How To Stop Worrying And Start Living
"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength." - Leo Buscaglia.
Worrying is natural. Most people worry about upcoming tests or challenging situations with uncertain outcomes. Worry isn’t all bad— it can help spur us into action to solve a problem, prepare for an upcoming exam, or apply for jobs. However, sometimes one worrisome thought turns into hundreds of 'what-ifs,' worst-case scenarios, doubts, and fears. This can take a toll on your physical and mental health, sapping up much of your energy and interfering with your everyday life. Although it may be difficult to never worry, there are ways you can reduce the frequency and severity of your worry. It is possible to train your brain to stay calm, keep a positive outlook, and tackle your problems productively.
Create A Worry Period
Choose a set time and place every day in which you’re allowed to worry as much as you want. For example, you might pick 5:30-5:45 pm in the living room. Try to choose the same time and place every day, if possible. Try to train your brain to recognize that this is the only time of the day you are allowed to worry. If a worrisome thought pops into your head at another point in the day, make a note of it and remind yourself that you will worry about it later, so you don't have to right now. Simply telling yourself not to worry often doesn’t work as the worry suddenly becomes all you can think about. However, postponing it can help as you know it will still be dealt with eventually while keeping the rest of your day worry-free.
You might worry more when you are tired, hungry, distracted, or otherwise unable to cope with life’s circumstances. When the worry period arrives, allow yourself to consider the thoughts that worried you earlier, but only if they still seem important. If they do not seem important anymore, consider cutting your worry period short and enjoying your evening instead. A worry period can help you feel more in control of your thoughts and worries and stop them from interfering with your daily life when you have other things to focus on.
Tackle Productive Worries
If you want to stop worrying about something, it can help to create a list of your worries and divide them into those which are solvable and those which are not. Ask yourself which worries are problems you're facing, and which are what-ifs. Productive, solvable worries can be dealt with right away, which may allow you to stop thinking about them. For example, if you're worried that you need to find a new job for financial reasons, you can begin job hunting and plan a budget for the meantime until you start the new job. Once you have a plan and have started to take action, you might feel less worried.
If you're a chronic worrier, many of your worries may be unproductive. They might be based on uncertainty rather than something that is happening now. Uncertainty is neutral, meaning that a positive outcome is just as likely as a negative one. To stop chronic worrying, try to accept that uncertainty exists, let go, and focus on things that 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 is still uncertain. You may find over time that many of the things you worried about never happened and those that did were often not as bad as expected. Living in the present can help you let go of worry.
Don't Assume What Others Are Thinking
Sometimes, your worries may be based on assumptions of what someone else is thinking. Trying to read someone's mind often leads to creating an exaggerated situation in your head based on something that may not even be happening. Instead, try communicating and ask what you need to ask. This is the only way to get some insight into what someone is thinking.
If they are thinking what you assumed, at least you have removed the uncertainty and can now tackle the problem. Healthy communication can also promote openness in your relationship and help you avoid unnecessary conflicts and negativity. Remember that people don't think about you and what you do as much as you think. They have their minds full of thinking about themselves, those closest to them, and thinking about what other people think of them.
Keep A Worry Diary
It can be easy to "catch" moods from other people, especially those whom we spend a lot of time with. Keeping a worry diary may help you find the situations or people that cause you to worry. Each time you start to have worrisome thoughts, take note of what caused them. Over time, look for patterns, and you may discover some interesting trends. Once you have discovered these patterns, you can take efforts to avoid these people or situations.
Make Time For Meditation
A study published earlier this year in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that meditation lowers anxiety levels and helps people gain control over worrying, emotions, and thoughts. Many free resources to calm your body and mind are available online and via apps, and there are also meditation CDs available to purchase, you can even try a worry stone if you feel like it would be helpful for you. Try this free online resource to get started: http://www.freemeditation.com.
Working out can be an effective way to de-stress and release inner tension. Exercise helps you move away from a cloudy headspace and feel more decisive, focused, and productive. Tackling physical goals in the gym can also help you to feel in control - if your body can tackle certain things, then your mind may also feel strong enough to cope with worries.
Talk About Your Worries
You might notice that speaking to certain people about your worries allows you to gain perspective while speaking to other people makes you worry more. 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 at the moment about the worries bouncing around in your mind, then try to let them out by writing about them. Getting them out of your head and reasoning with yourself on paper or on a computer can help you to find clarity and calm down.
If talking to someone close to you about your worries isn't enough, talking therapies and cognitive behavioral therapies can be very useful. Talking therapies aim to change thinking patterns to control anxiety and reduce irrational worries. Therapy involves working with a professional to identify thought and behavior patterns that are contributing to your worrying and replacing them with thoughts and behaviors which reduce worry and improve coping skills. Talking therapies can also help you to get to the root of your issues which can then help to make them go away.
Online Counseling With BetterHelp
Talking to a professional can be useful in discovering the root of your worries, gaining perspective, and learning how to tackle them. BetterHelp is an online counseling platform that can connect you with licensed, trained, experienced counselors who specialize in different areas. Without having to worry about far drives, high costs, or long waiting lists, you can begin to get quality mental health care from the comfort of your home.
The Efficacy Of Online Counseling
Online therapy can be effective for a variety of mental health concerns. Sometimes, what seems like worry can actually indicate a more serious condition like generalized anxiety disorder, and a licensed therapist can help you discern between the two. Studies have shown that internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy can successfully treat “generalized anxiety and symptoms of pathological worry.” These results “are on a par with face-to-face literature regarding the efficacy of CBT for generalized anxiety disorder.”
Worrying can be a cycle, and once you get caught up in it, you may start to worry about worrying. Learning to break the cycle before you get to that point can be vital to your overall well-being. Trying the suggestions listed above may help you stop worrying and start living life to the fullest. However, if you can't break the cycle on your own, it can be beneficial to confide in an online therapist for extra support and encouragement. They may be able to offer you advice and equip you with tools that allow you to move past your worries with confidence.
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