Does worry dominate your life?
Try these ten shortcuts to stop worrying for good.
1. Stop being superstitious that your worry is preventing bad things from happening.
Even if it’s somewhat unconscious, worriers sometimes believe that if they worry about something enough, it won’t happen.
There. Now that you’ve seen that in print, doesn’t it seem kind of silly?
The problem is, your superstition gets reinforced because most of the things that you worry about likely don’t happen.
But it’s not because you’re worrying about them – it’s just as likely that bad things wouldn’t happen even if you didn’t worry about them!
2. Choose to be motivated by something other than worry.
Another common belief about worry is that it is what motivates you to get things done.
There’s actually some truth to this.
You do get things done by worrying. It’s because you want to stop the pain of worrying so you hustle to get that task done.
However, there are so many positive ways to motivate yourself, why use something painful?
Try rewarding yourself when you get something done. Rather than removing a painful stimulus, give yourself something nice: candy, a walk, ten minutes to play Angry Birds, etc.
(And don’t tell me that worry is the only thing that motivates you until you’ve tried five positive methods first.)
3. Realize that worrying does not help you solve a problem.
While it seems like thinking about a problem over and over will help you solve a problem, it actually won’t.
For the most part.
The common question worriers ask, “What if . . .?” actually starts the problem-solving process, but then nothing further happens.
Check this out from researcher T.D. Borovec: “Beyond this [asking ‘what if?’], worry itself does not contribute further to solving problems. One is either worrying, or one is problem solving. These two distinctive processes may alternate sequentially during a worrisome episode but never occur, by definition, at the same time.”
So, you can’t worry and problem-solve at the same time.
And worry begets anxiety which throws your body into fight-or-flight mode, not exactly conducive to problem-solving.
If you really want to be at your best to problem-solve, see #9 below.
4. Face your fear directly rather than worrying about it.
Research has found that worriers, unlike people who don’t worry, don’t have as much ability to learn from being exposed to the thing they fear.
For example, most people who fear public speaking will eventually find that it’s not as bad as they thought it was once they’ve done it a few times.
Worriers don’t do this. Scientists believe it’s because worriers don’t allow the whole emotional impact to arise for them and so they can’t add “corrective information” that allows their fear to subside.
In short, you might be suppressing your fears through your worry.
Try to experience the things you worry about fully. Repeat the old mantra, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
5. Believe that you are actually more prepared for something bad happening now than you ever will be by worrying about it.
Because a lot of people think that worry will prepare them for when something bad does happen, remember what we learned above: worrying doesn’t help you solve a problem.
People are naturally resilient and that includes you. If something bad happens, you’ll likely be able to handle it without all the worrying you’re doing now.
6. Ask yourself “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
The absolute bottom line to your worry is that whatever it is you fear is going to kill you.
The worst things that can happen might be bad, but they won’t kill you.
And you know what? As we’ve already discussed, you’re more prepared for the worst thing happening than you give yourself credit for.
And, most likely, when you are truthful with yourself about the worst thing that can happen, it really won’t be that bad after all.
7. Prove to yourself that most of the things you worry about never happen.
Keep what’s known as a “Worry Outcome Diary.”
On a daily basis, write down what you are worrying about. At the end of the week, note whether the thing you worried about actually happened or not.
You’ll find that the vast majority of worrisome things never happen.
So why expend your mental and physical energy on them?
8. Try out Worry Wednesday.
A great technique for worriers is to set aside a specific time to worry. Maybe it’s thirty minutes a day or maybe it’s a whole day – Worry Wednesday or something.
During your specified time, worry as much as you can.
Outside of that time, enjoy your life!
9. Teach your muscles how to relax on cue.
It’s really, really hard to worry when your body is completely relaxed.
Just like your muscles tense up when you worry, your mind will relax when your muscles do.
Teach your body what it feels like to be relaxed by doing a short daily exercise like this.
The more you practice, the more you’ll be able to relax on cue. That way, when you start to worry, you can hit the relaxation cue and let your worries float away.
10. Spend your time here now instead of in the future.
Probably most of your worries are about the future and include that question, “What if . . .?”
Of course, if your mind is always in the future, you’re pretty much missing out on what’s happening right now.
And right now is where your life is happening. Don’t miss it.
Use some grounding techniques with your senses to stay in the present.
Feel the surface in front of you. Is it cold? Rough? Smooth?
What do you smell in the air right now? What do you hear?
Focus on these sensations to stay in this moment which is your life rather than out in an unknown future.
Reference: Borkovec, T.D., Hazlett-Stevens, H., & Diaz, M.L. (1999). The Role of Positive Beliefs about Worry in Generalized Anxiety Disorder ad its Treatment. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 6, 126-138.
Featured photo credit: young businessman with his head squeezed between a laptop keyboard and a rock via Shutterstock