We all care. At one point or another, almost a third of people have dealt with a level of anxiety that would qualify as a disorder. Those troubling thoughts can be sticky, but with a little work we can give you a Teflon mind.
Roll up your sleeves. We have work to do …
How much worrying is too much?
Worries, doubts and anxieties are a normal part of life. It’s natural to worry about an unpaid invoice, an upcoming job interview, or a first date. But “normal” worry becomes excessive when it is persistent and uncontrollable. You worry every day about “what if” and in the worst case, you can’t get anxious thoughts out of your head and interfere with your daily life.
Constant worry, negative thinking, and always expecting the worst can affect your physical and emotional health. It can weaken your emotional strength, make you restless and nervous, cause insomnia, headaches, stomach problems and muscle tension, and make it difficult to concentrate at work or school. You can get your negative feelings out of the people closest to you, self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or try to distract yourself by zoning in front of the screens. Chronic worry can also be a major symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a common anxiety disorder involving tension, nervousness, and a general feeling of restlessness that colors your entire life.
If you’re riddled with exaggerated worries and tensions, there are steps you can take to turn off anxious thoughts. Chronic worry is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more balanced and less fearful perspective.
Why is it so difficult to stop worrying?
Constant worry can come at a high cost. It can keep you awake at night and make you tense and nervous during the day. And even though you hate feeling like a nervous mess, it can still be so hard to stop. For most of those who worry chronically, anxious thoughts are fueled by beliefs, both negative and positive, that you have about worry:
Negative beliefs about worry. You may believe that your constant worry is harmful, that it will drive you crazy or affect your physical health. Or you can worry that you will lose all control over your worry, that it will take over and never stop. While negative beliefs, or worrying about worrying, increase your anxiety and maintain worry, positive beliefs about worry can be just as damaging.
Positive beliefs about worry. You may believe that your concern helps you avoid bad things, prevents problems, prepares you for the worst, or leads you to solutions. Maybe you tell yourself that if you keep worrying about a problem long enough, you can eventually solve it? Or maybe you’re convinced that caring is something responsible or the only way to make sure you don’t overlook something? It’s hard to break the habit of worrying if you think your concern has a positive purpose. Once you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.
How to stop worrying ?
Tip 1: Create a daily period of “worry”
It is difficult to be productive in your daily activities when anxiety and worry dominate your thoughts and distract you from work, school, or home life. This is where the strategy of postponing concerns can help. Instead of trying to stop or get rid of an anxious thought, give yourself permission to have it, but stop thinking about it until later.
- Create a “worry period”. Choose a set time and place to worry. It should be the same every day (for example, in the living room from 5:00 to 5:20 p.m.) and early enough that it doesn’t make you anxious just before bed. During your worry period, you can worry about what you have in mind. The rest of the day, however, is a worry-free zone.
- Write your concerns. If an anxious thought or concern comes to mind during the day, take a brief note and get on with your day. Remember that you will have time to think about it later, so there is no need to worry about it now. Also, writing down your thoughts, on a pad or on your phone or computer, is a much harder job than just thinking about them, making your worries more likely to lose their power.
- Review your “list of concerns” during the concern period. If the thoughts you wrote still bother you, allow yourself to worry about them, but only for the time you specified for your worry period. By examining your concerns in this way, it will often be easier for you to develop a more balanced perspective. And if your worries no longer seem important, just shorten your worry period and enjoy the rest of your day.
Tip 2: Challenge anxious thoughts
If you have chronic anxiety and worry, you will most likely look at the world in ways that seem more threatening than it really is. For example, you may overestimate the possibility of things going wrong, jump right into the worst-case scenario, or treat every anxious thought as fact. It can also discredit your own ability to handle life’s problems, assuming you fall apart at the first sign of trouble. These types of thoughts, known as cognitive distortions, include:
All or nothing thinking, looking at things in black and white categories, no middle ground. “If everything is not perfect, I am a total failure.”
Over-generalization of a single negative experience, hoping it will be true forever. “I was not hired for the job. I will never get a job.”
Focusing on the negative while filtering the positives. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, instead of all the things that went right. “I was wrong on the last question on the test. I’m an idiot.”
Proposing reasons why positive events do not count. “I did well in the presentation, but it was silly luck.”
Make negative interpretations without real evidence. You act like a mental reader: “I can tell that she secretly hates me.” Or a fortune teller: “I know something terrible is going to happen.”
Waiting for the worst case scenario to happen. “The pilot said some turbulence awaits us. The plane is going to crash!”
Believing that the way you feel reflects reality. “I feel so silly. Everyone should laugh at me. ”
Stay on a strict list of what to do and what not to do and hit yourself if you break any of the rules. “I should never have tried to start a conversation with her. I’m an asshole. ”
Labeling you based on perceived errors and defects. “I am a failure; I am boring. I deserve to be alone.
Take responsibility for things that are out of your control. “It is my fault that my son had an accident. I should have warned him to drive carefully in the rain.
How to challenge these thoughts
During your worry period, challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself:
- What is the evidence that the thought is true? That is not true?
- Is there a more positive and realistic way of looking at the situation?
- What is the probability that what I am afraid of will happen? If the probability is low, what are some more likely results?
- Is Thought Useful? How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
- What would you say to a friend who had this concern?
Tip 3: Distinguish between solvable and unsolvable concerns
Research shows that while you worry, you temporarily feel less anxious. Going over the problem in your head distracts you from your emotions and makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something. But worrying and problem solving are two very different things.
Problem solving involves evaluating a situation, proposing concrete steps to deal with it, and then putting the plan into action. Worry, on the other hand, rarely leads to solutions. No matter how much time you spend thinking about the worst case scenario, you are no longer prepared to deal with them should they happen.
Is your concern solvable?
Productive and solvable concerns are those where you can act immediately. For example, if you are concerned about your bills, you can call your creditors for flexible payment options. Unproductive and unsolvable concerns are those for which there is no corresponding action. “What if I have cancer someday?” or “What if my child has an accident?”
If the concern is solvable, start brainstorming. Make a list of all possible solutions that you can think of. Try not to get too obsessed with finding the perfect solution. Focus on the things you have the power to change, rather than the circumstances or realities beyond your control. After evaluating your options, make an action plan. Once you have a plan and start doing something about the problem, you will feel much less anxious.
If the concern is hopeless, accept the uncertainty. If you are a chronic haunting, the vast majority of your anxious thoughts will likely fall into this camp. Worrying is often a way we try to predict what the future holds for us, a way to avoid unpleasant surprises and control the outcome. The problem is that it doesn’t work. Thinking of all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life more predictable. Focusing on the worst scenarios will only prevent you from enjoying the good things you have in the present. To stop worrying, address your need for security and immediate responses.
- Do you tend to predict that bad things will happen just because they are uncertain? What is the probability that they will?
- Since the probability is so low, is it possible to live with the small chance that something negative may happen?
- Ask your friends and family how they deal with uncertainty in specific situations. Could you do the same?
- Tune into your emotions. Worrying about uncertainty is often a way to avoid unpleasant emotions. But by tuning in to your emotions, you can begin to accept your feelings, even those that are uncomfortable or meaningless.
Tip 4: Break the cycle of concern
If you worry excessively, it may seem like negative thoughts repeatedly cross your mind. You may feel like you are out of control, going crazy or about to run out under the weight of all this anxiety. But there are steps you can take right now to interrupt all those anxious thoughts and take time off of unrelenting worries.
Get up and move. Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment because it releases endorphins that relieve tension and stress, increase energy, and increase your sense of well-being. Even more importantly, by really concentrating on how your body feels as it moves, you can interrupt the constant flow of worry that runs through your head. Pay attention to the sensation of your feet hitting the ground while walking, running or dancing, for example, or to the rhythm of your breathing, or the sensation of the sun or wind on your skin.
Take a yoga or tai chi class. By focusing your mind on your movements and breathing, practicing yoga or tai chi keeps your attention on the present, which helps clear your mind and lead to a relaxed state.
Meditate. Meditation works by shifting your focus from worrying about the future or thinking about the past to what is happening right now. By being fully involved in the present moment, you can interrupt the infinite cycle of negative thoughts and concerns. And you don’t need to sit cross-legged, light candles or incense, or sing. Just find a quiet and comfortable place and choose one of the many free or cheap smartphone apps that can guide you through the meditation process.
Practice progressive muscle relaxation. This can help you break the endless cycle of worry by focusing your mind on your body rather than your thoughts. By alternately tightening and then releasing different muscle groups in your body, you release muscle tension in your body. And as your body relaxes, your mind will follow.
Try to breathe deeply. When you worry, you get anxious and breathe faster, which often leads to increased anxiety. But by practicing deep breathing exercises, you can calm your mind and calm your negative thoughts.
Tip 5: Talk about your concerns
It may seem like a simplistic solution, but talking face-to-face with a trusted friend or family member, someone who will listen to you without continual judgment, criticism, or distraction, is one of the most effective ways to calm your nervous system and spread anxiety. When your worries start to rise, talking about them can make them seem much less threatening.
Keeping worries for yourself just builds up until they seem overwhelming. But saying them out loud can often help you understand what you’re feeling and put things in perspective. If your fears are unwarranted, verbalizing them can expose them for what they are: unnecessary worry. And if your fears are justified, sharing them with someone else can produce solutions that you may not have thought of alone.
Build a strong support system. Human beings are social creatures. We are not meant to live in isolation. But a solid support system does not necessarily mean a large network of friends. Don’t underestimate the benefit of a few people you can trust and count on to be there for you. And if you don’t feel like you have someone to trust, it’s never too late to build new friends.
Know who to avoid when you feel anxious. His anxious outlook on life may be something he learned as a child. If your mother is a person who cares chronically, he is not the best person to call when you feel anxious, no matter how close you are. When considering who to turn to, ask yourself if you tend to feel better or worse after talking to that person about a problem.
Tip 6: Practice mindfulness
The concern usually focuses on the future, on what might happen and what you will do about it, or on the past, redoing the things you have said or done. The centuries-old mindfulness practice can help you break free from your worries by turning your attention to the present. This strategy is based on observing your concerns and then letting them go, helping you identify where your thinking is causing problems and get in touch with your emotions.
Acknowledge and observe your concerns. Don’t try to ignore, fight, or control them like you normally would. Instead, just look at them as from a stranger’s perspective, without reacting or judging.
Let your worries go away. Keep in mind that when you don’t try to control the anxious thoughts that appear, they soon pass, like clouds moving across the sky. Only when you commit to your worries do you get stuck.
Stay focused on the present. Pay attention to the way your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your ever-changing emotions and the thoughts that float in your mind. If you find yourself caught up in a particular thought, return your attention to the present moment.
Repeat daily. Using mindfulness to stay focused on the present is a simple concept, but it takes time and regular practice to reap the benefits. At first, you will probably find that your mind keeps wandering back to your worries. Try not to get frustrated. Every time you refocus on the present, you are reinforcing a new mental habit that will help you break free from the cycle of negative worry.