How much of our energy and time is spent worrying about things we can’t control?
We actually have around 60,000 thoughts a day. Which does make for a very busy brain. Unfortunately many of these thoughts will be worries:
About the past – “I should have said that, what must they think of me?”
About the future - an upcoming job interview, an exam, or a first date, not having enough money for Christmas.
We even worry about things in the present – traffic, weather, queues at the supermarket.
Worrying is actually helpful when it prompts us into action to solve a problem. But if worrying becomes excessive and you become preoccupied with "what if’s" and worst-case scenarios, it can become an emotional health problem for you - sapping your emotional energy, sending your anxiety levels sky high, and making a mess of your daily life.
Unrelenting anxious thoughts and fears can also impact our physical health – many of our worrying thoughts are wasting energy because they’re about things we can’t control and they can lead to stress and knock-on health concerns. This may make us feel restless and jumpy, cause insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, and muscle tension.
You may even take your negative feelings out on the people closest to you, self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or try to distract yourself by zoning out in front of screens. Not great for relationship health!
Plus all of these symptoms of excessive worrying make it difficult to concentrate at work, home or school.
Chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more balanced, less fearful perspective. Here are some approaches you can try. And “don’t worry” - telling yourself “don’t worry” isn’t one of them!
Get busy - you literally can’t focus on two things at once!
Get active - exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment.
Relax - try progressive muscle relaxation to help break the endless loop of worrying by focusing your mind on your body instead of your thoughts
Try deep breathing - calm your mind and quieten negative thoughts. Another way to focus on body and breath rather than dodgy thoughts…
Prepare yourself mentally for the worst outcome on a major worry, so you are able to better deal with small things as they crop up
Don’t cry over spilled milk - sometimes we need to “let things go” and not allow small things to influence our mood
Talk about your worries - with a trusted someone who will listen without judging, criticizing, or being distracted!
Put it into perspective - ask yourself whether there is a more positive realistic way of looking at the situation? What would you say to a friend who had this worry?
Finally, distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries. The controllable and uncontrollable. If you're a chronic worrier, the vast majority of your anxious thoughts will probably be uncontrollable, and therefore unsolvable. Learning to distinguish between them is a GREAT technique to practice and master.
Yes my worry is SOLVABLE… Productive, solvable worries are those you can take action on right away. For example, if you're worried about your bills, you could phone to ask about flexible payment options.
So start brainstorming! Make a list of all the possible answers or solutions you can think of. Don’t get too concerned about finding the perfect solution, just focus on the things you have the ability to change, rather than the circumstances or realities beyond your control. After you've analysed your options, create a plan of attack and take action!
No, my worry is UNSOLVABLE… Unproductive, unsolvable worries are those for which there is no corresponding action. "What if I get cancer someday?" or "What if my kid gets into an accident?"
Here, you can do one or two things:
Accept the uncertainty.
Worrying is often how we try to predict the future but sadly, thinking about all the things that could go wrong in the future doesn't make life any more predictable. Do you have courage to accept the uncertainty? Accept that you can’t predict the future and move on.
Ask what’s the MOST LIKELY outcome?
Focusing on worst-case scenarios will only keep you from enjoying the good things you have in your life right now. To redirect your attention from the uncontrollable worry – ask yourself, what’s the likelihood it will happen the way you are imagining? If the likelihood is very low, is it possible to live with the small chance that something negative may happen?
Not all of these may work for you, but surely it’s worth a try! Just imagine what life might be like if you were able to make more of your 60,000 daily thoughts about what brings you joy, your tasks at hand and your relationships, than dodgy uncontrollable worries! Happy days!