Worrying can be helpful if it spurs you to action and solves a problem. But a preoccupation with “what if’s” can become a problem, even paralyzing to living our lives. Worry can sap energy, send our anxiety levels through the roof and interrupt our daily lives, causing anxiety and sometimes leading to a need fortreatment for depression. Chronic worry is a habit and like other habits, it can be broken. The good news? You can train your brain to stay calm and have a positive perspective.
Why is it so hard to stop worrying?
Chronic worriers’ anxious thoughts are fueled by both positive and negative beliefs.
Negative: constant worrying is harmful and will drive you crazy or affect your physical health, you may lose control and never stop.
Positive: constant worrying helps avoid bad things, prevents problems and prepares you for the worst or can lead to solutions to problems.
Both of these kinds of thoughts are damaging. The negative thoughts keep the anxiety going full force and the positive keep us thinking that worry protects us. Worry is the problem. Not the solution.
- Worry and Anxiety Self-help tip #1: Create a Worry Period
Telling yourself to stop worrying doesn’t work for long. Just sit down and tell yourself not to think about pink elephants…and all you can see in your head is pink elephants! Set aside the same time and place each day (5-5:20 in the living room) for worry. Remind yourself during the day: now is not the time for worry. That time is later!
- Worry and Anxiety Self-help tip #2: Ask Yourself if the Problem is Solvable
Ask “Is this a current problem or a what if? How likely is it to happen? Can I do something about it?”. If it’s a solvable problem, start brainstorming and make a plan of action and get started.
- Worry and Anxiety Self-help tip #3: Accept Uncertainty
Chronic worriers can’t stand doubt or unpredictability. They need to know with 100% certainty what’s going to happen. Worry doesn’t make life predictable. Safety in worrying is an illusion. Worry doesn’t stop bad things from happening; it just stops you from enjoying the present.
- Worry and Anxiety Self-help tip #4: Challenge Anxious Thoughts
You may be looking at the world in ways that make it seem more dangerous than it really is. Although cognitive distortions are not based on reality they are hard to give up. They may be a lifelong pattern. Start by identifying frightening thoughts. Be as detailed as you can. Then question all of them as hypotheses.
- Worry and Anxiety Self-help tip #5: Be Aware of How Others Affect You
You are affected by the company you keep. Emotions are contagious. Keep a worry diary that includes triggers and situations that cause you to worry. Spend less time with people who make you anxious and choose your confidants carefully.
- Worry and Anxiety Self-help tip #6: Practice Mindfulness
Bring attention back to the present. Consider trying the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation to stay focused on the present.
On grudges and forgiveness.