Do you ever find yourself chewing over worries, imagining all the ways something could go wrong? Trying to plan for every ‘what if’? Perhaps even worrying about how much you worry? If so, you are not alone – read on for some practical tips on how to beat worry.
Many of us have unhelpful beliefs about worry. We might believe that worrying about someone we love is a way of showing we care. Some people feel that they need to worry to motivate themselves to do things, but excessive worry can backfire as anxiety prevents you from taking action.
It can be tempting to think through every ‘what if?’, and almost to believe that this over-worrying will stop those ‘what if?’s from happening. That’s ‘magical thinking’: just thinking about something doesn’t make it more or less likely to happen (but it is likely to make us feel more anxious!).
Have you ever noticed how worry can leave you feeling exhausted? Worry is an activity that takes up mental – and sometimes physical – energy. Our attention is limited, and when we are worrying it’s hard to focus on other things. And, when we worry and imagine bad things happening, that causes a stress response in the body.
Interestingly, people who worry a lot often report that when something stressful happens, they are surprised by how calm they actually are – it’s the unnecessary worry beforehand that causes the distress.
At the end of the two weeks, reflect: did things generally pan out better or worse than expected? What do you learn from this? When a worry comes up, consider will you still be worried about this in 24 hours’ time? A week’s time? A month? A year?
When you are done, fold up the paper – you can return to it the following day. If worries come up during the day, you can briefly jot them down, then tell yourself you can consider them fully during your “worry time” later in the day. Research has shown that constructive worry time can be particularly helpful for people whose worry make it harder for them to sleep.
We cannot be relaxed and anxious at the same time – relaxing the body helps to calm and mind, slow down thinking, and consider things more flexibly.
Most people have heard of the “fight or flight” system. Not many people know that we have our own in-built relaxation system, too. There are lots of ways to stimulate this natural relaxation system – from breathing, to guided meditation or hypnosis, to progressive muscle relaxation. Experiment to find one that works for you, and practice it regularly.
Originally published on Welldoing.org.
Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.