Have you ever experienced this — your brain couldn’t stop replaying worst-case scenarios as you close your eyes?
What if I can’t make a great impression on my first day of work? Let’s see, I will wear this shirt with that pair of pants. Will I overdress? Oh no, I need to wake up earlier to iron my shirt. Wait, did I lock the door?
Usually, most of these worries are unnecessary.
In a study done in 2015, researchers discovered neurotic, worry-obsessed, and anxious people tend to be more creative. Unfortunately, while over-worriers are blessed to be extraordinarily creative, it is their creativity that fuels their anxiety.
Over-worriers put their thoughts in the wrong places
They use their imaginations in the wrong way. They tend to put their creativity to generate what ifs, could haves, should haves, instead of solving problems.
They focus too much on the future. American motivational speaker Leo F. Buscaglia says it best, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”
They keep guessing other’s mind. Reading someone’s mind doesn’t work usually. It will end up in more worries and misunderstandings.
Many people with the tendency of over-worrying believe they can hardly change this habit, or although the panic brought by over-worrying is unbearable, they can live normally after the panic recedes. So they choose to leave the problem unsolved. If that’s your thought, you should abandon it as soon as possible because…
It takes a toll on your mental health and physical health
Hypervigilance. Because of anxieties and worries, an over-thinker is constantly on the lookout for possible threats, even in the tiniest things.
Reduced concentration and indecisiveness. The brain of the over-worrier drifts in and out of their thoughts. Without focus, they can’t think properly or make decisions.
Problem-focused. Worriers are obsessed with problems instead of solutions.
Worries lower your immune system. Constant worries put you in a more tired and lethargic place, which makes you more prone to infections.
Worries cause insomnia. With your head spinning and thoughts tossing you left and right, it’s hard to get a good night sleep.
So how can you stop worrying and overthinking?
Write off your worries
How? Whenever you are worried, list the problems bothering you and possible solutions non-stop within 3 minutes. You don’t have to be organized with your thoughts, just write as your mind flows.
Why? It’s usually the abstract and ambiguous thoughts that make you worry much. By turning the thoughts into something concrete through writing, you can empty worries and fears out of your mind. Also, thinking more of solutions can shift your attention to the outcome and action instead of the problem itself.
Example: You made an insensitive remark towards your co-worker, and you are worried she is upset with you. Instead, write down the possible actions you can take to solve the situation, like apologizing to your co-worker.
Focus on external environment instead of your inner thoughts
How? When your mind is not occupied, don’t wander off to your worries and inner thoughts, but shift your focus to something else — the details of what you see.
Why? Science has found that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. A wandering mind usually creates negative thoughts, and most worries are self-produced. Occupying your mind with objective facts rather than subjective imagination can help you live in the present.
Example: When you are commuting to work, don’t let your idle mind wander off to personal troubles and distresses, but pay attention to the people, the scenery, or the little things next to you.
Challenge your irrational anxious thoughts
How? List your worries out and ask yourself in a third-person perspective.
- Are there any evidences to support this thought for being true/false?
- Can I look at this situation more positively and realistically?
- What’s the possibility of this worry going to happen?
- How will worrying about this help or hurt me?
Why? As humans, we are easily convinced and persuaded by our irrational thoughts because of our confirmation bias. Take a objective look at your own worries can help you eliminate unnecessary thoughts.
Example: You just pitched an idea to your boss, and you thought your performance was less than satisfactory. Start asking yourself these questions:
- Could your boss spot the one tiny point you missed?
- Would worrying increase the chances of your pitch being chosen?
When you rationally challenge yourself, you’ll soon realize these worries are insignificant.
Need more guidance? Here are two books to further lead you to a less anxious and worrisome life:
This book deals with the fundamental causes of worries, and provides solutions to improve your physical health, mental health, and overall psychological mindset.
The authors suggest to get rid of worries, one of the most important ways is to be mindful and clean up your mental clutter.
Featured photo credit: Cuppa Catholic via cuppacatholic.blogspot.hk