How can we stop worrying? Certainly, our health depends on it!
One of the biggest challenges to peace of mind in this day and age is the propensity for worrying and – no wonder.
With so much uncertainty and potential for disaster in the world, including natural and man-made catastrophes, it’s astounding that we remain sane at all!
Unfortunately, worrying can debilitate and paralyze us by draining our mental and physical resources often rendering us incapable of dealing with the situation at hand.
If it becomes a habit, worrying increases anxiety and stress levels and therefore prohibits us from leading productive and enjoyable lives.
While some people believe that worrying can actually prevent bad situations from happening, the stress of the doubt and fear encountered in the act of worrying takes a huge toll on your health.
So, how then, do we not worry? While we may not stop worrying entirely, we can take steps to alleviate it.
Here are some tips on how to stop worrying:
➢ Take a problem-solving approach (as opposed to a worrying approach). Worrying and problem solving are two different things. Problem solving entails assessing a situation as objectively as possible and then coming up with tangible solutions for dealing with it. Worrying, on the other hand, rarely leads to a solution. Instead, it generally involves obsessing with the problem and doing nothing, which leads to greater anxiety and stress. In other words, no matter how much time you spend dwelling on the worst that can happen, you are no further ahead in being able to deal with it should it actually happen.
➢ Differentiate between solvable and unsolvable problems (worries). If you begin to worry about a problem ask yourself these questions:
Is this a present and real problem or a potential one?
If it is a potential one, how likely is it to happen?
If it is a likely one, what can I do to prepare for it?
Is it within my control?
Predictable and solvable problems and worries are those upon which you can take preemptive or immediate action. For example; if you are worried about your bills you can make sure you’ve put enough money aside for any emergencies. If you have not, then you can contact the bank and make flexible payment arrangements accordingly. If you are worried about your health, make sure you are eating properly, resting enough and exercising regularly. If you have a worrisome ailment, get it attended to as soon as possible. If need be, do some brainstorming to come up with possible solutions or preventative measures for solvable and probable problems.
Unsolvable problems, however, are those you have no control over. If you worry over a future circumstance that may, or may not, take place then there is nothing you can do about it in the present. It would be unproductive to spend time ruminating over whether an earthquake, flood, war, or other catastrophe is going to take place. While it may happen, worrying about it will not help you in the least in the everyday living of your life. Focus on the things you do have control over and let go of those you do not.
➢ Plan ahead. This relates to the above point. Take preventative measures to avoid unpleasant circumstances and situations. You won’t worry about debts if you take care of your finances on a daily basis. If you take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally, poor health will not be an ongoing worry for you. If you worry about getting good grades and passing your exams, make sure you prepare adequately by studying enough and completing all assignments. Don’t let something become a worry. Prepare yourself in every way possible.
➢ Understand that there are many things we have no control over. While it is important to be prepared, know and understand that there are circumstances totally beyond our control. Acceptance of this fact can prevent much worry and heartache.
Chronic worriers tend to have difficulty with unpredictability and the unknown. They believe if they worry about everything that can go wrong it will make life more predictable. On the contrary, their inability to tolerate doubt and uncertainty significantly increases their propensity for anxiety and worry. They fail to realize that worrying about everything does not make life more predictable, it merely prevents them from enjoying it in the present. To really learn to stop worrying, begin by letting go of your need for certainty and immediate answers.
➢ Challenge worrisome thinking cognitively. As you probably realize at this point, worrisome thinking is unproductive and unnecessary. To challenge such thinking ask yourself the following questions:
What is the evidence that supports this thought as being accurate?
What is the probability of it happening?
If it does happen, what can I do about it?
Is this thought helpful?
Does worrying about it help or hurt me?
Is there a more positive and productive way of looking at this situation?
Be aware of and avoid distorted thinking that can generate worry. For example:
Catastrophic thinking: Expecting the worst to happen; such as, if the person you are meeting for lunch is late and you begin to worry that they had a terrible car accident and may be seriously injured, or dead.
Overgeneralization: Generalizing from a single negative experience expecting it will always hold true; such as, breaking up with someone and thinking you will never have a relationship again.
Jumping to conclusions: Interpreting situations negatively without any evidence; such as, someone looking at you questioningly and believing that they hate you, or are saying bad things about you.
All-or-nothing thinking: Looking at things as being either black or white with no middle ground; for example, thinking that if you don’t do something perfectly, you are a total failure.
Labeling: Avoid the notion of labeling yourself as a total failure, or loser, based on previous mistakes or perceived flaws.
➢ Practice Mindfulness or similar relaxation techniques. Since worrying generally entails the future events, practicing mindfulness or meditation can alleviate it by focusing your attention on the present. In contrast to changing or challenging your worrisome thoughts, mindfulness entails observing and then releasing them. This also helps pinpoint the thinking and feelings that cause you to worry and send you into a tailspin. So, rather than ignoring, fighting, or trying to control your worrisome thoughts and feelings, simply observe them without reaction or judgment. Consequently, when you don’t try to control them, your thoughts will slowly drift away and soon dissipate. It’s only when you focus on your worries that they take on a life of their own and you lose perspective. Of course, it takes practice and continued application to become adept at practicing mindfulness, however, it’s well worth the effort to overcome the habit of worrying
Ultimately, chronic worrying puts our mental and physical health in jeopardy. In order to prevent the detrimental effects of worrying, such as, weakening of the immune system, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel, skin irritations, depression and the like, make it a point to practice the various strategies the can help stop the worry habit.