How can I stop worrying so much?
'I worry about everything.'
'I worry so much and I just can't get my brain to stop.'
'I'm a worrier or a worry-wart.'
Do any of these statements sound familiar?
Ruminating about the past and constantly worrying about the future is not only damaging to our wellbeing, it will damage our performance in almost every area of life, and makes it impossible to stay in the present moment or properly focus.
It can also take a major toll on relationships. If you're distracted all the time because you're inside your own head worrying, those around you may grow frustrated or weary.
All those "what if..." questions can come into all your conversations, as you predict all the most horrible outcomes.
The list is endless of the potential things we can choose to worry about and worrying is just plain exhausting.
Some would say, ‘But I don’t CHOOSE to worry, I can’t help it. That’s how I am.’ It's just me. I worry. That's what I do or who I am.
And the more we worry the more anxious we feel and that creates more doubt and uncertainty, and more stress.
So, if we accept that worry isn’t helping us, and we want to change that, then let's look at some strategies that can help release us from worry, or at least help us to worry LESS.
1. Replace the word.
Many of us get into language habits that don’t help us. There are so many words in the English language – choose one that will help you turn down the severity of the worry. Try replacing ‘Worry’ with ‘Wonder’.
‘I’m worried about how the party will turn out’ can become ‘I wonder how it will go’, or ‘I wonder how many people will show? Or I wonder what the results will be?
Wondering has a completely different energy.
2. Watch out for Identity statements.
Whenever we say the words 'I am..... then whatever we say after that reflects a strong belief in who we believe we are.
'I am a worry-wart' is strong and seems permanent.' Turning that into 'I sometimes worry too much' reduces the strength of the belief and starts to leave space for some other things you could be.
3. Schedule your worry time.
This might sound funny but it is a strategy used very successfully in cognitive-behavioural therapy.
Setting a 30 minute 'worry' time slot in your day and then sticking to that time slot has been proven in many studies to reduce the level of anxiety in participants after as little as two weeks.
Set your 'worry' time in your day or evening, mark it in your calendar and when you find yourself worrying at other times say to yourself, I'll focus on that between 8 and 8.30pm.
4. Trust your own capacity. Just a little bit more.
Remember a time when life threw you a curve ball and you actually handled it OK?
You might have surprised yourself with how well you dealt with the situation. Consider how you managed this experience, or how you maintained your sense of humour despite it all, or how you responded quickly, or how you treated or supported others, or how you just generally and eventually carried on through or after a pretty ordinary experience.
Give yourself more credit to handle whatever may come, and give the other people who usually feature in your doubts a little more acknowledgement or trust too. Maybe they know more than you think they do, or will make decisions that will work for them.
5. Keep bringing yourself back to the present moment.
Worry exists when you are spending time in the future, playing out potential events that haven’t happened yet, and may never happen; or it is in the past, looking back at an event - feeling guilt or blame or justifying or fearing judgement.
Breathing and mindfulness techniques help you stay present, in your body, in the here and now which can greatly increase your calm and reduce your worry and bring yourself to NOW.
In the present there can only be acceptance of what is, or appreciation of what is, or the very next action step in front of you.
Give these things a try, and notice how you might just start worrying a little bit less.
'Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere.'
- Author Unknown
Until next time,
The PLS Team