When you are constantly worried, the best way to stop is to write down the worries and divide them into ‘can stop’ and ‘can’t control’. Then, do something about the ones you can control and accept there is nothing you can do about the others.
We all worry. It’s normal and sometimes necessary. It is only when worrying takes over our lives that we should be concerned. According to a survey of ten thousand Americans, anxiety disorders are the second most common mental health condition, right next to substance-use disorder. In other words, a third of Americans have dealt with a level of anxiety that can be classified as a disorder.
What is Worry?
Worry is the anticipation that something will go wrong. When you let it spiral out of control, it always goes to a worst-case scenario. I will die of cancer. I will get evicted. My friends will hate me. My husband will leave me. See a pattern? It’s all ‘WILL’, as in the future.
Besides being completely useless, worrying takes you away from the present. At its worst, you cannot focus on work, enjoy time with your family or even appreciate what you have. You are so focused on what may or may not happen that you have completely lost touch with the here and now.
So, how do you stop worrying and finally start living?
1. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the deliberate act of focusing on the present- what you see, hear, and smell. It’s about paying attention to reality, and that includes your thoughts and feelings. So, instead of trying to push back or ignore your worries, accept that it’s there because it is. Think of worry as an annoying passenger next to you on a bus. You can’t wish them away, but you don’t have to give them your attention either. You can read a book, journal, or listen to a podcast.
Label them as worries and then focus your attention on something else.
The trick here is what or where you direct your attention to. Most people with anxiety disorder go to alcohol, mind-numbing television, and other distracting things. What you need to do is actively focus on doing something else, not being. Play with your kids, finish that project, make a few cold calls to prospective clients. Do something productive that requires your mind to work.
At first, your mind will try to stray away and start worrying again. Take notice of that and bring your attention back to what you were doing.
2. Identify the Signs
More often than not, worrying comes with other side effects like palpitations or higher heart rate, sweaty palms, headache, and zoning out. Identify these canaries and write them down. Think of these as allergic symptoms. What do you do when you are allergic to a few things, and then all of a sudden your tongue swells, and you break into hives? You don’t panic; you immediately realize you are having a reaction and take some Benadryl.
That’s exactly what you do when you notice the signs of worry and anxiety. You don’t worry some more and spiral down the anxiety lane. You simply label the worries as mere worries and then focus on the task at hand. Is there something you can do about the worry? Then go ahead and do it. If not, accept that and focus on what you can control.