Did you know that worrying is like a rocking chair?
It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
Excessive worrying is exhausting and can become a great waste of time and energy. It puts your mind in overdrive and distracts you from doing the more important things as well as preventing you from having a healthy, happy life.
Most people worry on a regular basis, it’s a natural part of life. However, the worry habit can become problematic when it becomes too intense and chronic. Some people even worry about worrying. When you are plagued by thoughts that are persistent and out of control, they end up causing interference and paralysis in your daily life.
The bad news is that constant worrying eventually takes a toll on your emotional and physical health, as well as your self-esteem, relationships, and career. When you keep hitting the panic button, the stress response is triggered, which leads to fear, then more stress and anxiety, and then more worry; the endless worry cycle is created.
The good news is that worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and remain positive. You are in charge of our thoughts and imagination. How you choose to use your mind is your responsibility. Do you continue to misuse your imagination and keep focusing on the negative or do you choose to switch to the positive?
The reason most people worry too much is often rooted in fear – ultimately a fear of something happening that we cannot control. When we anticipate something negative happening in the future, it is based on irrational thoughts. We are afraid of the worst case scenario as we have allowed our minds to wander too far on the negative side.
What can you do instead of worrying? Here are some practical tips to help you cope and minimize your worries:
- Learn to distinguish between what you can control in life and what you can’t. The things you can change need an action plan with a list of concrete steps you can take to solve the problem. And for the things you cannot change, you need to learn acceptance. The Serenity Prayer sums it up perfectly: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
- Recognize your trigger points. Find out the source of your worries and gain a clearer picture of what’s driving them. Your worries will start losing power, and you will start regaining control of your mind. Self-awareness is the first step to changing your mindset.
- Reframe your thoughts and change your perspective. Instead of saying,“I can’t handle this,” become more self-confident and start believing that you can handle it. Make a list of the negative message you are feeding your mind and replace them with positive affirmations. Make sure you challenge those thoughts. No amount of worrying will make life any more predictable.
- Break the worry cycle by limiting your worrying time. Schedule a worry time each day to keep the worry contained and prevent it from contaminating your whole day. Sit down for 15 minutes and make a list of all the things you want to worry about, and then proceed to worry about them. At the end of the exercise, you will come to the realization that worrying is futile. You can become more mindful of your thoughts and where you place your energy. Choose to focus on what really matters in your life and become more productive.
- Get up and move. Take a 20 minute walk. Stretch out and do some yoga. Exercise is a productive activity that can interrupt your worries and shift your body’s energy. It releases endorphins, which get rid of the tension and break the cycle.
- Breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation techniques also interrupt your train of thoughts and calm the body’s response to stress. This dynamic trio helps relax your body, guide your thoughts, and keep them from getting caught up in worries.
- Ground yourself in the present. Become mindful of your thoughts and activities. Make time to unplug and take a look at the bigger picture. Ask yourself if what you are worrying about is really going to matter in five years from now. If not, let it go and don’t spend more than five minutes worrying about it. If it does matter, then make a list of one or two things you can do now to solve the problem. Keep in mind, you may not resolve the whole problem right then and there, but at least your thoughts will be clearer and calmer, and you will be able to move forward by focusing on what matters instead of worrying about things that don’t really matter.
- Stop overthinking and dwelling on your worries by finding a healthy distraction like reading a good book, watching a funny movie, listening to great music, taking up hobbies that you enjoy, or doing something different, like trying a new recipe.
- Build a support network. Enlist the help of your trusted friends and family. By sharing your thoughts and tuning into your feelings, it can help you process them as you feel supported. In some cases, chronic worry can be a symptom of GAD or generalized anxiety disorder. You can seek the help of a therapist or join a support group. Don’t keep your worries to yourself. This will cause them to build up and become overwhelming.
Next time you catch yourself worrying, instead of pressing the panic button, reach for the pause button and ask yourself, “What’s important now?” Coach Lou Holtz came up with the acronym W.I.N. or What’s Important Now. This enables you to prioritize your decisions, choices and actions. The antidote for worrying is to maintain calm, clarity, and focus. Also, by having a grateful mind, you can look for the positive in every situation.
Strengthen your mind by learning to turn off those worrying thoughts and regain control.
Look at life from a less fearful and more balanced perspective.
“Worry does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.”