online through a platform like BetterHelp. You can receive quality mental health care from home without worrying about far drives, high costs, or long waiting lists. In addition, you can take control of your treatment by choosing a time slot that works for you each week.
Online therapy can be effective in treating various mental health conditions. Worry can sometimes be an underlying symptom of a serious mental illness like generalized anxiety disorder. Studies have shown that internet-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can successfully treat generalized anxiety and symptoms of pathological worry. These results are comparable to face-to-face literature regarding the efficacy of CBT for generalized anxiety disorder.
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