Worrying is like a rocking chair; it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
If you want to live a happy, fulfilled life, you need to stop worrying and start living. Easier said than done, right? Worrying is something that comes naturally to all of us. It’s an innate human reaction to feeling uncertain or threatened.
In small doses, worry can be helpful. It can motivate us to take action and solve problems. But when worry becomes excessive, it can take over our lives and stop us from enjoying the present moment.
Excessive worry is a type of anxiety disorder. It’s characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) tend to worry about a lot of different things, including their health, family, work, and finances.
GAD can be debilitating. It can interfere with your work, social life, and sleep. If you have GAD, you may find it hard to concentrate, and you may feel on edge or tense all the time. You may also have physical symptoms, such as headaches, muscle tension, or stomach problems.
If you’re struggling with excessive worry, there are things you can do to ease your symptoms and regain control of your life.
1. Challenge your worries
When you find yourself worrying, take a step back and ask yourself whether there’s any evidence to support your worries. Are you overestimating the probability of a negative outcome? Are you blowing things out of proportion?
For example, if you’re worried that you’ll get fired from your job, ask yourself what the evidence is. Have you done anything to warrant getting fired? Is there a history of people being fired from your company for no good reason?
Chances are, your worry is unfounded. But even if there’s a small chance that your worry could come true, that doesn’t mean you should dwell on it. Worrying excessively about things that may never happen is a waste of time and energy.
2. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that involves focusing your attention on the present moment. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment. You’re not trying to change anything, you’re just awareness of what is.
Research shows that mindfulness can help reduce anxiety and worry. One study found that people who participated in an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program had less anxiety and depression than those who didn’t participate in the program.
3. Break the cycle of avoidance
If you have GAD, you may try to avoid activities or situations that make you feel anxious. While it may seem like avoiding anxiety-provoking situations would make sense, it actually does the opposite.
Avoidance only reinforces your fears. It keeps you from learning that your fears are exaggerated and that you can handle the anxiety-provoking situation.
4. Get rid of “what if” thinking
“What if” thinking is a common type of worry. It’s when you fixate on a negative outcome and play out a worst-case scenario in your head.
For example, you may be worried about an upcoming presentation at work. You start thinking, “What if I make a mistake? What if I forget what I’m going to say? What if everyone laughs at me?”
These “what if” worries are usually based on irrational fears. It’s unlikely that all of these things will actually happen. And even if one of them does happen, it’s not the end of the world.
5. Develop a coping statement
A coping statement is a positive affirmation that you can use to counter negative thoughts. When you’re feeling anxious or worried, repeat your coping statement to yourself.
For example, if you’re worried about an upcoming test, you might say to yourself, “I’ve studied hard for this test and I’m prepared. I can do this.”
6. Be accepting of uncertainty
One of the things that fuels worry is a need for certainty. We want to know that everything is going to be okay. But the truth is, life is unpredictable. We can’t control everything, and that’s okay.
Try to be accepting of the fact that there will always be some uncertainty in life. Remind yourself that you can handle whatever comes your way, even if you don’t know what’s going to happen.
7. Take action
If your worry is based on a real problem that you can do something about, take action. For example, if you’re worried about your finances, make a budget. If you’re worried about your health, make an appointment with your doctor.
Taking action will help you feel more in control and less anxious. It’s also a reminder that you can handle whatever life throws your way.
8. Seek professional help
If you’ve tried these tips and you’re still struggling with excessive worry, you may need professional help. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for anxiety disorders like GAD.
CBT is a type of therapy that helps you identify and change negative thinking and behavior patterns. It can help you learn how to manage your anxiety and worry in a more constructive way.
If you think you might benefit from CBT, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. They can help you find a therapist in your area.