Ways To Stop Being A Worry Wart And Calm Down
By: Stephanie Kirby
Updated November 18, 2019
Medically Reviewed By: Lauren Guilbeault
Are you the type of person who is always worried about something? Maybe friends and family have lost patience with you, thinking that you honestly like to worry or else you wouldn't do it so much. Maybe you just wish they knew how much you wished you could stop being a worry wort for just one day so that you could experience the bliss that comes from having not a care in the world. The good news is, that's possible. Even if you've been a worry wort for most of your life, today is a new day, and you can always train your brain out of a long-standing habit by developing a new one.
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Around 31% of Americans will struggle with some type of diagnosed anxiety disorder in their lifetime. That means that if worry is a problem for you, you aren't alone. But you don't need to stay there either. Since anxiety and worry are common issues, many evidence-based techniques to manage them have emerged. There are plenty of things that can help you learn how to overcome worry, which we'll discuss more below.
Think About The Future
One way to get out of your head is to ask yourself if what you're worried about is going to matter tomorrow, a week from now, or a year from now? This works great for short-term worries, like if you're worried your boss is going to discover something that you messed up at the office earlier that day. Is it that big of a mistake, is it one that will matter a year or even a month from now?
If the answer is "no," and if you realize that you are more valuable to your boss than you often remember you are, then this can be a great way to dissipate your fears. Another way to think of this tip is that you are training yourself not to sweat the small stuff.
Accept The Unknown
This one may sound scary, but it will do you a world of good in the long run. Some people worry about the "what ifs" like "what if I get cancer someday?" While it is good to be concerned about potential health problems, to a certain extent because being concerned reminds you to take preventative action, you shouldn't let the fear of the unknown rule your life. The bottom line is you could spend all day, every day worrying that you're going to get cancer. And then you may get cancer, or you may not. You're not going to prevent getting it simply by worrying about it (or else everyone would do this). And, you're not going to get cancer if you don't actively worry about it.
We can't know what's going to happen to us in the future, so to waste the precious time we have now worrying about it is a shame. We should embrace our healthy life while we still have it and spend every moment living life to the fullest with the ones we love. In truth, we never really know when our last day on earth is going to be, or what is going to claim us in the end. So it does a world of good to accept the unknown and embrace the life you're living.
Force Yourself Out Of Your Comfort Zone
When treating those struggling with agoraphobia, psychiatrists often engage in cognitive behavioral therapy to help them overcome their fear. What this means is that they will encourage them to do what makes them uncomfortable, and often. In the case of agoraphobia, this means that patients are instructed to leave their homes and go to those parties, dinners, or other events that they avoid simply because they're afraid they'll feel uncomfortable.
The more you do what makes you uncomfortable, the less of a hold it will have on you. If you fear to go to the movies on opening night because of the large crowds, then make an effort to go to several opening nights this year. If you avoid going to pool parties because you think you look fat in a bathing suit, suit up and get yourself to as many pool parties as you are invited to. The more you do what you fear, the less afraid of it you will be, and the more you can like or even love the activities you used to fear and hate.
Stop The Negative Inner Monologue
When we worry, it is often because we have been repeating the same negative thoughts and ideas in our heads like a mantra. It's always easier to believe the bad stuff than the good. To combat this, try actively engaging in an activity that makes you happy. This can help "turn off" the bad channel in our brains.
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For instance, if you like crafting, take a crafting class. Join your kids in playing a video game or shooting hoops in the driveway. Not only will you be actively engaging your brain, but also you'll be spending time with your loved ones rather than ruminating in front of the television, watching the same episode of a show you've seen five times before. And, if the activity is an active one, you may also be adding exercise to the mix, which is always a healthy additive.
Go To Bed Early
This may sound like the worst possible idea, as going to bed early may sound like nothing more than a recipe for allowing your overactive mind to keep you up all night with worry, but those who suffer from anxiety, and even those who are not as prone to it, are more likely to stress worse when they get less sleep. Even if worries do keep you up half the night, at least you're getting more sleep by going to bed at, say, 11:00 pm than you would by going to bed at 1:00 am.
Another helpful tip: keep a "worry journal" by your bed. The late actress Carrie Fisher once said in one of her books that she wrote in her journal every day because she felt better knowing that her thoughts were written down and were out of her head. A worry journal is a great way to accomplish this because you can write down all of the things that are worrying you before your head hits the pillow. That way, you won't feel like you have to focus on them to remember them because they are permanently etched in your journal.
If you want to worry about those things in the morning, fine, they'll still be there, waiting for you to revisit them. But if you want to purge them from your mind completely, you never have to visit them again and you'll have enjoyed a good night's sleep without all of that muck floating around in your head.
Make Yourself Laugh
Have you ever had a really crappy day and then someone made you laugh and it felt like a wave of relief came over you? Like all you truly needed in the world, at that moment, was a good laugh? Laughter can do wonders for the body and mind. An article in Psychology Today discusses that while children laugh about 300 times a day, adults laugh only 20. No wonder adults always look so miserable by default!
Keep a mental, or even a physical, list of the things that you know are always good for a laugh and break them out on those especially stressful days. Maybe it's a Richard Pryor stand-up special. Maybe it's a particular subreddit (just the comments alone are good enough for a laugh on most days). Maybe it's a particular movie or YouTube video. Whatever it is, pull out that bad boy when you feel like you just can't take anymore and you need to clear your head.
Don't Ignore The Need To Have A Good Cry
Just as you need a good laugh sometimes, so too might you need a good cry. So many of us fear to break down in tears because of what society has conditioned us to believe, especially if you're a male. But crying is just an expression of emotion. It doesn't mean you're any less of a man or a weaker person - in fact, being brave enough to cry in the faces of those who would say that makes you twice as strong a person as they could ever be.
So, go ahead, let it out. Embrace your emotions. It's what makes you human. And those who would say otherwise have more work that they don't even realize they need to do on themselves before they should even dare try to bring another person down for something as natural and cleansing as crying.
If these tips sound challenging -- BetterHelp counselors can help you overcome worry
If you have tried getting control of your worry on your own and just don't feel like you're seeing changes, it may help you to speak with a counselor. An experienced therapist can help you to learn where your fears are coming from and then help you learn how to gain control over them. Online therapists at BetterHelp are available 24/7, which can be very helpful when you are hit with a worry in the middle of the night and want to talk about it. You can read reviews of some of our counselors below, from people experiencing similar issues.
"I have had 1 phone session with Joni and she was very involved and helped me come up with different coping strategies and ways to manage my stress and worry. She is very prompt with her written replies as well!"
"Heather is very easy to talk to, and very sincere. She patiently listened to me describe what I felt was such a multi-layered, complex situation that I feared I'd never be able to find my way out of. However she was able to very quickly identify the underlying problem at the heart of it all. I feel less overwhelmed, more in control of my life & my relationships. I know that I can reach out to her if I find myself struggling, at any time between scheduled appointments. And I complete every appointment feeling less anxious, more hopeful for my future, & better able to accomplish the things I'd been too overwhelmed to do previously. I have told family members & friends about my satisfaction with BetterHelp, as a service that provides ease (being able to work with my counselor from home & not worrying I'll have to cancel an appointment if health issues flare) & is a wonderful value for the extremely reasonable monthly fee. My counselor checks in with me on an almost daily basis, which provides a reassurance just knowing she's there if I need her. I have seen a handful of counselors in the past, and they were all very kind, but I did not feel confident in their actual ability to help. This is not the case with Heather. I believe her treatment plan is on point, realistic, and will be effective. Most of all, I feel that I will be in a much better place mentally/emotionally and in my close relationships as a result of the work I am doing with Heather."
Stress, worry, and anxiety can be a part of normal life, but they shouldn't be controlling it. If you struggle with worry, these tips can help you experience relief. A fulfilling life where excessive worrying doesn't hold you back is within reach - all you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.