Well-Being//

3 Ways to Stop Irrational Worries From Spiraling Out of Control

First, stop asking yourself “what if?”.

NBC / Getty Images
NBC / Getty Images

Irrational or blown-out-of-proportion worries have a way of sneaking up on you. Even worse, they can send you into spirals of rumination and lead you to waste countless hours contemplating the what ifs. And yet most of the time, the things you worry about rarely come to fruition. In fact, in one recent study on anxiety, researchers found that over 90 percent of participants’ worries did not come true — that’s a lot of false alarms.

We asked members of the Thrive community to share the irrational or overstated worries they’ve conquered, and their strategies for letting go. Their methods will help you keep any false alarm signals from going off in your brain. 

Focus on your own story

“I stopped creating stories in my head when I didn’t know what would come  after the ‘dot, dot, dot’ in my digital communication. Someone says they will get back to you and they don’t.  Someone starts typing an instant message and you see the ‘…’ and then it disappears. I would finish the story in my mind and worry that I did something wrong. Then, I realized that worrying is like praying for something not to happen and I discovered the line from The Four Agreements: ‘What other people think of you is none of your business.’  Now, I move through the world from an authentic place and I assume the world is on my side. I also acknowledge that everyone is fighting a battle I know nothing about. So with that in mind, the only story I finish on a daily basis is my own.” 

—Siobhan Kukolic, author, inspirational speaker, and life coach, Toronto, Canada

Write it out 

“I used to worry about all kinds of things. What if I get really sick, like my father who died relatively young? Or what if I get Alzheimer’s, like my mother who is now in memory care? Or what if I hurt myself again, like I have dozens of times? Or what if I lose my job — again? Or what if I go broke — again? Or get divorced — again? But now, my life has changed because my perception has changed. I now ‘let go to let flow.’ I write about it now and help millions of others who live with fear and anxiety. How freeing is that?”

—John J. Murphy, author, Palm Beach, FL 

Ask yourself this important question 

I have struggled with irrational worries and anxieties about everything under the sun — from work-related tasks, to personal relationships, to things that happened years ago. The tactic I started using to help me work through these anxieties is to ask myself the question, ‘Is there anything I can do about this right now?’ If there is, I do it as soon as possible. If the answer is no, then I have identified the thought or worry as something out of my control and it helps me refocus my energy on what I can do so I keep moving forward. 

—Adrienne Hatter, community outreach and strategic partnerships manager, Los Angeles, CA

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