stop worry
walking out of worry

Worrying is a natural human process.  At some point, all of us worry.  However, for those who have anxiety, worry can become our inner monologue.  While I don’t believe worry is helpful there are those who say it helps, when the problem is solvable.   

I have so much to do tomorrow.  How will I get it all done?

This kind of worry may allow us to think of creative solutions and why it so often seems to work.  These are situations where we can control the outcome.  Simply making a schedule or to-do list may be the answer.  Worry however becomes unproductive and not healthy when we can’t control the outcome and continue to worry.  In these situations, worrying about things we cannot control, hurts our mental health and peace. 

This traffic is at a standstill, and I am late.  My mom isn’t feeling well, and it looks like cancer.  

These are examples of problems that cannot be solved by more worry.  It is important to recognize and acknowledge what we can’t change.  This is the opposite of worry.  This is acceptance.  No amount of worry will make traffic move or a parent healthy.  In fact, excessive worry during these times takes away from the ability to problem solve and creates unhealthy responses.  Engaging in all or nothing thinking, expecting the worst, feeling like a failure, and catastrophic thinking blocks your ability to problem solve and rest.  It does not help you become more prepared; it steals your mental and physical energy. 

As a single mom of three kids, I was a worrier.  I would have argued that worrying helped me manage schedules, deal with sickness and solve problems.  I felt worrying made me ready when things went wrong. What I did not realize was how worry hurt my mental health and peace.  Worrying caused me to be preoccupied with the future, making it impossible to enjoy the present.  I thought my kids needed me to solve every problem before it materialized.  Instead, my kids needed me to be present, to laugh more, and accept the uncontrollable.  This is important because the uncontrollable is always with us. 

So how do we stop worry? 

  1. Journal – Whether it is a bullet journal that looks like a list or a full essay, writing out your worries does help.  The point is to allow the worry to flow from your head to the paper.  As we write, we feel lighter.  Bullet journaling can also help find solutions if they exist.  From this point, you know if you can control the outcome or not.  
  2. Distract yourself with something you can do – You do not have to just sit and worry.  When you find yourself stuck in this cycle, get up, do something productive.  Doing something you can control often helps rather than sitting around feeling bad about what you can not change.  
  3. Set a worry timer – While this is not the healthiest practice, it is a good training tool.  Give yourself time to worry.  Set a timer for 30 minutes and allow yourself to worry as much as you like.  When the timer goes off, you have to stop.  If you have not solved the problem in this amount of time, it is likely something you have to simply accept that you can’t change or control.  You are taking the power of the worry back.  
  4. Practice mindfulness – Worries are generally about future anxiety or past regrets.  Either way, it takes us out of the present moment.  Engaging in mindfulness activities such as progressive relaxation, body scan, belly breathing, or a grounding activity like 5-4-3-2-1 can help you focus on the present moment.  Every time you focus on the present you are retraining your brain from worry.  

5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique

  1. Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a window, door, chair, candle, and paperclip. 
  2. Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. Maybe you can touch your clothes, phone, hair, and pen.
  3. Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This includes any sound. Perhaps you hear the television in another room, a dog barking outside, and the furnace or air conditioning.
  4. Acknowledge TWO things you can smell.  You may need to relocate for this one, but it could be a candle, cologne, soap, food, etc.  
  5. Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. This can be mint, toothpaste, any food, or even water. 

If worry continues to be problematic, consider seeking a therapist or meditation coach to break the cycle of worry.

Connect for more mindfulness tools.

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