Most of us have worries or will experience anxious thoughts from time to time.
That's a normal and even predictable part of life. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive shift in our everyday circumstances inspired many people to feel more uncertain than ever. A 2020 Gallup survey shows worries are at an all-time high with 59% of Americans experiencing daily stress and worry.
Whether you find yourself churning over global problems like COVID-19 or more individual issues like your upcoming presentation at work, constantly thinking through potential worst-case scenarios can take a toll on your mental and physical health. By managing your thoughts and knowing when to let go of your worries, you can go through life with a lighter, less stressed mindset.
So, how do we stop worrying all the time? It's a seemingly simple question with a less-simple answer. Let’s walk through some of the root causes behind worrying, strategies you can try to finally stop worrying, and when it’s time to seek more professional help.
Why do we worry? Unsurprisingly, there isn't a straightforward, one-size-fits-all answer because no two people have the exact same thoughts and concerns.
But, before you can learn how not to worry, it’s important to unpack the causes behind your anxious thoughts. Certain situations, people, or days might cause more anxiety than others and can trigger you to start worrying.
Here are common examples of why you might be constantly worrying:
Once you’ve recognized what can prompt your unease or feelings of anxiety, you’ve completed the first step in effectively managing your worries. Next, ask yourself why that leads you to worry. If it’s a specific person you worry about, ponder why the person evokes these feelings inside of you. Unpacking these worries can set a solid foundation for you to address the stressful things in your life and learn how to set your worries aside.
You're now better able to pinpoint what causes you to worry, but you still can’t seem to stop those thoughts from entering your head in the first place. Even though you might recognize that it can make you miserable, worrying can be difficult to stop due to automatic, cyclical thoughts or unconscious superstitions we have about our worries.
For example, you may have a habit of worrying because you believe it helps you avoid bad situations, prevents problems, prepares you for the worst-case scenario, or leads to solutions. You might think that you have solvable worries and if you keep thinking about a problem long enough, you’ll eventually figure it out. Or, perhaps you think worrying about something means you’re being responsible and thinking about every possible event.
Although these are good intentions, they are still harmful because they perpetuate the real issue: overthinking and worrying to the detriment of your health.
By now you know that excessive worrying can be hard on your mental and physical well-being. An occasional anxious thought or moment of stress is natural, and worrying itself isn’t an inherently bad thing. But, if those rare occurrences start to become more regular or even constant, it’s time to evaluate how much you’re worrying. It’s also a tell-tale sign you’re stressing too much if your worries are starting to interfere with your daily life, work, or relationships.
Constant worrying can be a sign of a deeper issue, such as chronic anxiety or another anxiety disorder. If you suspect you may have an anxiety disorder or worry too much, you should consider reaching out for help—either from a trusted friend or, even more ideally, a licensed mental health professional.
Ready to learn how not to worry? While there are many ways to manage negative thoughts and refocus your mind on the present moment, here are some tried and true ways to take control of your worries.
Think of your wellbeing as the foundation for your physical and mental health. Without a solid base, you can't expect to thrive in other areas of your life. But, to make any real progress, most people need motivation and accountability to start implementing those positive lifestyle changes. Luckily, Vital Wellbeing Program here at F4S provides a comprehensive look at your overall wellbeing and equips you with a personal coach to guide you through what actions you can take to lead a fuller life.
Enrolling in this online program will help you make your wellbeing a priority and provide you with the basic tools to start calming your mind and managing your worries. The evidence-based program is completely tailored to your unique traits and goals, so you can focus on the areas in your life where you need help the most, such as managing your anxiety or increasing emotional resilience. Coach Marlee will also guide you in increasing your self-esteem and breaking through self-sabotaging behaviors to live your best life free from worry. By enrolling in the Vital Wellbeing Program, you’ll take the first step toward curbing your anxious thoughts, all with the help of a coach who can keep you accountable on your journey to better wellbeing.
While worrying is usually focused on the future or the past—by thinking about what might happen or stressing about what did happen—a good way to combat those fears is to focus on the present. Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment and not getting caught up in thoughts of tomorrow or yesterday. If you do have a worry come up, mindfulness teaches you to first acknowledge the thought. Then, let it move on without becoming too emotionally invested.
To incorporate mindfulness into your life, try meditating every day. Here are a few basic steps to get started in your practice:
By regularly meditating, you’ll learn how to focus more on the present and how to acknowledge your worries without becoming consumed with them. A good way to get started in this habit is by taking 5-10 minutes daily to go within yourself and take a break from the chaos, stress, and busyness of the world.
Need something simpler than that? You can even use your everyday tasks to get out of your own head and bring yourself back to the present moment. For example, brew your morning coffee and then take five minutes to sit with it. Notice the smell, the taste, and how soothing the warm mug feels in your hands. Focus solely on the sensations involved with that exact point in time—and nothing else.
Physical exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and bump up endorphins to make you feel better. Even something as simple as a 20-minute walk that gets you moving can reduce your worries and help you relax. Or, you could try one of the following easy exercises to move your muscles and get your blood flowing:
Make time throughout your day to get up and move to shake up your body and mitigate your negative thinking. Even better? If you incorporate exercise into your routine until it becomes a habit, your physical and mental health will improve.
Focusing on the things in your life that you’re thankful for can be a good tactic to calm your worries or divert your attention away from negative thoughts. If you find yourself starting to worry, try listing aspects about the situation that you’re grateful for. For example, perhaps you find yourself worrying about getting sick. Switch your thinking to focus on how grateful you are to live in an area with accessible healthcare, to have a knowledgeable doctor, to have health insurance, etc.
If you’re struggling to find gratitude in the midst of a worrying moment, try looking for humor or something that’s interesting about the circumstances you find yourself in. This type of thought process can shift your mindset. Turning your attention to these positive beliefs and thoughts will tune out the negative beliefs and bring at least a little more peace to your mind.
Journaling can be another great way to process your emotions and stop worrying. If you feel anxious about something, writing about your worries and fears can get those negative emotions out of your brain and onto the page. Writing can divert your attention from spiraling into a panic to calmly articulating what you’re feeling. For many people, it feels like a weight is lifted off their shoulders by writing their thoughts down. In fact, psychiatrist Dan Siegel says that explicitly explaining our emotional state can help to reduce its impact—a concept he's coined "name it to tame it."
Once you’ve had some time to calm down from the peak of your stress, you can come back to that journal entry to observe your feelings. You may find you’re able to process your emotions from a more objective perspective and can identify the causes or triggers from that moment that you can look out for (and hopefully avoid) next time.
If you're not so much a pen and paper person, but you want to try journaling to process your worries, try F4S' Journal feature. When you enroll in a free coaching program with F4S, you get unlimited access to the journal. You can use this space to log your thoughts about the day or notes from your coaching sessions. The journal is private to you, so nobody can see what you write about. It's also easily accessible on your phone via F4S' web app, so you can jot down your thoughts whenever you need to! Having easy access to a journal may also help you develop a habit of writing down your thoughts to manage your anxiety.
Here's something that's easy to lose sight of when you're stuck in an anxious cycle: Just because you have a thought or worry about something doesn’t mean it will come true. Many times, our anxieties and worries cause us to look at situations through a more negative lens than reality should require.
As you find yourself worrying, try to break down your thoughts and challenge this viewpoint by asking yourself:
By stepping outside of yourself and questioning your fears, you may be able to see there is no logical reason to worry about a situation. Or, at the very least, you might be able to see it from a more positive perspective.
Many people worry about things that are unknown to them—the future is one common example for most people. However, many times the worries that seem unknown or unfamiliar are situations outside of your control.
For example, if you have a chronic worry that one day you may become seriously ill, this isn’t a scenario that you have any control over or even a worry that has a potentially productive solution. Focusing on what could possibly go wrong in your life isn’t a good way to live and will only create another problem: spending way too much time worrying.
Instead, when these unsolvable worries come up, accept that you don’t have the answers or the ability to predict the future. It isn’t your job to make sense of uncertainty. Shift your focus to the here and now and tell yourself not to waste time asking yourself, “But, what if...?”
Connecting with loved ones with a good strategy for just about any problem in life, especially when it comes to stopping yourself from worrying. When you feel yourself starting to get anxious about something, talk with a close friend or family member about those fears. Explain how the situation makes you feel and why you think those feelings are bubbling to the surface. Usually, these people can help you see the problem in a more positive light or help you check yourself and identify more likely outcomes instead of what you fear most.
When confiding in friends or family, make sure you choose your confidants according to how helpful they’ll be in calming your worries. Many people struggle with anxiety themselves, and they may not have the capacity or energy to address and squelch your fears if they're a chronic worrier themselves.
When bringing up this conversation, be sure to prepare your loved one that you would like to discuss some worries you have and are wondering if they are in the right headspace to help you unpack those thoughts. This gives the person an opportunity to decline if they’re not able to be there for you in the way you need. If they do decline, don’t take it personally. Instead, try to find someone else who can listen and support you in your worries.
Many people have also found success with anxiety support groups. While you may not be friends with the support group attendees right away, these relationships may grow into friendship thanks to your shared experiences and understanding of each other’s backgrounds. These types of support groups are usually available at workplaces, churches, or other community organizations.
If you find yourself stuck in a worry cycle, you could have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or another type of anxiety disorder that would benefit from the help of a professional. Think that sounds daunting? It's normal to be a little nervous, but talking with a mental health professional doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. Even if you don’t have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, a therapist can be a helpful resource to reach out to about your worries. A professional can help you unpack your thoughts and concerns, provide an outside perspective to process your reactions and life experiences, and may suggest strategies or even medication to help you manage your stress.
As you begin to look for a mental health professional, you may have to try a few different people to ensure you’re working with someone who is a good fit. Keep in mind that this is a normal and important part of the process because the right person can help you finally stop worrying and start living life more fully—whereas working with someone who isn't as compatible can prevent you from opening up the way you need to.
To get started in finding a therapist, see if your medical insurance or employer has any coverage for mental health practitioners and, if so, if they have a list or resource of trusted or in-network providers you could look through. Many times, an affordable way to start talking to someone is through telehealth calls. Online programs have become increasingly popular and they may be covered by your workplace or insurance as well. Even if these programs aren’t covered, they are a lower-cost (yet effective) option to connect you to a mental health professional and start taking action if you’re a chronic worrier.
Don’t just take advice from us, take it from a renowned self-improvement expert. Dale Carnegie is an American writer who is well-known for his book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. While this self-help book was published in 1948, it has proved over time to be a helpful and still-relevant guide for people looking to reduce their worrying. Carnegie details how people can eliminate excessive worry in their lives and start leading a happier existence.
Self-help books can be beneficial for your mental health journey, so don’t be afraid to look into what other literature is out there to inspire you as you work through your worrying habits.
Of course, sometimes you may need more advanced assistance with your mental health than simple tips or a self-help book. Again, this is where a mental health professional can come into play. While it may seem uncomfortable to share your thoughts or personal information with a stranger, there are a lot of benefits a therapist can provide to help you cope, manage, and respond appropriately when a worrisome thought comes to mind.
If you’re still not sure if you should reach out for professional help for your worries, here are a few signs to look out for that indicate it’s time to ask for assistance outside of your friends, family, and other trusted loved ones.
Going through your day-to-day with anxiety symptoms can be exhausting and a sign it’s time to reach out for help. Those symptoms can vary, but include:
Make sure you’re in tune with your body and if you notice a new symptom emerge, try to address what prompted the change by taking a step back from stressors in your life. Any or all of these side effects of worrying can reduce your quality of life and worsen if your worries are unmanageable or uncontrolled.
Avoiding some things that worry you isn’t a sure sign of needing help—staying away from certain triggers can be a smart and even self-aware move.
However, if you find that you're beginning to avoid situations or activities you used to enjoy or are having a hard time interacting with others due to anxiety, it may be beneficial to speak with someone about how to stop worrying so much. Social anxiety is a common anxiety disorder that compels people to avoid any type of social situation. This could be the underlying cause of your avoidance of activities or others.
In addition, by avoiding things that make you uncomfortable, you could be missing out on new experiences that may bring you joy. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone in your career or personal life if you want to go after big moves, such as a promotion, new hobby, or new friends. Addressing your worries with someone can help you learn how to break out of your secure and comfortable bubble and not let your anxiety hold you back.
If you know deep down you’d like to talk to someone about your worries, that's more than enough reason to take action. Don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you trust. Whether it’s talking with a loved one or a therapist, sometimes it’s helpful to acknowledge that you worry and connect with someone who can listen to what you’re going through.
Plus, you don’t have to have a diagnosed anxiety or panic disorder in order to talk to a mental health professional. No matter what, it can be helpful to process your worries with a third party and identify thought patterns to help you manage your feelings and not be overcome by them. There’s no shame in asking for help. In 2019, nearly 20% of adults in the U.S. received some sort of mental health treatment within the last 12 months and an increasing conversation about mental health and wellbeing is going a long way in reducing any stigma that used to be there.
If you experience any or all of these signs, it’s time to reach out for help for your worrying. Cognitive behavioral therapy (also known as CBT) has been proven to significantly help those who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders or issues. A mental health professional can help you talk through your worries and provide helpful ways for you to manage them in the moment and on an ongoing basis. In some more severe cases, a psychiatrist may also be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medications to help reduce your anxiety symptoms.
Worries are natural. They're bound to come up in your life now and again. We all deal with them. But if you feel like your anxiety has become too overwhelming to manage, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are strategies or life changes that you can implement that have already proven to be successful for others. There’s no need to live in a state of constant worry. Try following the steps listed above to reduce the worries in your life. You may find your negative thoughts decreasing and a weight lifted off of your shoulders.
If you still feel like your worries are controlling your life after implementing habits to support your mental health, there are resources available for you. Whether it’s seeking out a support group or telehealth provider, there are multiple avenues to get the support and guidance you need. Licensed therapists or other practitioners can be game-changers for people who suffer from anxiety, and you shouldn’t be afraid to find someone who can assist you with your own struggles.
And of course, in addition to a mental health professional, you can enlist the help of a life coach to guide you through your worries. It's a free, accessible option that may be the kickstart you need to finally stop worrying. F4S' resources and coaching program, Vital Wellbeing will help you increase your general wellbeing as well as put an end to some of your self-sabotaging behaviors (like excessive worrying, as just one example). You’ll also develop lifelong skills for emotional resilience and self-esteem to handle any stress life throws at you. Plus, the program provides you access to an online journal where you can process your thoughts in a quick, easy way.
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