Worrying is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s a normal part of our existence. We worry about a lot of things everyday – how to pay the bills, how safe our kids are at school, where to go on our next trip, or what our colleagues think about us.
However, when worry becomes out of hand, it becomes a problem. Chronic or excessive worry will lead to mental health issues.
Most thoughts, emotions, and anxiousness caused by worry are negative, imagining worst-case scenarios, anticipated threats, or scenarios that reflect our own lack of self-worth. In the end, anxiety doesn’t even do anything to change what you are worried about.
A lot of people want their worries to stop but don’t know how. Some consider it simply a bad habit that can be unlearned with practice. So, how to stop worrying?
Ways To Help Your Brain To Stop Worrying
There are methods you can use to protect your brain. You can learn to prepare for your future without worrying.
1. Accept the things you cannot change.
One of the reasons we worry too much is because we tend to focus on problems that are beyond our ability to solve, or things we cannot control.
You can’t control what happens in life, but you can control your effort and the quality of your work, so stay consistent with your goals and accept the fact that there are things out there that are simply out of your control. All you can do is keep your head down and work hard because you’re the only one responsible for giving yourself the life you want.
Accepting the fact that you cannot control everything will lift some weight off your shoulders … and will eventually ease your worries.
2. Let go of your urge to control everything.
You have an urge to control – everything. You want everything to go according to plan, especially when you’ve spent time trying to plan everything out.
When things don’t go to plan, you panic. You freak out and get agitated. You feel like everything is a mess and nothing is how you wanted it to be.
It’s easy to understand. Many of us can’t stand when things fall out of order; we loathe not being able to address and control a situation in a way we feel is accurate.
Oftentimes because of worry and anxiety, your urge to control situations — and even people and the way they think becomes significantly stronger. But, you know this is an impossible venture. You can’t control everything, not your worries, not your anxieties, and especially not other people.
Life has its own way of twisting and doing things; once you accept that you’re not in charge of the universe and you learn how to adapt, you’ll have one less reason to worry.
3. 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.
4. Thoughts are just thoughts.
Another way of dealing with negative thoughts often used in modern therapy is realizing that thoughts aren’t facts. It is important when we think something to ask: Is that real? Did that really happen? What is the worst thing that could happen?
Flight anxiety is one example where untrue thoughts are accepted as facts. Although air travel is the safest way to get around, people suffering from fear of flying accept their thoughts and fears as reality, then act upon them by refusing to fly.
5. Spend more time in the present moment.
There is nothing wrong with reminiscing about the past from time to time especially if you are thinking about something that inspires you. However, spending too much time in the past can pose some problems.
The wisest thing you can do is just focus your time and attention in the present where you have the power to decide what works for you and carry out what you want to do.
So live in the present, take the time to savor the moment, breathe, and enjoy what it has to offer.
6. Take a break and shift your attention.
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.
People try to avoid rumination by engaging in a range of uncontrolled behaviors, such as binge eating and substance abuse. But a much better way to overcome such distress is by distraction and shifting attention away from problems that are obsessing us.
You can distract yourself by doing something completely unrelated and different that forces you to focus on something else. There are many activities that can be used to distract from worrying and you may choose the one that works best for you. Here are some examples:
- Listen to music
- Read a book
- Take a hot shower
- Dance or exercise
- Talk to a friend (not about the problem)
- Watch a movie
- Mindfulness meditation
7. Take a social media detox.
Despite the advantages of social media, it’s actually a major cause of anxiety and worry in society. It can make us unhappy and cause us to feel inadequate from constant comparison – yet we keep coming back.
The problem is that social media is a highlight reel, it shows you the best parts of peoples lives, and you sit there comparing yourself to everyone and feel sad or frustrated that you haven’t reached that “level” when in reality, you don’t know a single thing about those peoples real lives.
If you feel like social media is potentially harming your mental health, making you feel down or insecure, it’s high time you took a step back. Learn not to let your life revolve around social media and focus on your own reality instead.
8. Acknowledge your worries and write 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. 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.”
Hans Schroder (Ph.D.Clinical Psychology, Michigan State University)
9. Look at the positive side of things.
Energy flows where you focus your attention. Understand that you can choose to focus on positive rather than negative thoughts. In fact, as you become more positive, you’ll be better able to create more positive outcomes.
Always choose to be optimistic. Train your brain to be calm and composed and look at the positive side of things. The more positive you get, the more positive the results will be.
10. Catch yourself worrying.
There are several practical steps that you could employ in your daily routine when you catch yourself worrying or ruminating. One effective remedy is the thought-stopping technique.
When the negative thoughts come or ruminations start, you say to yourself: ‘Stop!’ It is more effective when you actually say the word out loud.
Is is also recommended to have a rubber band around your wrist to ping against yourself while saying the word. Adding a visual component by imagining a stop sign also makes the technique more powerful.
Say: “Stop” to yourself.
The main idea here is conditioning yourself to stop the loop of worrying (making future predictions) or rumination (obsessing over past events).
The technique could take up to two weeks to take effect and it needs to be practiced every day. Consistency is very important.
11. Practice meditation.
Another skill for learning how to stop worrying about the future – or obsessing about the past – is a regular meditation practice.
It’s clear that regularly setting aside a few minutes – even one minute – to let go, breathe, and recharge can go a long way toward improving mental health. By sitting quietly and focusing either on the breath or on the physical sensations of the chair beneath you or the feet on the floor, you’ll ground yourself in the present moment, allowing for a greater sense of calm.
Meditation isn’t about pushing worries away, clearing the mind, or stopping thought – that’s not possible. But over time, we can train the mind to observe our thoughts and emotions without getting caught up in them. We gently note them, rather than reacting to them, and then let them go. When we take a step back and observe them in that way, we realize that our thoughts are temporary; that they don’t define us, and we are not our thoughts.
12. Find the correct facts.
Sometimes we spend days worrying and realize in the end that the thing we are worrying about is actually not true. This is a sad fact that probably a lot of us have experienced.
People worry when they have incorrect information or when they don’t have enough information. Let’s suppose you had doubts that a certain stomach ache means that you have a dangerous disease, in such a case talking to an expert can end your worries right away as you might discover that you have been misinformed. Don’t fall into the trap of collecting information from friends or incorrect sources but instead head for experts.
Most of the time, as you are presented with the whole picture, you will realize that there is really no reason to worry.
13. Don’t be vain.
Vanity is a common cause of worry for a lot of people, not only for the younger generation but even for older people.
We often worry about what people think of us. We worry endlessly that we might not meet society’s expectations. Ultimately, we worry about whether people will like us or not. With this mental outlook, we start to give too much importance to our ego; it means we are constantly looking for appreciation and the admiration of others. If we don’t get this appreciation, we start to worry that we are no good. If we can develop greater self-confidence and inner poise, then we will not worry about what others believe or think.
We need to give less importance to the opinions of the world. Even if we get criticized, we should not worry because we should not identify our self-worth with the opinions of others. This is not easy to do overnight, but, if we can detach ourselves from judgments of others we will gain greater inner peace and avoid worrying over the relative insignificance of people’s judgments.
The best solution to overcoming worry because of vanity is to not pay attention to what other people think about you. After all, this is something we cannot control. Instead, develop a healthy self-image by focusing on your best features and assets.
14. Don’t try to guess what’s on someone’s mind.
Sometimes we try to create our own story about what’s going on in a person’s mind even if in actuality, we don’t have any idea. For example, if we said something a little bit off to a friend or a colleague which is not intentional, we automatically assume that they are mad at us. We then paint a picture of their enraged faces that we lose hours of sleep because of worry. However, our fears are often just imaginations.
Trying to assume what’s on someone’s mind is most of the time useless and a waste of energy. Our mind is capable of creating scenarios that are both exaggerated and sometimes, even dangerous. If we let our minds dwell and obsess on these mental pictures, our worries will never end.
Instead of worrying, why not approach the person immediately to know what he or she is really thinking? This will save you a lot of trouble down the road.
When your brain senses danger, your body is activated into a natural response known as the “fight or flight” response. This is done so you can physically escape any danger. Your body releases adrenaline when you are in a life-threatening situation to help you.
Worry or fear causes the same reaction because your brain cannot tell the difference between a physical and imagined threat.
Exercising is a wonderful way to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety that come from the surge of adrenaline. While meditation can calm your mind, exercise calms your body. When your body no longer feels the physical symptoms of stress, your mind learns that there is no reason to worry. It can retreat from a state of increased arousal.
A regular exercise routine helps your body experience a positive use of adrenaline so that it can better handle the ones associated with worry. Your heart rate increases, as does shallow breathing, when you are anxious or worried. Exercise helps to reduce both.
You can also reduce your blood pressure which increases in response to stress and can also contribute to stress. Sometimes you will not even know the cause for your worry, and this is when an exercise is a great tool.
Step away for a moment and go for a walk, enjoying what is around you. Whatever was troubling you will fade away from your brain’s focus, allowing you to relax.
While worrying is a very natural thing to do, most of the time, it’s unnecessary.
You need to learn to train your brain to stop worrying about the things that are entirely outside of your control, it won’t only save you time, but it’ll save you a lot of pain, heartaches, and headaches.
You don’t need to jump right in and follow every step to a T, but ease your way into it, and hopefully, as you continue to practice these strategies, you’ll eventually stop worrying about the little things and enjoy your life more.