How can you stop worrying and save yourself from the psychological and physiological effect of it?
When you have a quiet moment to yourself, do you find yourself dwelling on things that you have little to no control over? Looking in the mirror while shaving, putting on makeup, or sitting in traffic – do your incessant thoughts make your stomach turn?
As you may have noticed, when worry tips the scales in your life it is not just destabilizing your mental wellbeing, but it can upset your physical health too. Be encouraged that there are several ways that you can learn how to stop worrying and regain your sense of purpose and courage in your life.
Worrying about the future, but not the present
Some people find it easy to focus on our unpredictable future but find themselves perfectly able to deal with today’s problems in a mature manner. While others are not too concerned about tomorrow, the very tangible challenges of the day are only hit after bouts of procrastination, avoidance, distractions, and possible tummy aches and headaches.
There are several reasons why some people worry about the present while others about the future. Studies find that it is part genetics, part nurture and part non-nurture. As an example, people who come from divorced homes are two-thirds more likely to have generalized anxiety disorder. However, children that care of their parents because they are not functioning well tend to become adults who worry, as do children of overprotective parents.
Experts say that the feeling of safety that a mother gives from an early age is internalized and grows along with the child. This helps them to feel secure. However, if children perceive that their mother was not available or consistent, the mind-set that the world is more dangerous than safe can develop.
How do we know what makes us worry?
Simply put, many people who worry carry a belief that if they can imagine something bad happening, then it is their responsibility to worry about it. Experts agree that many people who worry do so because they think that something bad will happen, or even could happen.
This gives rise to a strategy where the act of worry is justified by the idea that because bad things are worried about they will be recognized. Then actions can be taken to mitigate them early on.
But if justifying the act of worrying because you are worried what may or may not happen if you do not worry is giving you sweaty palms just thinking about it, you are not alone. Our mental health affects our physical health, not just in the sense that worriers tend to be hypochondriacs either. Experts find that those who worry are far more likely to have aches and pains, fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and nausea.
Generalized anxiety disorder is a condition of excessive worry about everyday issues and situations. People with GAD often have symptoms of restlessness, fatigue, irritability, too-short attention spans, increased muscle tension and trouble sleeping, and may also experience depression.
Can worry ever be a good thing?
Yes, a little worry can be a good thing by helping you react in a way that keeps you safe. If you are worried that the driver is reckless, you ask them to slow down and be careful. In the same way, if you are worried whether the campfire is safe, you take precautions to ensure it is. In both cases being a little worried is prudent.
The balance of knowing when you are worrying too much occurs when there are disproportionate worry affects to your worrying that brings you suffering and limits your abilities. However, there are several avenues for help if you are trying to understand how to stop worrying.
How to stop worrying
Try these actions to help you learn how to stop worrying. But don’t hesitate to reach out to a Christian counselor for the specialized treatment you may need to overcome your worry problem.
Identify productive and unproductive worries
When reading through your list look at whether you can do something about the worry identified right now, or it if is unproductive. A productive worry is understanding that your gas is running low in your car, and that you can go and fill up the tank.
An unproductive worry is one that you have no control over. If these types of worries ever come up in conversation, the phrase “what if” is normally used when talking about them. You have no control over these types of worries and no productive action will provide a solution. An example is whether you will become ill with a severe disease.
Be okay with unproductive worries
After identifying the unproductive worries, isolate them and write down alongside each one what you need to accept in order to come to terms with them. Perhaps you need to accept your own limitations or accept (even embrace) a degree of uncertainty. You may well fall ill with a dread disease in the future, but no one knows what the future holds.
Some people think that this uncertainty indicates a poor outcome, but that is not true. Uncertainty is neutral. When someone accepts uncertainty, he or she does not have to worry about it. He or she must come to accept it by acknowledging that we do not know the future and that uncertainty exists. Instead, we can focus on the things that are within our control and capacity to enjoy and appreciate.
Wash, rinse, repeat
If any of the listed worries invoke a fear response, repeat it to yourself frequently. You will see that it will become boring and you will likely stop worrying about it. If you look into the mirror for long enough and say “Cancer may kill me one day, cancer may kill me one day,” often enough it will lose its power over you to make you worry.
Take yourself to an uncomfortable place
People who worry often feel that they cannot tolerate discomfort. The method to learn how to stop worrying is to intentionally get yourself out of your comfort zone. The point of these actions is to practice the self-discipline to learn to do what you otherwise avoid, and this includes things that make you uncomfortable.
People who worry tend to avoid situations and things that are new. Worrying about how uncomfortable a speaking engagement or social gathering will be makes them avoid it. But as you force yourself to do the things that make you uncomfortable, worrying proves to be a less effective coping strategy than it used to be.
Give yourself a time-out
People who worry often have a sense of urgency and are rushing to get the answer immediately before something bad happens because of an uninformed decision or indecision. Before you decide to spend your time in a stressful state look at the advantages and disadvantages of the urgency.
Instead of focusing on the sense of urgency, focus on what you observe around you in the present moment. Then ask how your actions in that very moment make your life, or those around you more pleasant and meaningful.
You will find that your mind cannot entertain the urgency and mindfulness at the same time. Mindfulness is a better strategy. If you need to extend the time-out slightly to give yourself that mental space away from worry through deep breathing, reading or listening to music.
Worries make negative perceptions worse
It is often not as bad as you think. Anxiety or worry is all about anticipation. The what-if scenarios previously going through your mind are often far more dramatic than when a real-life scenario takes place. People who worry are often quite good at handling real problems.
Use your voice to cry out loud
When a person worries their amygdala region of the brain, primarily associated with emotional processes, is suppressed. As a result of the emotion that is unprocessed, people have been known to suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue, or a rapid heart rate. The advice here is to use your emotions and not to try to suppress them. When you are intentionally feeling the emotion, you can put worry in the background or eliminate it altogether.
Learn to talk about it
Along with the various cognitive therapy techniques that are mentioned in this article, talk therapy also proves useful to chronic worriers by seeing where their fear worry is rooted. Taking on these different active experiments to neutralize worry in your life while discussing it with someone can work well.
As you come to understand what causes anxiety and worry, and how they hook into your frame of reference, and personality type, you will become aware of how they are rooted in your life. And you will see, as you understand it more, worry begins to diminish.
Christian counseling for how to stop worrying
If you’re looking for additional help in learning how to stop worrying, or perhaps if someone you love is unable or unwilling recognize their worries and the challenges they face, browse our online counselor directory, or contact our office to find out how we can help you. We would be honored to walk with you on this healing journey.
“Feeling Down”, Courtesy of Molnar Balint, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Glass Ball”, Courtesy of Drew Beamer, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Driving”, Courtesy of Jan Baborak, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Shame”, Courtesy of Ali Soleymani, Unsplash.com, CC0 License