Healthy Ways To Cope With Worry
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, though.
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 can be normal, people with anxiety disorders may experience worry differently. Their anxiety can be debilitating and make it difficult for them to focus on anything else. These individuals may also avoid certain situations for 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 may require professional treatment, 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 significant difference in the way anxiety manifests for an individual.
Think About The Future
One way to combat worrisome thoughts is to ask yourself whether what you're worried about will matter tomorrow, a week from now, or a year from now. This technique may work for short-term worries like if you're worried your boss will discover a mistake you made at the office earlier that day. You might ask yourself, “Is it that big of a mistake— one that will matter a year or even a month from now?”
If the answer is "no", then this can be an effective way to dissipate your fears. In essence, you are training yourself "not to sweat the small stuff". Challenging your worry can be beneficial in many situations and become easier with practice.
Accept The Unknown
Some people worry about the "what ifs" like "what if I get cancer someday?" While some concern regarding potential health problems may be beneficial since it reminds you to take preventative action, you might want to avoid letting 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. It could be helpful to consider that worrying about it will not prevent something from happening.
We can't know what will happen to us in the future, and though that lack of control can be daunting, it can also be liberating. By accepting that certain things are out of your hands, you can become more present for the positive aspects of your life.
Try Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone
When treating those struggling with agoraphobia, psychiatrists often engage in exposure therapy to help them overcome their fear. This means they will encourage them to frequently do what makes them uncomfortable. In the case of agoraphobia, 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 you may want to counter this fear by making 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, consider suiting up and getting 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 over and over again like a mantra. For some people, it may feel easier to embrace negative thoughts rather than challenge them. By confronting these negative thought patterns, though, 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 negative channel in our brains. For instance, if you like crafting, consider taking a crafting class. Or perhaps you could 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 often deal with worrying thoughts, going to bed early may not sound enticing. You may think your overactive mind will just keep you up all night with worry. But research shows that people who don't get enough sleep daily are more likely to experience high levels of stress and worry.
Another potentially helpful tip: keep a "worry journal" by your bed. You may feel better knowing that your thoughts are written down and out of your head. A worry journal can help you accomplish this because you can write down all your worries before your head hits the pillow. Ideally, 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 feel the need 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, for example, if they help you feel more at ease before you head to bed.
Make Yourself Laugh
Have you ever had a stressful day, and then someone made you laugh, and it felt like a wave of relief came over you? Perhaps all you needed in the world at that moment was a good laugh. Laughter can do wonders for the body and mind. Allowing yourself to laugh can help you let go of stressful thoughts and be present in the current moment.
Consider keeping 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 stand-up special from one of your favorite comedians. Perhaps it's a particular subreddit, movie, or YouTube video. Whatever it is, you may want to have it on hand whenever you feel like 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 might also need a good cry. Being vulnerable and allowing ourselves to feel things wholly can be therapeutic. Plus, bottling up pain can be stressful on the body and mind. Consider letting it out and embracing your emotions. It's what makes you human.
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 may 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.
Symptoms of anxiety like excessive worry can make it hard to keep an in-person appointment with a therapist. You may fear going out in public or have concerns over social interactions, for instance. In these cases, online therapy may be a preferrable alternative. With internet-based counseling, you can meet with a mental health professional from the comfort of your home. You can also save time since there’s no need to fight traffic or sit in a waiting room prior to your appointment.
This type of remote therapy has been the subject of much research in the mental health field. A meta-analysis of studies showed that there are no significant differences between in-person and online therapy in terms of treatment outcomes. The study included various populations with diverse mental health challenges, including anxiety.
Online therapists at BetterHelp are available 24/7, which can be 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 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 & 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.
- Previous ArticleDo You Feel Stuck Thinking, “I Worry All Day, Every Day?”