Posted by Nisha Naik
Do you sometimes spend too much time worrying? For some people, it might be an ingrained habit, but it’s not a very productive one. All of us worry from time to time, and that’s okay. If you sometimes get in a worrying rut, though, or if you tend to be a worrier, it might be time to make some changes.
When you stop worrying and instead focus on the positive in your life, it makes you more encouraged and motivated. And when you do something that makes you feel more positive, you automatically will start looking for ways to get more of the same. Shifting your mindset and creating a life where your tendency is to be positive instead of a worrier (negative) will help you to go through life in a much happier state.
There are four important reasons to end the habit of worrying:
Worry doesn’t help anything. When you worry about a problem or something that might or might not happen, you aren’t actively solving the problem. Worrying literally does nothing. It’s unproductive, and it wastes your time and your energy.
Worrying literally makes you ill. It sounds silly, but it’s true. Worrying causes anxiety, which can get pretty out of control for some people. Anxiety is not good for your mental health, and it negatively impacts your state of mind.
Worrying puts the focus in the wrong direction. When you worry about something, you are not focusing on a solution. Instead you are getting yourself worked up, making yourself unhappy, and expending energy on something terribly unproductive.
Worrying doesn’t prepare you. Some people think that if they think about (and focus on) a worst case scenario, then at least they will be prepared for it. In fact, the opposite is true. Worrying makes you expect the worst. Focusing on the bad things that can happen often result in those things happening. Instead of preparing yourself for something in case it happens, prepare yourself for the good thing that can happen if things go well – they probably will!
If you are a worrier, here are four things you can do to try to break the habit:
Think about the solution. When you are worrying about something, try to shift your focus to the solution of the problem instead. If you are going to expend energy on the problem, make it productive!
If you’re worried about a tornado coming through your neighborhood, change your focus to thinking about how you might create a safe space for your family in case you need shelter. If you are worried about your kids not getting into a good college, think about ways you might help them with their schoolwork or with college applications. If you’re worried about how you might care for your aging parents, think about how other people you know have managed the same challenges.
Shifting your focus to the problem’s solution helps you to keep your mind on things that are positive and productive. Even if you don’t actually take any steps toward the solution, just thinking about it and knowing how you can handle it (because you can!) helps you to feel more empowered and less helpless.
Take an action step. If you have a hard time shifting your mental focus from the worry to the possible solution, go a step further and take an action step. Buy a weather radio and learn how to prepare for a weather emergency. Review your kids’ grades to reassure yourself they’re doing just fine. Research assisted living places and find out which places would suit your parents’ interests and their budget. You get the idea!
And if you are worrying about something that doesn’t seem to have a viable action step at this time, try to give yourself a break. Rest in the knowledge that you are a very capable person, and you will take an action step when you can.
Break down the irrational fear. Worrying has its roots in fear and the unknown. Try to think rationally, rather than letting your mind run with what could happen. Realize that your fear of what could happen (when there’s no real evidence that it will) is grounded in fear and not in reality.
Take the example with your kids and college. What is your real fear when you worry about them getting into a good school? Really, your irrational fear is that they won’t get into a good school, won’t have a good career, and then will end up unhappy and broke. This isn’t rational thought. You know they’re doing okay now, and you know you will help them with whatever bumps come up along the way, so you know they’ll be fine. Take your big, irrational fear and break it down to see whether it is even logical that the fear will be realized. Once you have it broken down into the steps that would lead you to that irrational conclusion, you can see where the small steps can be taken that will lead you away from it. Just like that, your path will become clearer.
Exercise. You’ve heard it a million times, and it really is the answer to whatever ails you. Exercise doesn’t just help you to clear your mind, but it also helps your body produce endorphins, those feel-good hormones that can boost your mood. Go for a walk if the fresh air and new scenery will help. If you think you will just think about your worry more on your walk, try an exercise that’s more demanding, like strength training or working out on an elliptical machine.
And if you’re so wrapped up in your worry that you can’t even think about exercising right now, try any other activity. Sometimes the best way to combat negative thoughts in your head is to simply immerse yourself in something completely different. Bake some cookies, play hide-n-seek with your kids, or do some other physical activity that gets you moving and your mind occupied.
Worrying is a habit that can get worse over time. Don’t give in to the temptation to do something that is so unproductive. It’s never too late to change a habit (and learn to make it a permanent change). You can’t control the future, and worrying about it won’t help. Let go of your worries today, and start building a more positive life for yourself!
What are your worries, and how can you look at them differently now? Let me know your thoughts in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!