Why we worry and How to stop worrying

Worry is a normal reaction to a stressful or troubling event, and it usually goes away on its own. But what happens when the worry doesn’t go away? Some people worry all the time—even when everything is okay. They might feel like their worry is out of control or feel like they just can't stop their worried thoughts. Others don’t notice their problem with constant worry until they feel physical signs of stress, like headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension and fatigue. We all worry sometimes. But if you seem to worry much more than other people and you worry so much that it affects the quality of your life, you may have something called generalized anxiety disorder.


What is it?

Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is a mental illness. It belongs to a group of illnesses called anxiety disorders. People living with GAD worry much more than other people, and they worry more often than other people. They often worry about many different activities of daily life, such as their home, work, finances, family, health and the future. People living with GAD also find it hard to control or stop worrying once they start to worry. Worrying all the time can be hard on your body. Most people living with GAD end up getting treatment for it only because the physical symptoms lead them to visit their doctors. GAD can leave you feeling tired, restless or irritable all the time. It can also make your muscles sore and make it hard for you to unwind, sleep or concentrate. GAD can also cause stomach problems, headaches and other physical health problems.

Day-to-day worries are a normal part of life. In fact, some worry is actually a good thing. Normal worry tells us when we might be in trouble or when something might be wrong. If we didn't worry at all, we'd probably have a hard time getting out of bed and off to work. It's also perfectly normal to feel more worried than usual if you're experiencing a stressful or difficult event like losing your job.

Worry becomes generalized anxiety disorder when it's an extreme reaction to daily life, when it's difficult to control, when it happen most days for several months and when the constant worry affects your body and your life. Many people with GAD say they can't remember the last time they felt relaxed. The disorder can last for a long time, though symptoms may feel better or worse at times. 


How to Stop Worrying: 9 Simple Habits

1. Most of things you worry about have never happened. 

I love this quote by Winston Churchill:

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

I have found it to be very true in my own life.

So when you feel worries starting to pop up ask yourself this:

How many of the things I feared would happen in my life did actually happen?

If you are anything like me then the answer will be: very few. And the very few ones that actually happened were mostly not as painful or terrible as I had expected.

Worries are most often just monsters you build in your own mind. 

I find that asking myself this question regularly and reminding myself of how little of the worries that actually came to life makes easier and easier to stay calm and to stop a worried thought before it becomes a big snowball of negativity.


2. Avoid getting lost in vague fears.

When fears feel vague in your mind, when you lack clarity then it is very easy to get lost in exaggerated worries and disaster scenarios.

So find clarity in a worry-inducing situation by asking yourself:

Honestly and realistically, what is the worst that could happen?

When I have answered that question then I follow it up with spending a bit of time on figuring out what I can do about it if that pretty unlikely thing happens.

In my experience, the worst that could realistically happens is usually not as scary as what my mind could make up when it is running wild with vague fears.

Spending a few minutes on finding clarity in this way can save you whole lot of time, energy and suffering.


3. Don’t try to guess what is on someone’s mind.

Trying to read someone’s mind usually doesn’t work too well at all. Instead, it can very easily lead to creating an exaggerated and even disastrous scenario in your mind. 

So choose a way that is less likely to lead to worries and misunderstandings.

Communicate and ask what you want to ask.

By doing so you’ll promote openness in your relationship and it will likely be happier as you avoid many unnecessary conflicts and negativity.


4. Say stop in a situation where you know you cannot think straight.

From time to time when I am hungry or when I am lying in bed and are about to go to sleep I can become mentally vulnerable. And so worries can more easily start buzzing around in my head.

In the past this often lead to many minutes of time that where no fun.

These days I have become better at catching such thoughts quickly and to say to myself:

No, no, we are not going to think about this now.

I then follow that up with saying this to myself:

I will think this situation or issue through at a time when I know that my mind will work much better.

Like when I have eaten. Or in the morning when I have gotten my sleep. 

It takes some practice to apply this one consistently and effectively but it also makes a big difference in my life.


5. Remember, people don’t think about you and what you do as much as you may think.

They have their hands full with thinking about what other people think of them. And with thinking about what is closest to their hearts like their children, pets, a partner or the job or school.

So don’t get lost in worries about what people may think or say if you do something. Don’t let such thoughts hold you back or down in life.


6. Work out.

Few things work so well and consistently as working out to release inner tensions and to move out of a headspace that is extra vulnerable to worries.

I also find that working out – especially with free weights – makes me feel more decisive and focused.

So even though working out helps me to build a stronger body my main motivation to keep doing it is for the wonderful and predictable mental benefits.


7. Let your worry out into the light. 

This is one of my favorites. Because it tends to work so well.

By letting your “big” worry out into the light and talking about it with someone close to you it becomes a whole lot easier to see the situation or issue for what it really is.

Just venting for a few minutes can make a big difference and after a while you may start to wonder what you were so worried about in the first place.

Sometimes the other person may only have to listen as you work through the situation yourself out loud.

At other times it can be very helpful to let the other person ground you and help you find a more practical and useful perspective on the situation at hand.

If you do not have anyone to talk to at the moment about the worry bouncing around in your mind then let it out by writing about it.

Just getting it out of your head and reasoning about with yourself either on paper or in a journal on your computer – or even your own blog that's just for your eyes or anonymous – can help you to calm down and find clarity.


8. Spend more time in the present moment. 

When you spend too much time reliving the past in your mind then it easy to start feeding your worries about the future.

When you spend too much time in the future then is also easy to get swept away by disaster scenarios.

So focus on spending more of your time and attention in the present moment.

Two of my favorite ways to reconnect with what is happening right now:

  • Slow down. Do whatever you are doing right now but do it slower. Move, talk, eat or ride your bicycle slower. By doing so you’ll become more aware of what is happening all around you right now.
  • Disrupt and reconnect. If you feel you are starting to worry then disrupt that thought by shouting this to yourself in your mind: STOP! Then reconnect with the present moment by taking just one or two minutes to focus to 100% on what is going on around you. Take it all in with all your senses. Feel it, see it, smell it, hear it and sense it on your skin.


9. Refocus on the small step you can take to move forward.

To move out the worried headspace I find it really, really helpful to just start moving and taking action to start solving or improving whatever I am concerned about. 

So I ask myself:

What is one small step I can take right now to start improving this situation I am in?

Then I focus on just taking that small step forward. After that I find another small step and I take that one too.


4 Habits That Will Train Your Brain to Stop Worrying 


  1. Find your stop-loss point — give worry a limitation

When you find yourself in a cycle of worry and anxiety, stop and ask where your stop-loss point is, i.e. at what point do you stop worrying and let it go? By giving every worry a limitation, you’re not allowing it to control you but you become mindful about everything occupying your mind and choose to focus on other things instead of digging deeper. It’s one way to retrain your brain to worry less and worry smarter.


  1. Acknowledge your worries, and get them out of your head by writing them down

Worrying rarely leads to solutions. Instead of worrying about everything that can go wrong, write away your worries. By writing down your worries, you feel as though you’re emptying your brain, and you feel lighter and less tense. Take time to acknowledge your worries and write them down. Explore the roots of your worries or problems. Once you know the most important things you worry about, ask yourself if your worries are solvable. If they are not in your control and there is nothing you can possibly do to change them, focus on those you can do solve or change. “Get everything out and don’t hold back,” says lead author of the “Worry Less Report”, Hans Schroder (Ph.D.Clinical Psychology, Michigan State University). “You don’t have to share your thoughts with anyone, and don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Getting worries out of your head through expressive writing frees up cognitive resources for other things,” he adds.


  1. Shift your worry from the long-term problems to daily routines/actions that will solve the problems

Be pragmatic, and proactive about things in your control. Once you list your worries, identify actions you can take in the short-term to solve the problems and start executing daily, weekly or monthly. Do one thing every day that brings you closer to solving your perceived problem. Work toward improving the worst-case scenario, which you have already accepted in your mind.This process focuses on taking action about things in your control. It forces you to find solutions to your perceived problems. Write down how you will deal with them even if they happen. Think of a solution for all your perceived problems. For example, if your financial situation makes you anxious, you need to create a plan to earn more or spend less or invest some of your savings in low-risk investment opportunities. Or instead of worrying about your weight, focus on healthy dinner options that can help you lose weight. Instead of worrying about your long-term health, focus on taking a walk each day.


  1. Interrupt the worry cycle

If you worry excessively, find productive activities that can easily distract your thought process. Keep busy. Get up and get moving — exercise is a natural way to break the cycle because it releases endorphins which relieve tension and stress, boost energy, and enhance your sense of well-being.

You can also distract yourself by doing something completely unrelated and different that forces you to focus on something else. This is most effective if you choose an activity you deeply care about such as practicing your hobby or reading an exceptional book. Be mindful and observe your worries from an outsider’s perspective, without reacting or judging. This strategy is based on observing your worries and then letting them go, helping you identify where your thinking is causing problems and getting in touch with yourself. Understanding that we have control over our own thoughts, and therefore our own worries can be a light bulb moment that changes how you perceive your worries. Learning to stop worrying will be the catalyst to change your life completely. It won’t happen overnight, and it is something you will need to work at, but once you notice changes, celebrate them and keep doing things that can help you get out of your head more. 

If worrying is a problem that you feel you cannot control, it is important to seek professional help. There is no reason to let it run your life.

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Last modified on Thursday, 29 October 2020 17:50

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