If you are a “worrier” and that worry spurs you to take action and solve a problem, in that case worry can be a positive thing. But if you’re preoccupied with “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios, worry becomes a problem of its own. Doubts and fears are paralyzing, not motivating, positive or productive. Your emotional energy feels drained and it can send your anxiety levels soaring, and interfere with your day-to-day life–all this with no positive payoff!
Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.
The good news is that chronic worrying is a mental habit you can learn how to break. You can train your brain to stay calm and collected and to look at life from a more positive perspective.
Is it really that hard to stop worrying?
Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.
Your worry mindset does take its toll. It robs you of your sleep and makes you tense and edgy during the day. You hate feeling like a nervous wreck. So why is it so difficult to stop worrying?
Usually for chronic worriers, the anxious thoughts are fueled by the beliefs – both negative and positive – they hold about worrying.
Negative side, you may believe that your constant worrying is harmful, that it’s going to drive you nuts or affect your physical health. Or you may worry that you’re going to lose all control over your worrying – that it will take over and never stop.
Positive side, you may believe that your worrying helps you avoid bad things, prevents problems, prepares you for the worst, or leads to solutions.
Negative beliefs, or worrying about worrying, adds to your anxiety and keeps worry going. But positive beliefs about worrying can be even more damaging. It’s tough to break the worry habit if you believe that your worrying protects you. In order to stop worry & anxiety for good, you must give up your belief that worrying serves a positive purpose. Once you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.
Tips to Bid Farewell to Worry & Anxiety
1: Accepting uncertainty
Not being able to tolerate uncertainty plays a huge role in anxiety and worry. People who worry can’t stand doubt or unpredictability. They need to know with 100 percent certainty what’s going to happen. Worrying is seen as a way to predict what the future has in store, a way to prevent unpleasant surprises and control the outcome.
The problem is, it doesn’t work. Thinking about all the things that could go wrong doesn’t make life any more predictable. Worrying creates an illusion. Focusing on worst-case scenarios won’t keep bad things from happening. It will only keep you from enjoying the good things you have in the present. So if you want to stop worrying, start by tackling your need for certainty and immediate answers.
2: Challenging negative thoughts
If you suffer from chronic anxiety and worries, chances are you look at the world in ways that make it seem more dangerous than it really is. For example, you may overestimate the possibility that things will turn out badly, jump immediately to worst-case scenarios, or treat every negative thought as if it were fact. You may also discredit your own ability to handle life’s problems, assuming you’ll fall apart at the first sign of trouble.
These irrational, pessimistic attitudes are known as cognitive distortions. Although cognitive distortions aren’t based on reality, they’re not easy to give up. Often, they’re part of a lifelong pattern of thinking that’s become so automatic you’re not even completely aware of it. In order to break these bad thinking habits and stop the worry and anxiety they bring – you must retrain your brain.
Start by identifying the frightening thought, being as detailed as possible about what scares or worries you. Then, instead of viewing your thoughts as facts, treat them as hypotheses you’re testing out. As you examine and challenge your worries and fears, you’ll develop a more balanced perspective.
3: Learning to relax
Anxiety is more than just a feeling. It’s the body’s physical reaction to a perceived threat. Your heart pounds, you breathe faster, your muscles tense up, and you feel light-headed. When you’re relaxed, the complete opposite happens. Your heart rate slows down, you breathe slower and more deeply, your muscles relax, and your blood pressure stabilizes.
Since it’s impossible to be anxious and relaxed at the same time, strengthening your body’s relaxation response is a powerful anxiety-relieving tactic. If you’re a chronic worrier, relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and meditation can teach you how to relax. The key is regular practice. Try to set aside at least 30 minutes a day. Over time, the relaxation response will come easier and easier, until it feels natural.
4: Taking care of yourself
A healthy, balanced lifestyle plays a big role in keeping anxiety, fears, and worry at bay. Here are a number of ways you can stop anxiety and worry by taking care of yourself.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for support – Anxiety and worry get worse when you feel powerless and alone, but there is strength in numbers. Focus on building a strong support system. Just talking out loud about your worries can make them seem less threatening.
Try to adopt a healthy lifestyle – Start the day right with breakfast, and continue with frequent small meals throughout the day. Going too long without eating leads to low blood sugar, which can make you feel anxious and irritable. Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. For maximum anxiety relief, try to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days.
Considerably reduce caffeine and sugar – Stop drinking or cut back on caffeinated beverages, including soda, coffee, and tea. Caffeine can increase anxiety, interfere with sleep, and even provoke panic attacks. Reduce the amount of refined sugar you eat, too. Sugary snacks and desserts cause blood sugar to spike and then crash, leaving you feeling emotionally and physically drained.
Avoid intoxicants – Alcohol temporarily reduces anxiety and worry, but it actually causes anxiety symptoms as it wears off. Drinking for anxiety relief also starts you on a path that can lead to alcohol abuse and dependence. Lighting up a cigarette when you’re feeling anxious, is also a bad idea. While it may seem like cigarettes are calming, nicotine is actually a powerful stimulant. Smoking leads to higher, not lower, levels of anxiety.
Let sleep do its job – Anxiety and worry can cause insomnia, as anyone whose racing thoughts have kept them up at night can attest. But lack of sleep can also contribute to anxiety. When you’re sleep deprived, your ability to handle stress is compromised. When you’re well rested, it’s much easier to keep your emotional balance, a key factor in coping with anxiety and stopping worry.
You can never worry your way to enlightenment.