Everyone worries from time to time. From small worries like being late to work, to bigger concerns like overdue bills. Worry is a part of life. For some of us however, it can be more serious and disruptive, preventing us from living our lives to the fullest. Many of us worry about what the future will bring, about our families, our jobs, our health and money to list a few. In fact, according to a recent survey, 85% of UK adults experience stress regularly. In this article, we take a look at worry and how we can prevent it from taking over and get on with enjoying life.
The Cost of Worry
Whether you worry a lot or a little, worry has the ability to disrupt your life. It can stop you from enjoying the things you love and even cause you to lose sleep. Studies have shown that worry can have both short and long term impacts on your health and wellbeing.
The worst part? Ultimately, worry will get you nowhere. It is a supreme waste of your time and energy. All of us have much better things to do than sit worrying all day. So, with that in mind, we’ve found some practical advice for stopping worry from interfering with your life.
How to Manage Worry
“Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.” – Eckhart Tolle
Much of what worries us exists in the future. The unknown. The ‘what ifs’. Any therapist will tell you that a big part of unnecessary worrying lies in the person trying to predict the future. Assuming the worst.
‘What if I get there and everyone ignores me?’
‘What if the plane crashes?’
‘What if I fail the exam?’
Of course, none of us can know exactly how things will play out. We are not fortune tellers. Therefore, we should not try to predict worrisome scenarios that have yet to and may never occur.
Many people find practising mindfulness or deep breathing helps to deal with worry and focus on being present. There are many difference mindfulness apps for your smartphone such as Headspace or Calm so you can practice mindfulness on the go. Lifehack offers a simple guide to mindfulness for beginners.
If you struggle frequently with worry and negative thoughts, it can be helpful to practice gratitude. This involves fixing your thoughts on things you are thankful for. This might be something as simple as fresh air or sunlight. Distracting yourself from worrying by practising gratitude or other positive distractions such as engaging in hobbies or chatting with a friend can be a big help.
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.” — The Dalai Lama
It can be helpful to divide your worries into two categories: practical and hypothetical. A practical worry is one you can do something about. A hypothetical worry is something you have no control over. An example of a practical worry could be worrying about a bill that needs to be paid. An example of a hypothetical worry could be fears that a loved one could get injured.
If your worry is a practical one, you can take steps towards solving it. Write down all the possible solutions, no matter how ridiculous. Then, choose the one that makes the most sense. Break it down into achievable steps. Once you have completed the steps, you can evaluate how it went. Hopefully, you should no longer have to worry as you have taken steps to solve the worry.
On the other hand, if the worry is hypothetical, there is nothing you can do about it and therefore it is pointless to worry about. Experts suggest setting a time to worry, leaving around 30 minutes for uninterrupted ‘worry time’. When a hypothetical worry arises, write it down and then switch your focus to a more positive distraction. You will only allow yourself to worry about this during your dedicated ‘worry time’, freeing up the rest of your day for things that are important.
Exercise is a great way to help prevent worry from overtaking your thoughts. Getting out and about, changing your surroundings and gaining a fresh perspective. Not to mention the endorphins will help boost your mood.
For those of us that worry a lot, there is no quick and easy fix. It’s important to be patient with yourself. Remember that you won’t stop worrying overnight. But you can use these tips as steps to help you start to reclaim your life. Make the most of the small things, be present, be proactive and stop worry from winning.
*If you are experiencing chronic worry and are struggling to cope, speak with your GP or another trusted professional.