Worry is a threat to my productivity and sanity. I’ve come close to being almost destroyed by this emotion in the past – it sucked away my hope and convinced me I had no future. I’m highly motivated to research effective strategies for conquering worry and here are eight that have worked for me:
1. Remember Previous Episodes of Worry
Think back to previous episodes of worry in your life. Was there a time when you felt sure you were on the verge of complete ruin? What happened? Try to remember as many episodes of past worry as you can – did things turn out as badly as you expected? If you were so wrong in your predictions last time, what makes you think you are right this time?
I’ve found that remembering previous episodes of intense worry is the most effective thing I can do to bring my current woes into perspective. I can see that my predictions of doom are always wrong, and this weakens my faith in my current prediction.
Bonus Tip: One thing I try to do now when I’m overcome by worry is to send an email to my future self. I arrange for it to arrive at my inbox in a few months time – there is a free tool called FutureMe that is perfect for this. Writing this email reminds me that my situation is not going to last forever – it also reminds my future self that all my worry was unnecessary.
2. Think about What You Would Tell a Friend in Your position
I’m really good at telling other people how to live their life – I think most of us are. It’s a real pity I’m not so diligent when it comes dishing out sensible advice in response to my own disasters. It may be helpful if you try to imagine what you would say to a friend if they were in your position. Doing this is going to give you some emotional distance from your problems, and you are going to be able to think much more clearly.
3. Remember You Can Only Do Your Best
My biggest worry is that I’m not going to be able to support my family – this is what keeps me awake at night. I can’t even bare to consider the possibility because it would be worse than being told I was about to die. I’ll do my best to always support my family, and the reality is that this is all I can do. So long as I’m doing my best, there is no reason for me to be worried.
If you are doing your best to resolve the situation, there is just no reason for you to worry either.
4. Focus on What You Can Fix
I’ve allowed worry to paralyze me in the past, and this just meant that my situation deteriorated further. My reluctance to take action on these occasions was due to my unwillingness to leave my comfort zone – I just wanted to take to my bed and hide from the big bad world. The truth is that I’m going to be facing discomfort one way or the other, and the path of least pain is to get out there and do whatever is necessary to fix my problems.
Once you start doing things to fix your situation, you can expect the intensity of your worry to lessen. I’ve gone from feeling total despair in the morning to optimistic by the afternoon just because I took a few simple steps to improve the situation. It may be unclear what action you need to take but doing anything is going to be better than inaction and worry.
5. Choose Not to Predict a Negative Outcome When Faced with Uncertainty
I’m a worrier. This means that whenever I’m faced with uncertainty, I expect there to be a negative outcome. This is completely illogical because in the vast majority of cases of uncertainty the outcome is either neutral or positive. We can choose to expect the outcome of any uncertainty to be positive. We can hold onto the hope that this terrible event is a blessing in disguise – there is a high probability that this is the case.
6. Focus on the Physical Sensation of Worry
When I am going through some type of crisis (usually work related), I experience worry as a physical sensation in my body. It is like a hot stone in my lower abdomen. I’ve found that it is a great help to focus on this sensation in a soothing way – imagine it is a small frightened child. I’m not sure why it works, but by focusing on this physical sensation, it eases my overall level of worry. If I ignore this physical symptom, my mental state deteriorates until I begin having panic attacks and I’m on the verge of having a breakdown.
7. Don’t Worry about Being Worried
I hate worry, but it is just a part of life. I’ve heard some experts claim that the reason ‘natural worriers’ like me have such a hard time is that we just don’t like being worried – we worry about being worried and this just causes everything to escalate. If you have hit a bad patch in life, it is to be expected that there is going to be a bit of worry. Just acknowledge this reality, while at the same time making sure that this emotion doesn’t cause too much disruption.
8. Spend Time with Other People
It is a mistake to isolate when you are feeling worried – it just means that you are at the mercy of negative thinking. Spend as much time as you can with other people, and it is going to make it easier to get through the current crisis.