How to worry less

Everyone worries at some time. Whether it is out of love for someone else, fear of being criticised and how people perceive you, or your health or health issue. Occasionally, worry is absolutely fine, and is perfectly normal. In some circumstances, worrying can prompt you to act and step out of your comfort zone. However, if you are worried constantly, finding yourself preoccupied and consumed by worry on a daily basis, that is not good for you.

Worrying can affect your:

Of course, worry can also greatly increase your anxiety.

There are many techniques out there that can help distract you from your worries but at the end of the day, it is really important to consider the origin of what is causing you worry. A great question to ask is, “is it real in the world, or is it just real to me?” What we mean by that is, have you actually got lots of life challenges going on right now that the majority of people would find challenging, or are you over-worrying in a situation that others would generally take in their stride?

Worry – just like anxiety – is like having a phobia, or OCD. It is a symptom and there is a learned behaviour behind that which is medically known as a schema or a cognitive thought process. It is this which creates the reference that drives your behaviour.

So if you are an over-worrier, you need to ask yourself, why do you worry excessively?

What are the origins of worrying so much?

  1. Firstly, the most common origin is learned behaviour, probably from copying a parent. If you have a parent who is an over-worrier, the likelihood is, you will be too. For example, we all have different accents because we copy the people in our environments. Therefore, if it is because of your parents, then you have to question it and ask yourself “did it enhance my parent’s life by over-worrying?” and remind yourself when you catch yourself worrying “I am fine, this isn’t my worry, it’s my mum’s or my dad’s worry”.
  2. Another possible origin is the fear of criticism. This might stem from low self-esteem, due to having been criticised in the past by a schoolteacher, a bullying boss, parent or a partner. If this is the case then challenge your belief and ask yourself; “Do I still want to be listening to those people? What skills did they ever have to be able to judge me in the first place?” Furthermore, if they were good people, then they shouldn’t have judged you in the first place. So, stop listening to that past you and past experiences, and start bringing yourself up to date and look at situations as they are now.
  3. Another reason behind worrying is having had volatile, previous circumstances, (of which probably don’t even apply any longer). For example, during your childhood, there may have been a catalogue of disasters that you generally had purpose to worry about. As a result, worrying has now become habitual and because things went wrong in the past, you have kind of created an expectation that things will go wrong in the future. Therefore, look at the evidence and then put it all into perspective.
  4. And lastly – something that we have all been a victim of – is when we have too much time on our hands. When we have too much time that isn’t used constructively, it can encourage negative thoughts and behaviours, which can spiral out of control. Our brain is the most incredible organ, that even today, psychiatrists and psychologists still don’t fully understand. What we do know is that our brain likes to be occupied and if you don’t give it something constructive or positive to occupy it, it will invariably find something – a worry, anxiety, pain, or an ailment, which then grows. This is because the brain is like a muscle that you exercise. The more you exercise it, the bigger it gets. Therefore. the more you ponder over any worries or negatives, the more they will grow.

What can I do to reduce my worrying?

  1. Create a ‘worry period’. Decide on a specific time every single day that will be your ‘worry’ time. For example, you may decide it is going to be 3 o’clock every day and you are going to allocate yourself 20 minutes and in that space of time that will become your worry time.
  2. If you have a few worries, make a list. Once you make a list, it takes it out of your mind and sort of gives you a third-party perspective when you see it written down. Keep the list so that when you go back over it, you will come to realise that a lot of those things you were worrying about never actually happened. This gives you some great evidence, which in turn will help you stop worrying in the future.
  3. Ask yourself; “Is this problem solvable?” If it is, decide on a strategy to be able to solve it, and keep to that strategy.
  4. Consider your environment and the company you keep. The people around you can really affect your mood and how you feel. If you have a friend who is always anxious or negative, then they will actually make your worrying worse. They may offer suggestions as to other things that could happen or go wrong which would make you worry even more! Therefore be aware of the company you keep.
  5. If you are going to discuss your worries with somebody, only discuss it with those who have an optimistic outlook and who are likely to give you positive and constructive advice. Don’t discuss your worries with someone who is a worrier or generally a negative person because all they will do is inflame the situation.
  6. Find a positive distraction or pastime. This could be voluntary work, a hobby you have always wanted to do, joining a group or doing an online course, anything to use your time in a more constructive and self-satisfying way.
  7. Write a to do list of daily tasks, small things that will give you a sense of achievement. It could be clearing out a cupboard or calling a friend who you haven’t spoken to in ages, baking a cake or catching up on paperwork.
  8. Finally, consider if what you are worrying about is real, or is it just a ‘what if’. If there is no solution to a problem then all you are doing is creating fear, anger and frustration. These pessimistic thoughts and attitudes just make the situation worse. They are known as cognitive distinctions, and should be challenged. Find a more positive and realistic outlook to the situation?’ You could also ask yourself, ‘what is the probability of what I am worried about will actually happen?’ If it is a low probability, then also consider what other outcomes could happen, that could be better, focus on them. Other things you should ask is; ‘Is the thought helpful? Will worrying make things better? Will worrying help me and conversely how will it hurt me and make my life sadder? Will worrying give me more anxiety? Lastly, just consider, if a friend came to you with the same worry, what advice would you give them? More Reading …

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