Reading Length: 9 minutes
How many times have you had “what-if” or “I’m worried about…” scenarios run through your mind? Too much worrying can potentially cause lost sleep, worry lines, and a bad mood. Just like everyone else, I suffered from constant worrying which ruined the quality of my life. But we can start taking steps towards addressing the next worry episode we have.
1. Stop tolerating.
What you tolerate, you worry about. We’ve all been there. We say “yes” even when we really want to say “no.” It’s too easy to say “yes” to everything. We’re afraid to reject that invitation or offer because of the discomfort linked to saying “no.” But that’s when the rabbit hole of worrying occurs. From Isabelle Mercier, a brand strategist and best-selling author:
H.E.R.O to stop tolerating:
- Hush. What are your non-negotiables?
- Evaluate. What and who are you tolerating everyday?
- Ritualize. What good daily rituals and habits can you have? What do you need to do on a regular basis to feel happy, healthy and fulfilled instead of worried?
- Own. Own your non-negotiables.
2. Analyze your worries.
Instead of continuously worrying about a problem, we need to start thinking more intelligently and logically upon approaching it. We need to ask ourselves: what are the chances that this event will happen? From Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”:
- Rule 1: Get the facts. Confusion is the chief cause of worry. Concentrate on getting the facts to eliminate worry.
- Rule 2: Analyze the facts.
- Rule 3: Act of the facts.
- 1) What is the problem?
- 2) What is the cause of the problem?
- 3) What are all the possible solutions to the problem?
- 4) What is the best solution?
As a college student, I constantly struggle with finances so here’s an example of how I brainstormed ways to start saving.
- 1) What is the problem? Saving money.
- 2) What is the cause of the problem? I’m overspending because I’m shopping for items I don’t need. I also have large expenses.
- 3) What are all the possible solutions to the problem? Start saving 10% of income every month and slowly increase. Get a job that pays more. Wait 24-48 hours before buying something to see if I really need it. Block the shopping sites on my laptop. Take out my credit card information on Amazon. Let my mom do the grocery shopping.
- 4) What is the best solution? All of these solutions work and can be implemented together.
3. Try free flow brain dumping.
You ever have so many things on your mind that you can’t even focus on the activity you’re trying to do? As a professional overthinker, I struggled with this all the time. During times when I was supposed to relax, I found my mind constantly surrounded by “what-if” scenarios, to-do tasks, and just random thoughts. A good way to address this is to try a brain dump to just get the clutter out of your mind. From Dan Silvestre, blogger and YouTuber on personal development:
- Grab a pen and a piece of paper
- Set a timer (10-20 minutes)
- Write everything that’s on your mind.
- You cannot stop writing for more than five seconds.
- You can’t delete or correct anything you write.
- You have to use a time limit to avoid thinking without direction.
4. Set a “worry time.”
Unlike brain dumping, this is writing down specifically everything you are worried about. Studies have shown that setting a “worry time” can help people cope with their problems better. From Kim Pratt, LCSW, here’s how to set a “worry time” :
- 1) Schedule worry time each day for one week. Put it in your calendar. Start by setting aside 15-30 minutes during the morning or afternoon.
- 2) During that 15-30 minute window, write down all of your worries that you can think of.
- 3) Between worry times: if you start to worry, tell yourself to let go of those thoughts until the next designated worry period.
- 4) At the end of the week, take a few minutes to look at what you wrote down over the course of that week. Do you notice any patterns? Any repeat worries? Any changes in the content of your worries? Reflect on this data.
- 5) After doing this for one week, consider trying it for another.
5. Create a worry folder.
When we worry, we can start to find common patterns and thoughts reoccurring in our mind. Once you compiled and identified the common worries you constantly have, you can create a folder reserved to address those worries.
For example, as a new YouTuber and blogger, I’m constantly worried about my content’s quality and results. So my folder includes stories from other bloggers who faced similar struggles, advice from professionals, motivating quotes and positive comments from some of my viewers. You can choose to put whatever content you feel is best to address the reoccurring worries you have.
6. Relax and move the body.
- Exercise. The recommended amount of exercise is at least 3-4 times a week with 30-60 minutes aerobic exercise each time. Exercise releases serotonin which is known as a “happy” chemical and is associated with a better mood. My favorite form of exercise is dance cardio. Here’s a channel I follow.
- Meditation. Studies have shown that meditation can help relax the brain by cultivating mindfulness and targeting areas of the brain involved in worrying.
- Muscle Relaxation. This helps with lowering the heart rate, calming the mind, and reducing bodily tension.
- Deep Breathing. This can be inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth. You can check out more breathing techniques here.
- Yoga. This also helps with promoting feelings of ease and peace in the body to feel more relaxed. You can check out many yoga videos on YouTube. Here’s my favorite.
7. Focus on what you can control. Embrace uncertainty.
Getting wealthy, healthy and people who love and respect us. We all focus too much on things beyond our control. The truth is, our control is so limited. The only things that we control are our actions, thoughts and beliefs. Too often we focus beyond that but that’s the source of our misery and disappointment when things don’t go the way we hoped for. I created a graph to remind myself to differentiate between the two:
So identify your worry. Is it something within your control? If so, can you take some form of action on it? If not, then don’t let yourself dwell on it any longer. Eventually, the scenario in your mind will either never happen or you will deal with it when the time comes. Let everything else unfold itself. Embrace uncertainty.
8. Talk it out to someone.
Sometimes we can feel a heavy load lifted off our chest once we speak out our worries to someone. From Eric Ravenscraft, writer and editor on NY Times:
- Choose the right people to talk to. Try finding a trusted friend who will support you. Or, find someone who has faced a similar situation.
- Choose the right time to talk. Be respectful of their time.
- Find a therapist, even if you’re not mentally ill.
- Give yourself an endpoint. Give yourself space to vent or let out your feelings. There doesn’t have to be a solution to it. The goal should be to at least feel your mood improved.
- Talk about the good as well as the bad.
9. Practice “Opposite Action.”
Avoidance can become a problem. Instead of avoiding your problems, you can directly confront and take action on it. This can be applied to mainly irrational problems and worries which some form of action can be done to address it. This means taking action despite your fear. From The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for Anxiety:
For example, as someone who suffered from social anxiety, I was constantly worried about what others thought of me so I pretty much withdrew and isolated myself. But towards high school, I knew I had enough of that. I started exposing myself to more social situations by accepting hang out invitations, family gatherings, group meet ups and etc. Truthfully, it continues to be a struggle for me to implement “Opposite Action” but I definitely see a dramatic difference in my confidence and decrease in worrying.
10. Practice “Coping Imagery.“
We constantly worry about the worst case scenarios in our mind already. Why not imagine ourselves handling it with confidence? Coping imagery is a form of mental rehearsal that allows you to mentally prepare for when things go wrong. From Coaching Positive Performance:
- Identify the event about which you have become stressed.
- Note the exact issues which you are stressing about.
- Identify ways to deal with these issues, should they arise.
- Visualize yourself experiencing the stressful situation. Then, visualize yourself implementing the coping strategies and coping effectively with the situation. Repeat 3-4 times.
- 1. Stop tolerating. What you tolerate you worry about. It’s when you say “yes” when you really want to say “no.” Use H.E.R.O method: Hush, evaluate, ritualize and own.
- 2. Analyze your worries. Get, analyze and act on the facts. Ask: 1) What is the problem? 2) What is the cause of the problem? 3) What are all the possible solutions to the problem? 4) What solution do you suggest? 5) What is the best solution?
- 3. Try free flow brain dumping. Grab a pen and paper. Set a 10-20 minute timer. Write everything on your mind.
- 4. Set a “worry time.” Schedule worry time each day on your calendar for one week. Set aside 15-30 minutes. Write down all your worries you can think of during that time. Observe for any patterns or changes.
- 5. Create a worry folder. Identify common patterns in your worries. Gather content in a folder reserved to address patterns in your worries.
- 6. Relax and move the body. Exercise, meditation, muscle relaxation, deep breathing or yoga can help.
- 7. Focus on what you can control. Embrace uncertainty. We can only control our actions, thoughts and beliefs. If you cannot take immediate action on the thing you’re worried about, then don’t dwell on it any longer. Let it unfold itself.
- 8. Talk it out to someone. Choose the right person to talk to, choose the right time to talk, find a therapist, give yourself an endpoint, and talk about the good and bad.
- 9. Practice “Opposite Action.” Don’t avoid. Confront and take action on your worries if possible.
- 10. Practice “Coping Imagery.” Identify the stressful event. Identify ways to deal with the issue. Visualize yourself experiencing and implementing strategies towards the situation.
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Leave a comment: How often do you experience worry? How do you address it?
The Power of Zero Tolerance | Isabelle Mercier | TEDxStanleyPark
How To Brain Dump, Stop Overthinking And Start Focusing by Dan Silvestre
9 Steps to End Chronic Worrying by Denise Mann
Why Talking About Our Problems Helps So Much (and How to Do It) by Eric Ravenscraft
Benefits and Options for Therapy by Alex Klein, PsyD
Psychology Tools: Schedule “Worry Time” by Kim Pratt
Coping Imagery by Coaching Positive Performance