Most of us worry from time to time, but if you worry too much, or even all the time, you need to learn how to calm your mind.
Many people acknowledge that over-worry is not helpful, but some people think that by worrying about something long enough they will eventually come up with a solution. However, worrying is not problem solving. Worry blocks the ability to think clearly and make good choices, and it adversely affects your physical health.
If worry is dominating your life, try some of these techniques to help calm your mind and get control back.
Techniques to stop worrying
1. Set a “worry period” when you will allow yourself to worry. Make it after the duties of the day but not too close to bedtime, and give yourself a specific end time. Keep it short, maybe 20 minutes. Then throughout the day when you have a worried thought, write it in your “worry journal” to think about later. When you sit down for your “worry session,” look at what you wrote for the day. And remember to STOP when your time is up!
2. Challenge your worrisome or negative thoughts. When you are having your daily worry session and you read your list, ask yourself challenging questions. “Is that really true? What evidence is there to support it? What evidence is there to negate it? What is the likelihood of that happening? Do I have any control over this? If so, what can I do about it? If not, am I ready to accept that there is uncertainty and trouble in life, and that is what makes it so wonderful?” Focus on reality, on putting a positive spin on things rather than a negative, and in accepting that life is full of surprises, both good and bad.
3. Try focus and relaxation techniques. There are many: tai chi, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, mindfulness. Look them up or talk to an informed friend or professional and find out what’s best for you.
4. Decrease the opportunity for worry and distract yourself. If you know of certain triggers for worry and you can avoid them, well then, avoid them! Watching the news or using social media are two common triggers that are easily eliminated from a person’s life. When you start worrying, turn to something you enjoy: play a sport or a mind game, work in your garden, read a book. Going outside in nature has been proven to be good for mental health, so maybe sit outside and read.
5. Practice self-care. A healthy lifestyle decreases worry and anxiety because it supports the brain, where thoughts begin. Eat well so that you get all your nutrients, exercise daily even if it is just a short walk, and get sufficient sleep. Get involved in a cause or helping others – just make sure it is not something that will further your worry or anxiety.
6. Talk it out. Find friends or a support group you can turn to when you just need to talk it out. Make sure these people will not make your worry worse by feeding it or justifying it. Neither do you want people to minimize it. The trick is to find the right people who actually help you worry less. A professional may be the best option here.
How a counselor can help
If you feel like you need a little more help than these techniques offer, find a counselor who is an expert in the area of anxiety. There are a variety of treatments and your counselor can determine what is best for you.
I teach my patients skills to manage their anxiety and worry, take charge over their thoughts and feelings, and identify triggers. I train them in ways to control both their minds and their physical responses to their anxious thoughts.
If you need help and you are in the New York City area, reach out to me. I’d love to help you.