Worries are a fact of life. We all have thoughts like this “did I impress this client enough?”, “would my boss appreciate it if I highlighted this to him?”, “Should I even be resting now, when I should be spending time with my children?”
The fact is that thinking and self-reflection is a useful activity- If you are thinking over what transpired during an important business meeting, you are likely more observant and mindful of what you said and do, and learn how to handle big meetings better in future. A mature adult who self-reflects and learns to manage his relationships with his superiors and stakeholders at work is likely to enjoy cordial relationships and be productive and happier. And finally, a parent, who constantly needs to balance his responsibilities between his work, children and personal well-being, would always try to do his best and still wonder if he could have done it all better.
Worrying is an indication that we are invested in doing well, and it can push us forward in working towards our goals. Fortunately for many, when worry gets too much, we know how to put it aside and not let it interfere in our lives.
However, at the most trying of times, some people have worries that are incessant, pervasive, unproductive, and chronic — difficult to turn off. Their worries are present from the moment they wake up until the last minute of their day.
Feeling trapped in a vicious cycle of worrying can make people feel emotionally stressed and physically drained, leading to disruptive conditions like sleep problems, inability to carry out daily routines, depression, and eventually, even feelings of withdrawing from life.
If chronic worrying is a problem for you, here are three things you can do to cope outside of your therapist’s office:
Train yourself to worry about one thing at a specific time each day
If your worries pop up at any other time, gently remind yourself, “I’ll think about this at 4:30 p.m.” When that time arrives, think about your one worry.
Prioritize. Yes, prioritize!
Determine if your worry is productive or unproductive. Ask yourself if there is anything you can do in the next hour (or the next few hours, the next day) to address it. If so, great! If not, make a conscious effort to put it on the shelf. If you find yourself worrying about a decision you have already made and implemented, put your worry aside. Tell yourself that you can’t do anything about it so worrying isn’t helpful right now. Then decide what you can do instead that will be more useful. Go for a walk, go to the gym, call a friend, etc.
You should know that your worry will pop up again and again. Just don’t connect with it, understand your emotional triggers. The next time the worry arises in you again, gently observe it, then make yourself put it on the shelf again. And again.
Building on the previous point, learn mindfulness meditation and practice it daily. It will allow you to develop a different relationship with your thoughts and worries. Rather than reacting to worries as if they are a reality, observe and be aware of them without letting the emotional content suck you in.
Start with taking five minutes each day to focus on something neutral such as your breathing or sounds, while staying aware of the worries that tug at your concentration. If your awareness drifts away from your “anchor,” notice where it goes and gently redirect your awareness back to the breathing or sounds. This trains your mind to remain aware when your worries begin to creep in and to let them go. You may eventually increase your meditation practice to 15- 30mins.
If you treat your worries as habits that you can train or as a limit and learn to overcome your negative emotions with inner calm and peace, you can “get out of your head”, overcome obstacles, and live your life with fulfillment and zest. Remember, feeling good about yourself is not a luxury, it is your right– So stop worrying and start living!
Still, need help?
You will walk away learning how to change your mindset from worrying about things that could go wrong, to living a life with positive energy and stress-free enthusiasm, like a Warrior.