Have you ever lost sleep worrying about something that has yet to happen? Has worrying about the future interrupted your productivity or your mood? If so, it’s time to learn how to stop worrying with some simple techniques.
Worry happens to all of us, particularly when it comes to events, people, and things that are important.
While anxieties are a normal part of life, worry is a waste of our valuable time and energy. We get into a worry cycle of considering worst case scenarios that will almost certainly never come to pass.
While we may never learn how to stop worrying about the future completely, there are ways to help us better manage that worry, so we can save ourselves some time. In this article, we’ll go over exactly how to do just that.
How Worrying Wastes Time and Energy
“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” —Leo F. Buscaglia
Part of managing worry is being aware of the costs. When we create awareness, we are better able to create proactive solutions to minimize or eliminate that cost and improve our mental health through relaxation techniques.
What does worrying about the future cost you?
- Worrying about what has yet to happen uses up valuable mental real estate and time.
- Focusing on worry not only makes it difficult to handle your to-do list, it also blocks you from seeing those opportunities or the steps that lead to them.
- Worrying about the future is also an energy drain leaving you susceptible to more worry. Worry is at its most powerful when your energy is low.
- It is a present-moment joy-crusher that can lower not just your energy but also your mood.
- Worry does not get you to a place where everything is OK. Actually, it does the opposite.
- Worrying about the future creates a vicious cycle of more worry about the future.
8 Ideas on How to Stop Worrying
When I find myself worrying about the future, I use the following techniques to manage the worry.
1. Practice Mindfulness
Since worrying about the future pulls us into the future, nothing busts worry faster than some present moment mindfulness to get us in control of our thoughts and emotions.
Take a look around and notice what is surrounding you. Use your five senses to describe your immediate surroundings.
Taking note of your surroundings by using your senses is a great way to pull yourself into the present moment where future-related worry cannot bother you.
Here is a simple guide on mindfulness for beginners.
2. Do Deep Breathing
Have you ever noticed your breathing when you are worrying? If not, the next time you are experiencing worrisome thoughts about a future-related event, check in with your breathing.Chronic worrying can affect our physical health if we let it extend into the long-term. Worrying causes our breathing to become shallow, and deep breathing can help us to relax, decrease anxious thoughts and get us out of worry mode.
Here are two techniques to use to engage those deep breathes and cue relaxation:
The 4, 4,and 4 technique
Give it a try right now by taking a deep breath in through your nose to a count of four. Hold it for four, and then let the breath out through your nose or mouth to a count of four. Do that four times.
Be sure to do this technique slowly so you do not hyperventilate or make yourself dizzy.
It actually releases the powerful hormone oxytocin into your brain. This is the same hormone that is released when you are hugging or kissing someone you love.
Here’s how to do Oxytocin Breathing:
Take a very deep breath so that you are filling up your belly with air. Once you feel your belly expand to the point that you can no longer take in any more air, release it slowly by letting out an audible “Haaaaaaaaaaaahhh.”
Repeat this technique a few times until you feel yourself relaxing. Worry hates deep breathing, so this is one of the quickest and the easiest techniques to use.
3. Express Extra Gratitude
As you are probably already aware, worry creates negative thoughts and feelings. Gratitude does the exact opposite.
Since your brain cannot think positive and negative thoughts at the same time, gratitude is a great technique to use when you want to learn how to stop worrying. Not to mention, it’s something you can do anywhere and any time, especially when just have a few spare minutes.
I often use gratitude when worry wakes me up in the middle of the night. When this happens, I begin listing all the things I am grateful for until I fall back to sleep. It works like a charm.
To get started, take a look around. Begin listing at least three things or more that you are grateful for. It could be the chair you are sitting in or the sleeping pet at your feet.
Before you know it, the feeling of gratitude will replace the negative feeling that worry causes.
You can get more ideas from this list of 40 simple ways to practice gratitude.
4. Lean Into “What Ifs”
It is all too common to want to shove worry aside, especially when you have a tight project deadline or a calendar full of obligations. Doing so, however, is just an invitation for the worry to stick around even longer, so it’s not an effective way to learn how to stop worrying.
Rather than try to ignore the worry, lean into by asking yourself the following question: “What if what I’m worrying about were to actually happen?”
Once you have your answer, then ask yourself this follow-up question: “Then what would happen?” Keep asking the follow-up question until you have run out of “then what’s.”
I always find that doing this exercise takes the bite out of worry. I also walk away with a plan should what I’m worrying about actually happen.
5. Take Back Control
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” —The Dalai Lama
What do you have control over? What can you fix? What can you do to prevent whatever you are worrying about from happening?
For many of us, worry creates a feeling of being out of control and not safe. Doing things that are within our control helps us to regain those feelings of control and safety.
6. Tighten and Release
When you are worried, do you often feel a tightness in your stomach, chest, or throat? Use that tightness to help you relax.
Tighten every muscle in your body. Tighten your legs, suck in your stomach, clench your bottom, tighten your arms, and make fists. Hold your muscles in that tight position for just a moment, and then release all your muscles.
This technique is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation. It combats worry and stress by creating awareness around what the body feels like when it is in a relaxed state.
7. Use Worry as a Gauge
Worry serves as a great gauge to let us know what is important and what is not. When you want to learn how to stop worrying, tune-in to the gauge.
How important is what you are worrying about on a scale of 1-10? If you gave it a 5 or less, ask yourself this question: “Since this thing I’m worried about isn’t very important, what is really driving the worry?”
If you gave it a 5 or higher, then it’s time to turn worry into a motivator to start taking action.
8. Write or Talk It out
Getting worry out of your head diminishes it. It is like the old analogy that if you shine a light on bacteria, it dies, but if you keep it in the dark, it grows.
If you do not feel comfortable talking your worry and emotions out with a friend, family member, coach, or another trusted professional, try writing about it. Get it all out on paper, and then throw the paper away.
Writing about your future-related worry takes the charge out of it and creates more clarity and awareness.
Worrying has nothing on you. The next time you find yourself worrying about the future:
- Create awareness around what the worry is costing you.
- Use one or more of the worry busting techniques.
- Remember that you are not alone when it comes to worrying (we all do it).
By following the steps above, you’ll be able to have a more worry-free life so that you can reclaim your precious time and stay productive.
Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com
|University of Michigan: Stress Management: Doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation