“Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
Arthur Somers Roche
Think about how much time you have spent worrying during your life. Did all of your worrying help you in any way or in hindsight do you think that time could have been put to better use?
How would you be different if starting today you were able to live in the present instead of immersing yourself in regrets about the past or worrying about the future? What would your life be like if you no longer worried?
Close your eyes a moment and imagine yourself living a life free of worry. Notice how your muscles relax and your breath comes and goes easier. Are you breathing deeper? What other changes do you notice in your body and mind?
Would you like to let go of your tendency to worry? If your answer is “Yes,” considering using one or more of the techniques I list below whenever you find yourself worrying.
Write a list of all of your worries. “I’m worried that _________.” Simply fill in the blank, over and over and over again, until you have listed all of the worries that you can think of. Write whatever comes to your mind whether or not it makes any sense. It is fine for you to write the same worry multiple times
Vince Horan, one of my co-therapists, frequently tells clients that “Fear needs information.” Take a good look at your list of worries and pick one. What information do you need to gather in order to relieve that fear? Go get it!
If you are ready to deal with more than one fear, then identify a second, third, fourth, etc. I suspect if you get the information you need, your fear will reduce, and so will your worrying
Play the “what if” game. For example, if you are afraid that you will lose your job, the “what if” might be “I won’t have enough money.” Next ask yourself “What if you don’t have enough money?” The answer might be “I won’t be able to feed my kids.” Then ask “What if you don’t have money to feed your kids?” The response might be, “I will go to a food bank.” Keep following the thread until you realize you will be able to deal with whatever happens.
FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. Look at your list of worries and identify the ways you have been fooled into thinking you are in danger. Next to the false evidence, write the truth.
Immerse yourself in the present. You may need to get so focused on the present that you think, “I am moving my spoon towards my bowl of cereal.” “I am picking up a spoonful of cereal.” “I am bringing the spoon towards my mouth.” “I am putting the spoonful of cereal into my mouth.” “I am chewing my cereal.” etc. If you focus on the present this minutely, you will become absorbed in the moment, your mind will quiet and your body will relax.
You can create a variation of Jean Illsley Clarke’s fuss box exercise. Stand in a box or on a pillow, or just draw a circle in the carpet with your finger and stand in the middle of it. Begin to list all of your worries out loud. Don’t stop and think, just let them pour out, even if they don’t make sense. It can be helpful to be dramatic and even to exaggerate them. At some point, you will feel done. If you’ve been dramatic and/or exaggerated, you may even find yourself laughing. When you feel finished, step away from your worry box and identify something you will do to deal with one of the problems you mentioned.
Many years ago, I learned a technique from a therapist named Mary Goulding. She instructed us to push our tongues into our cheeks and then talk nonstop about all of the things we criticize ourselves for. When we talk about our worries that way they, of course, sound really strange. It is another process that often ends up in laughter.
Create an affirmation and use it as a mantra, such as “I am a competent, capable adult.” The mantra is likely to be something you don’t fully believe but would like to believe.
Say the mantra 1,000 times a day for the next 21 days. Better yet, consider saying it 10,000 to 20,000 times a day! If you find yourself saying the affirmation and worrying at the same time, speed up the mantra. It doesn’t matter how fast you go.
Imagine the power of filling your mind with a positive belief rather than a fear-based one. If you say enough of them, you may find the affirmation flowing through your mind automatically. You may even wake up and find it streaming through your mind during the night.
Think of all of the challenges that have come into your life unexpectedly. Reflect on how well you dealt with those. We are usually able to deal with whatever unexpected situations occur in our lives. It is worrying about things that haven’t happened, and probably never will happen, that saps our energy and pulls us into depression, anxiety and overwhelm.
Actively choose where you are going to put your attention. Decide if you are going to focus on worrying or focus on something else. If you choose to focus on something else, do it.
Listen to music that you find soothing. As you listen, practice breathing slowly and deeply. Focus on relaxing and letting go of tension.
Distract yourself by doing an activity that you really enjoy. Go for a walk, work in your garden, read a book, immerse yourself in a hobby, spend time with friends, etc
Call a friend and tell them you are worrying. Ask for reassurance or help in problem solving.
Create a 3-second contract, such as those used to break fantasy addictions in some 12-step recovery groups. Your contract might be “I won’t worry for more than 3 seconds.” You won’t break the contract when you find yourself immersed in worrying; you break it if you choose to continue worrying after you have become conscious you are doing it. Sometimes having the contract is enough. If it isn’t, consider creating a consequence you will do each time you break it.
When you are in a worry-free state of mind, write a letter to the part of you that worries. Give him/her reassurance and ideas for moving beyond the worry. Focus on messages that will give hope or help with problem solving. Then put the letter some place where you will be able to find it when you need it. Reading guidance from a stronger part of yourself may be more effective than advice coming from another person.
I’ve shared 15 actions you could take whenever you are worrying; there are certainly more. Add any others that you know, or discover, work for you. I suggest you keep a copy of this list handy so that you can use it whenever you are worrying.
At those times, work your way through the list, in any order you desire, until you find you have shifted out of the fear. The chances are good that you will be feeling better long before you do all of them.
I will end this post with two videos. You may even want to add them to your list of worry stopping techniques. They sure help shift my mood!
What helps YOU stop worrying?