Are you the type of person who is always worried about something? Maybe friends and family have a hard time understanding where your fears come from, or you feel that your apprehension of certain situations negatively impacts your life. Feeling worried about possible outcomes is normal, and everyone experiences worry at some point. It can be problematic if that worry takes hold of your ability to do the things you want to.
The Difference Between Worrying and Anxiety
Around 31% of Americans will struggle with some diagnosed anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Though being worried or afraid is sometimes normal, people with anxiety disorders experience it entirely differently. Their anxiety can be debilitating and make it difficult for them to focus on anything else. People with anxiety disorders may also avoid certain situations out of fear of their emotional reaction. For someone with an anxiety disorder, irrational thoughts can take over their ability to function on a day-to-day basis.
Though mental health disorders should always be treated with the help of a licensed therapist, there are some things you can do on your own to start challenging your anxious thoughts. Evidence shows that a combination of therapy and shifts in daily habits can make a huge difference in the way anxiety manifests for an individual.
Think About The Future
One way to combat worrisome thoughts is to ask yourself if what you're worried about will 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 will 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." Challenging your worry by calming yourself down can be beneficial in many life situations and become easier with practice.
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 it reminds you to take preventative action, you shouldn't let the fear of the unknown rule your life. 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).
We can't know what will happen to us in the future, and though that lack of control is daunting to some people, it can also be freeing. By embracing life and accepting that certain things are out of your hands, you can become more present in the positive aspects of your life. In truth, we never really know when our last day on earth will be or what will claim us in the end. So, it does a world of good to accept the unknown and embrace it as part of life.
Try Stepping 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 worried they'll feel uncomfortable.
For some people, challenging their fears by facing them head-on is helpful. For example, If you fear going 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 feel uncomfortable in a bathing suit, suit up and get yourself to as many pool parties as you are invited to. Though this may be challenging at first, allowing yourself to approach your fears can help build your confidence in tackling them. This can also help some people feel accomplished and proud of their ability to work against their worries productively.
Try To Challenge The Negative Inner Monologue
When we worry, it is often because we repeat the same negative thoughts and ideas in our heads like a mantra. For some people, it feels easier to believe negative thoughts rather than challenge them. By confronting these negative thought patterns, you can learn how to see things in a more positive light.
To combat negative thoughts, you can try actively engaging in an activity that makes you happy. This can help "turn off" the bad channel in our brains. For instance, if you like crafting, take a crafting class. Join your kids in playing a video game or shooting hoops in the driveway. You can also try reflective activities, like journaling or meditating. By practicing mindfulness in a way that feels good for you, you can stop your worry from spiraling out of control.
Try To Get More Sleep
For people who deal with worrying thoughts often, going to bed early may sound like nothing more than a recipe for allowing their overactive mind to keep them up all night with worry. The reality is that people who don't get enough sleep daily are more likely to experience high levels of stress and worry.
Another helpful tip: keep a "worry journal" by your bed. In one of her books, the late actress Carrie Fisher once said that she wrote in her journal every day because she felt better knowing that her thoughts were written down and out of her head. A worry journal is a great way to accomplish this because you can write down all of your worries before your head hits the pillow. That way, you won't feel like you have to focus on your thoughts to remember them because they are permanently etched in your journal.
If you want to worry about those things in the morning, they'll still be there, waiting for you to revisit them. But by writing out your thoughts and feelings, you give yourself a chance to release them, even temporarily. You can also try other creative activities, like drawing or playing music, if they help you feel more at ease before you head to bed.
Make Yourself Laugh
Have you ever had a stressful day, 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. Allowing yourself to laugh can help you let go of stressful thoughts and be present in the current moment.
Keep a mental, or even a physical, list of the things 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 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, you also might need a good cry. So many of us are afraid to break down in tears because of what society has conditioned us to believe, but being vulnerable and allowing ourselves to feel things wholly can be extremely therapeutic. It doesn't mean you're a weak person.
In actuality, bottling up pain can be stressful on the body and mind. So, go ahead, let it out. Embrace your emotions. It's what makes you human.
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 don't feel like you see changes, it may help you to speak with a counselor. Though excessive worrying and anxiety disorders are common, they still need to be addressed.
An experienced therapist can help you 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 one 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 been 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 fantastic value for the extremely reasonable monthly fee. My counselor checks in with me almost daily, which provides 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 begin to challenge your thought patterns. 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.