Constant preoccupation with “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios leads to high anxieties and unrelenting doubts, which are rather exhausting, stressful and paralyzing. The vicious circle of worrying is manageable with the following strategies:
1.”Worry time”-Limit your worrying by establishing a time during the day and a place in which you grant yourself the time to worry.The place should be quiet, preferably private and distractions free. Set a time in your schedule and decide that only during i.e. 30 minutes around that time you are allowed to do all your worrying. Do not schedule it around bed time. If during the day you start to worry, write the worries down and postponed the actual worrying until your worrying time.Point 4 below suggests a few ways which enable you to do it. Seeing your thoughts on paper makes your thoughts more concrete, real and enables you to analyze them better.Writing down also helps to perceive the worries more objectively.
When the time comes, read and evaluate each one of the worries that you wrote down. Are they justified? You might decide that some thoughts contain thinking errors that can be adjusted; you might realize that some worries you can actually solve or even that some thoughts are unimportant, unnecessary,unrealistic and thus can easily be dismissed. By doing that you have saved yourself valuable time and energy that otherwise would have been wasted. If the thought is still bothering you, allow yourself to worry about it, but only for the amount of time you have decided on and not a minute longer. Worries that you have not had time to ponder about, get postponed to the next day. On the next day you proceed in the same manner. You will find that sometimes worries that have been pushed to another day do not seem as pressing as they did a day before.
To examine the effectiveness of this technique you can do a little experiment. One day worry as usual and on another set this limit. Do that for a week and then compare the differences. Did you feel, think and behave differently due to this change? What are the costs and benefits of continuing to uncontrollably worry all day long? Is it helpful? Does it improve your life? Your mood? Your productivity? Explore and write down your thoughts, observations, emotions, behaviours and reflections.
2. Try problem solving instead– Worrying might make you feel like you’re getting something accomplished by thinking about it but in actuality it leads to nowhere. Without actually doing something about it, you are left in the same place, thus don’t confuse worrying with problem solving. If you worry about actual and solvable problems that are within your control then instead of just worrying about it, take a step to find a solution and solve the problem. Start brainstorming the possible solutions to your problem and make a list of all the ideas that pop up in your mind. Write it all down without any judgements. Even the smallest and the craziest idea might have some merit to it. Then evaluated your options, choose the best solution and make a plan of action. Carry the plan out, evaluate the results and draw conclusions accordingly. Doing something about it in itself will reduce the worrying.
3.Bring your attention back to the present– Instead of worrying about possible future what if’s and imagining catastrophes that may not even happen, focus your attention on the present. Acknowledge that you are worrying and observe your anxious thoughts without judgments or reacting to the content of the thoughts. Don’t try to control or fight it just let it be and let it go. If you don’t interact with the thought, don’t react nor judge yourself for worrying then the worrying does not escalate. It just passes by itself. Focus instead on the changes in your body and your breathing. That will help your mind focus on other thoughts instead of on the worries, the anxiety will decrease and thus the worry cycle will be broken.
4.Distractions: Shift your focus from the negative thoughts to more neutral or positive thoughts and/or focus on a certain activity you have to do. By concentrating on something else you will be able to stop the worrying at least for the duration of the activity. Try to focus on your work or daily activities. You can also choose to do a physical exercise, sing along with music, choose an object and describe it in detail (smell, colour, size, texture, function etc), read something out loud, talk with a friend about something else etc. Meditation, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation also help. Try to find out what works for you.
5.Ask your family or friends how they cope with worrying. What works for one person may not work for you but if something is working efficiently and you have never tried before, it is worth giving it a chance. You never know, it might suite you as well. Others can also offer you support and another insight or perceptive, which is also more beneficial than just running over the same thoughts in your mind repeatedly.
The more you will practice controlling your worrying the easier it will become. As a result, with time a sense of control and efficacy will grow. You will also realize that you have more control over your worrying than you thought, which is empowering in itself.
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