How to Stop Worrying

June 28, 2022   •  Posted in: 

We all have our day-to-day worries, but worrying can become an incredibly stress-inducing experience.

Although the feeling of worry is a normal human emotion, understanding how to react to and address it is essential. Without the proper resources, knowledge, and coping mechanisms, over-worrying can take over your life and make you constantly feel on edge.

In this article, we will talk about how to know when you are worrying too much – and how to stop it. Here are 12 tips to help you halt your worrying thoughts.

 

Over-Worrying: How Much Worrying is Too Much?

Worrying is a natural part of the human experience, and many different events can cause us to worry – but how do you know when you are worrying too much?

When a person over-worries, it can become highly disruptive to their daily life. Over-worrying can increase feelings of anxiety and inhibit your ability to focus on other priorities, such as work and relationships.

Without the right approach to alleviating your worries, poor coping mechanisms or harmful habits may result.

For instance, many people use cigarettes and other tobacco or nicotine-containing products to help reduce their stress and anxiety levels – despite research that smoking can worsen anxiety. [1] Others may use food for self-soothing when experiencing stress and anxiety. These self-medicating approaches highlight how allowing your worry to dictate your behavior can negatively impact your well-being in the long run.

The key to recognizing when you are worrying too much is to focus on your self-awareness. As you feel your sense of worry increasing, stop and ask yourself:

  • Are these worries affecting my ability to complete my daily tasks?
  • Do I feel the need to mask my feelings of worry with food or substances?
  • Has my normal behavior changed significantly since beginning to worry?
  • Are the people around me noticing or commenting on my changed behavior and worried state?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, there is a good chance you are worrying too much.
Over-worrying can result not just in mental and behavioral changes, but physical side effects as well. Let’s look at some of these side effects when you over-worry.

Physical Side Effects of Over-Worrying

Worrying too much can impact more than just your day-to-day mentality. It can also have moderate to severe impacts on your physical health and well-being.

The physical side effects of over-worrying can include:

  • Sleep deprivation or disrupted sleep
  • Loss of appetite and nausea
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Teeth grinding
  • Picking at the skin and hair

In addition to these physical side effects, people who over-worry may also experience mental side effects such as:

  • An inability to focus or concentrate
  • Irritability or agitation
  • Feeling indecisive

Excessive worrying can also cause an uptick in your body’s cortisol levels, resulting in various stress-induced side effects that can be frustrating. Cortisol is a hormone your body releases when it perceives stress, often credited for producing your “fight or flight” response in stressful situations. Although cortisol is a naturally-occurring hormone with benefits to the body, too much of it can result in adverse effects.

These adverse effects can include: [2]

  • Increased blood sugar levels
  • Weight gain
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart disease.* Too much cortisol alone is not responsible for heart disease. Still, it can result in constricted arteries and high blood pressure, leading to damage or plaque buildup that can cause heart diseases like heart attacks or strokes.

 

Who are the Worriers?

While everyone can experience feelings of worry, some people are more prone to it than others. The most prominent people more prone to worrying are those living with various anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are one of the most prevalent mental health disorders – affecting roughly 18% of the U.S. population annually. There’s no question that people dealing with this type of disorder are likely to worry more than the average person.

However, there are other specific groups of people that research has shown to be more prone to feelings of worry. For instance, peer-reviewed research published in 2016 revealed that people in the following groups were more likely to experience feelings of worry and anxiety disorders: [3]

  • Women (5.2% to 8.7%)
  • Young adults (2.5% to 9.1%)
  • People with chronic illnesses (1.4% to 70%)
  • People from Euro/Anglo cultures (3.8% to 10.4%) – this is compared to the prevalence of anxiety in other cultures, including Indo/Asian (2.8%), African (4.4%), Central/Eastern European (3.2%), North African/Middle Eastern (4.9%), and Ibero/Latin (6.2%).

This research reveals that the most common factors affecting a person’s level of worry include gender, age, health, and cultural background.

However, any person in any social group can experience a heightened sense of worry, depending on events or circumstances in their lives. Therefore, even if a person does not fit into one of these more prevalent groups, they can still suffer from the same adverse side effects of over-worrying.

Additionally, highly emotional or empathetic people may also feel a greater sense of worry due to being very aware of the people, attitudes, and events around them. People whose opinions and perspectives are guided by emotion and empathy may worry about things that may not directly impact them, such as politics, economics, international conflicts, and other related concerns. This issue is likely to be more pronounced in today’s society, where socio-economic and political conflicts are perceived to be at an all-time high.

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Why Is It So Hard to Stop Worrying?

For someone dealing with a chronic sense of worry, stopping these feelings can be tremendously difficult.

Why? For starters, constant worrying can often be rooted in a person’s core beliefs or behaviors, and changing these beliefs and behaviors is no small task. On top of this, if you have already developed poor coping mechanisms, you must work hard to undo these before making meaningful changes to your everyday behavior and thoughts.

According to Psychology Today:

“ – Many of us believe that worrying about a problem is similar to problem-solving. But, unfortunately, though it may feel like we’re doing something productive, worrying seldom fixes our problems.”

This insight from Psychology Today presents an excellent point – while worrying helps us bring attention to conflicts in our lives, it rarely offers any sort of resolution. Although worrying can feel very active in our minds, it does not help us find objective answers or solutions to our most pressing problems.

Consider this: worrying is inherently a result of overwhelming feelings of stress or uncertainty. It does not automatically inspire us to take action and can often do the opposite. If we allow our worries to fester, taking action can become intimidating or even frightening, causing us to be paralyzed by fear.

In short, stopping yourself from worrying is one challenging task to accomplish. You can, however, significantly simplify it with the right tools, tricks, and approach.

 

What Makes Us Worry?

Many things in life can make us worry. Every person is unique, so the things that make you worry most may be entirely different from your partner, friends, family, neighbors, or random strangers on the street.

One crucial factor in understanding the cause of your feelings of worry is learning more about your triggers. The National Alliance defines a trigger on Mental Illness (NAMI) as a stressor that leads to an “adverse emotional reaction.” Triggers can be both actions or situations that foster this negative emotional response.

NAMI further states that there are 4 main types of triggers:

  • External Triggers: An external trigger is something outside our control realm – such as international conflict – that causes us moderate to severe feelings of worry. The solution to dealing with external triggers is often to stop engaging with the source of the trigger, like news broadcasts or other forms of media that commonly talk about these topics.
  • Internal Triggers: An internal trigger is rooted in our emotions and fears, such as a fear of other people’s reactions or a fear of abandonment. Dealing with internal triggers can be a bit more complicated, as it requires you to both confront your inner conflict and communicate your needs to the people around you to help you feel more secure and stable-minded.
  • Trauma Triggers: For people who have experienced trauma, anything associated with that trauma can become a trigger that reminds them of how they felt and what they experienced while going through the trauma. This trauma event can include people, places, sounds, objects, events, etc. Trauma triggers and responses often require more intensive therapy to treat.
  • Symptom Triggers: Certain symptoms can catalyze an emotional or worried response from people. For instance, not eating enough food or getting enough sleep can result in more emotionally unstable symptoms, which in turn result in greater feelings of worry. The key to symptom triggers is to be in tune with your body and learn to identify when a physical symptom is causing you mental anguish.

Understanding these four types of triggers and analyzing what triggers you may have in your own life is the first step to gaining more clarity on what causes you to worry.

Everyday Things We Worry About

Knowing the different types of triggers that can result in over-worrying is good, but you must also focus on identifying the root causes of these triggers.

Everyday things the average person worries about can include:

  • Work & Job Security: When you feel insecure in terms of your employment and job security, this can leak into all different parts of your life. In modern culture especially, a career is a defining characteristic of many of our lives. Therefore, feeling uncertain of your professional future or fearing that your work is not as high-quality as you would like can be a severe trigger for over-worrying and job-related anxiety.
  • Relationships: Relationships take a lot of work, and sometimes that effort may feel unnoticed or unappreciated. Worrying about the state of a relationship – be it romantic or platonic – can throw us into a spiral of emotional distress. We can amplify these feelings of relationship-based worry if we feel a breakdown of communication occurring where we cannot express our needs adequately.
  • Money: Money makes the world go ’round – and it can also make your world come to a shuddering halt if it becomes a significant stressor in your life. Worrying about money is normal, but allowing yourself to become sick with stress is not. Whether it’s paying off debt, looming bills, or simply learning better financial literacy, money is one of the biggest triggers of worry for any person in today’s society.
  • Health: Feeling concerned about your health can overlap with other worries, including how your health affects your relationships, job security, and financial stability. When you become worried about your health, it can be easy to allow yourself to spiral into worse-case-scenario thinking. This issue is genuine for people suffering from ongoing, chronic, or terminal illnesses and conditions, unsure of the future for their health.
  • Family: Family is a hugely important part of our lives but it can also be one of the most stressful parts. Living up to family expectations, dealing with internal family conflicts, and any other family-related issues can take a toll on our mental health. In turn, we may find ourselves wrapped up in over-thinking and over-worrying about our families, while simultaneously throwing our needs and well-being to the wayside.
  • Feelings of Guilt: Guilt is an intense emotion that fuels a worrying mindset. When you feel guilt over something, it can plague your mind. Unfortunately, we don’t know where feelings of guilt stem from. There may be instances where we feel guilty but have no way of remediating the situation.

 

How to Stop Worrying About Things You Can’t Control

The cycle of worrying perpetuates when dealing with stressors outside of your control. Yet, these are often the things to stop worrying about regularly.

There are three key steps to take:

1. Determine What You Can Control

The first step to halting your worry over things outside your control is to determine what is in your control. This method will help you to feel like you have a better grip on your own life and emotions, making it easier to let go of external stressors.

For instance, you had a great job that you lost. There is nothing you can do about the fact that you no longer have that job or that you are now temporarily unemployed.

However, what you can do is decide how you will react to this new life circumstance. For example, maybe you felt bored in your previous position and now have the freedom to explore new interests. On the other hand, perhaps you were considering going back to school, and now you have the perfect opportunity to do so.

Or, maybe, you were delighted with your old job and were met with an unfortunate life circumstance. But, even in this case, you can embrace this opportunity to find a new job and expand your professional network.

Rather than looking at the situation as something to worry about, think of it as a new opportunity to get to know yourself better and look for greater opportunities you hadn’t even considered before due to being comfortable in your position.

Mentally reframing negative situations like this is a crucial step to regaining a sense of control over your own life. Try it out for yourself – identify a cause of worry in your life that you have no control over and list out the relevant factors you can control – your reactions and emotions being two of the biggest.

2. Manage Your Expectations of Control

Many of us want more control over our personal and professional lives than is reasonable to expect.

This view makes sense, of course. Feeling in control of every aspect of our lives gives us a sense of comfort and security, whereas feeling out of control causes us to worry. As we have covered, over-worrying can cause adverse emotional and physical reactions, so wanting to avoid that feeling is sensible and rational.

However, what is not rational is expecting always to maintain perfect control over everything, all of the time. Life is full of curveballs and unexpected changes that snatch away our sense of control in mere seconds. When you irrationally believe that having total control over your life is a necessity, these challenges in life can throw your mentality way off balance.

Thus, it is recommended and highly necessary to manage your expectations of control. While aiming to have a sense of control over your life is normal and natural, pushing yourself – or even punishing yourself – for losing that sense of control is a behavior you must confront.

3. Accept the Things You Can’t Control

Often, the best thing you can do when you lose control of your worries is to accept them and let them go.

One great example of worrying outside of our control is a natural increase in anxiety during spring. (Anxiety Increases in the Spring? (aplaceofhope.com)). However, when it comes to seasonal changes that affect your mental health, the best thing you can do is accept that these changes come and go and that your mental equilibrium will rebalance itself over time.

No matter how hard you try, you will never stop spring from coming. That is entirely out of your control and you must accept it – but that doesn’t mean everything is out of your control. As noted, you can work to regulate your own emotions and reactions to these types of uncontrollable changes.

In psychology, there is an important idea called “radical acceptance.” Radical acceptance is putting in conscious effort to accept the things we cannot control by honoring our own emotions and life circumstances. Rather than fighting to find a solution, sometimes the best option is to accept things how they are and move on, viewing your new situation as a starting point rather than a hurdle to overcome.

According to a PsychCentral article on radical acceptance:

“Fully accepting things as they are, instead of ignoring, avoiding, or wishing the situation were different, can be a critical step in moving through a difficult experience to experiencing more meaning.”

Keep this idea of radical acceptance in mind as we now move into 12 actionable tips on how you can stop worrying so much in your day-to-day life.

 

12 Tips on How to Stop Worrying So Much

Taking steps toward reducing and alleviating your feelings of worry is the key to maintaining a healthier and more stable mindset.

A crucial factor that helps you stop worrying so much is to focus on caring for yourself. While taking this action is for your benefit, it can take time to change your behaviors and habits, so make sure to treat yourself with grace and patience while you undergo this transition.

Here are our 12 tips to stop over-worrying:

1. Make Time for a Daily Worry Period

As you work to control your worrying thoughts, it is essential to understand that some worrying is okay and even natural. However, by trying to block these thoughts out entirely, all you are truly doing is suppressing them – which can result in an explosion of worry later on.

Instead, set aside time each day all to yourself to worry in what we like to call a daily worry period.

This daily worry period goes along with the idea of radical acceptance – rather than forcing yourself to turn away from these thoughts, fully allow yourself to submerge in them. Let yourself delve into your worries and let the emotions run through you, with the only limitation being that you will only let this happen for a set period.
Ideally, your daily worry period should be between 15 to 20 minutes each day. This duration is sufficient time to honor your feelings without allowing yourself to spiral into anxiety.

Additionally, you should position your daily worry period in your day when it will not be too disruptive to your emotions and well-being. For example, you shouldn’t practice your daily worry period right before an important event, such as a work presentation or a health appointment.

Your daily worry period should take place when you have time to allow yourself to express your worries fully and recover from these thoughts properly.
A great time for allowing your daily worries could be before a set meditation session when you are already planning to calm your thoughts and re-center your mind.

2. List Out and Review Your Worries

Sometimes, our worries can feel more serious and pressing because we are unsure what the true root causes of these feelings are.

To address this, list out each of your worries in a notepad or journal. As you write down each worry, consider whether it is the actual source of the feeling, or if there is another deeper worry underneath it trying to work its way out.

You can also take this opportunity to add additional notes, such as unusual circumstances or events from specific days that may have temporarily increased the intensity of your emotions.

This write-and-review process can help you to make more sense of what you are experiencing and why you feel so worried all the time. It can also help you to identify the stressors and triggers in your life that may be causing you to over-worry without you even realizing it.

During your daily worry period that we discussed above, you can refer back to this list and consider your significant worries of the day. You can review your list and notes, helping yourself organize your thoughts and maintain a better sense of self-awareness.

3. Divide Your Worry List Into Controllable and Uncontrollable Worries

To feel in control of your life, you must take the time to identify what aspects are reasonably within your realm of control.

Along with listing out and reviewing your worries, you should also take the time to divide your worries into two categories: controllable worries and uncontrollable worries.

As we have covered, understanding what you can and cannot control is essential for reframing your way of thinking. Allowing yourself to stress over the things you cannot control leaves little room for more productive thinking, inhibiting you from finding realistic solutions.

While you should not force yourself to stop worrying about the uncontrollable things in your life, acknowledging that they are, in fact, out of your control is the first step to moving on from these thoughts.

Likewise, acknowledging what you CAN control ensures that you can focus on the problems in your life that are easier to deal with. In turn, you end up feeling a greater sense of confidence from knowing which areas of your life require change and that you are fully capable of carrying out that change.

4. Challenge Your Worries and Anxieties

Although you should avoid shaming yourself for over-worrying, it can be helpful to challenge your worries and anxieties as they occur.

To challenge a worry, you must be brave and ask yourself hard questions, such as:

    • Is this truly a worry I hold, or am I using this to cover up a different, deeper feeling?
    • Am I afraid of this exact thing, or am I more afraid of taking action to change it?
    • What can I do to make myself feel better about this specific worry?
    • Are there solutions I know can help me to feel more secure?
    • Is this something I need to worry about right now, or can I worry about it later?

Challenging your worries and anxieties can feel daunting, as it requires a high level of self-reflection.

However, it can be a beneficial and healthy method for processing your feelings better in real-time. Plus, this practice of challenging your worries can also aid you in identifying the controllable versus the uncontrollable anxieties you hold.

5. Disrupt the Negative Worrying Pattern by Doing New Things

In many cases of over-worrying, the best thing you can do is distract yourself.

When you allow yourself to constantly over-worry, you fall into a pattern of behavior that can be difficult to break. For example, you may commonly search the Internet when you begin feeling worried to try and find immediate solutions that can help.

To break this pattern of behavior, you must first stop participating in the action that allows you to spiral further into your worry – in this example, searching the web. You can disrupt this pattern by purposefully doing different activities, such as reading a new book or visiting a park you have never been to before.

Doing something new that is not a regular part of your routine can break your negative cycles while also spicing up your day-to-day life. It can also help you gain a better perspective and possibly realize that the worries you held are not as severe as you may have originally thought.

6. Practice Mindfulness & Breathing Techniques

Many of the physical side effects of over-worrying – such as sweating, shaking, headaches, and more – can be traced back to poor breathing techniques.

As your anxiety rises, so does your heart rate. This issue can result in irregular breathing, which can cause your worrying to accelerate as your body physically reacts to the change. In truth, your body will always respond to these types of physical irregularities – and if you are unaware of how your body typically reacts, this can cause you to worry even more about why you are feeling this way.

The practice of mindfulness focuses on building a person’s awareness of what they are feeling in the current moment, free from interpretation or judgment about those feelings. By living in the moment through mindfulness, you can teach yourself to melt your worries away, as most worries deal with the future rather than the present.

Moreover, mindfulness teaches you to pay attention to your current thoughts and your current physical state. Mindfulness brings your attention to any irregularities in your breathing, allowing you to breathe slower and calm yourself purposefully.

Try it now – focus on what your body and mind are currently feeling, but do not attempt to interpret these feelings. As you do, take slow and deep breaths, focusing on how the breath moves through your airways.

Practice this for at least 5 to 10 minutes a day.

7. Spend More Time Doing Activities You Love

Here’s a question for you to answer – when do you feel the most at peace and free from worry?

Chances are, your answer has to do with an activity you love. This activity could be anything from reading or cooking to being outdoors or taking a drive. When you participate in an activity you love, your mind focuses more on joy, leaving little room for worry.

There may be guilt attached to this feeling of joy for some people. Perhaps your worries are centered around a sick loved one or a problem at work, and participating in something fun can make you act self-centered.

If this describes how you feel, we urge you to remember that particular worries are outside of your control. When you forbid yourself from having fun or feeling joy, you make it harder to find positive and productive solutions to your problems.

So give yourself the freedom to enjoy the day and cast your worries aside to focus on the things you love!

8. Exercise More

Regular exercise is an integral part of any person’s mental health.

According to the Mayo Clinic, partaking in regular exercise can help lower not only the symptoms of anxiety but also improve your mood and self-confidence and help you relax. [4]

When we say exercise, this doesn’t mean you need to become a bodybuilder at the gym. A daily walk can be sufficient for getting some fresh air and clearing your mind from whatever is bothering you. Stretching and yoga are other examples of low-impact exercises that can make a tremendous difference in how much you find yourself worrying throughout the day.

9. Practice Meditation and Relaxation

Like practicing mindfulness and breathing exercises, practicing various meditation and relaxation strategies can hugely impact helping you to let go of your worries.

Setting aside time for a daily worry period, and allotting time in your day for meditation, can be a great way to let go of your worries. Mindfulness is just one type of meditation but there are many other forms of the practice – including spiritual meditation, and movement meditation.

You need to experiment and figure out what works best for you!

10. Cook & Eat Healthier Foods

Incorporating more exercise into your daily routine isn’t the only health-oriented change you can make to help improve your over-worrying behaviors.

Cooking and eating healthier foods is excellent for your well-being, but research shows that it can lead to significant, positive impacts on your mental health.[5] For example, according to Harvard Health, foods rich in nutrients such as zinc and magnesium can help keep your anxiety levels lower and more even. [6]

Additionally, a diet filled with over-processed foods can result in poor mental health. On the contrary, diets that consist of whole foods and proper servings of fruits and vegetables are more likely to help you maintain a healthy mentality.

11. Talk About Your Worries with Friends and Family

A lot of us worry about burdening our friends and families with our anxieties. As a result, we may choose to keep these thoughts to ourselves, allowing them to fester in our minds silently.

This isolating method is not the approach to take. Instead, you should reach out to supportive friends and family in your times of need. Just like how you surely want to support them, your loved ones also want to support you, but they can only help as much as you let them.

It is essential to consider who is best to speak to about specific issues, as friends and family are not the same as mental health professionals.

Our final tip – when should you consider speaking with a therapist?

12. Consider Speaking to a Therapist

Therapy is a mental health service that benefits millions of people every single day.

By talking to a therapist, you gain access to a judgment-free zone where you can freely express your worries without fear of consequences in your real life. Not only this, but a therapist will have the training and resources to provide you with the proper support you need.

The reality of therapy is that anyone can benefit from it, no matter the severity of their problems or worries. If you find your worried thoughts to be inhibiting your ability to function or find joy in your daily life, reaching out to a therapist can be a life-changing decision.

 

Final Thoughts: Seek Anxiety Treatment at The Center • A Place of HOPE

At The Center • A Place of HOPE, we offer specialized anxiety treatment for anyone suffering from anxiety and over-worrying.

Luckily, anxiety disorders are one of the most treatable mental disorders, making it very likely for treatment to help you. Even for people who may not have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, our anxiety treatment can help you shed light on your worries, develop better habits, and get your life back on track.


[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0074774215000574?via%3Dihub
[2] https://www.premierhealth.com/your-health/articles/women-wisdom-wellness-/beware-high-levels-of-cortisol-the-stress-hormone#:~:text=As%20your%20body%20perceives%20stress,alive%20for%20thousands%20of%20years.
[3] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/brb3.497
[4] https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469#:~:text=Regular%20exercise%20can%20increase%20self,by%20stress%2C%20depression%20and%20anxiety.
[5] https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/09/food-mental-health
[6] https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-strategies-to-ease-anxiety-201604139441#:~:text=Foods%20rich%20in%20zinc%20such,3s%20may%20help%20reduce%20anxiety.

Dr. Gregory Jantz

Pioneering Whole Person Care over thirty years ago, Dr. Gregory Jantz is an innovator in the treatment of mental health. He is a best-selling author of over 45 books, and a go-to media authority on behavioral health afflictions, appearing on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN. Dr. Jantz leads a team of world-class, licensed, and...

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