Are you plagued by constant worries and anxious thoughts? These tips can help calm your worried mind and ease anxiety.
How much worrying is too much?
Worries, doubts, and anxieties are a normal part of life. It’s natural to worry about an unpaid bill, an upcoming job interview, or a first date. But “normal” worry becomes excessive when it’s persistent and uncontrollable. You worry every day about “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios, you can’t get anxious thoughts out of your head, and it interferes with your daily life.
Constant worrying, negative thinking, and always expecting the worst can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. It can sap your emotional strength, leave you feeling restless and jumpy, cause insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, and muscle tension, and make it difficult to concentrate at work or school. You may take your negative feelings out on the people closest to you, self-medicate with alcohol or drugs, or try to distract yourself by zoning out in front of screens. Chronic worrying can also be a major symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), a common anxiety disorder that involves tension, nervousness, and a general feeling of unease that colors your whole life.
If you’re plagued by exaggerated worry and tension, there are steps you can take to turn off anxious thoughts. Chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more balanced, less fearful perspective.
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Why is it so hard to stop worrying?
Constant worrying can take a heavy toll. It can keep you up at night and make you tense and edgy during the day. And even though you hate feeling like a nervous wreck, it can still be so difficult to stop. For most chronic worriers, the anxious thoughts are fueled by the beliefs—both negative and positive—that you hold about worrying:
Negative beliefs about worry. You may believe that your constant worrying is harmful, that it’s going to drive you crazy or affect your physical health. Or you may worry that you’re going to lose all control over your worrying—that it will take over and never stop. While negative beliefs, or worrying about worrying, adds to your anxiety and keeps worry going, positive beliefs about worrying can be just as damaging.
Positive beliefs about worry. You may believe that your worrying helps you avoid bad things, prevents problems, prepares you for the worst, or leads to solutions. Maybe you tell yourself that if you keep worrying about a problem long enough, you’ll eventually be able to figure it out? Or perhaps you’re convinced that worrying is a responsible thing to do or the only way to ensure you don’t overlook something? It’s tough to break the worry habit if you believe that your worrying serves a positive purpose. Once you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind.
How to stop worrying tip 1: Create a daily “worry” period
It’s tough to be productive in your daily activities when anxiety and worry are dominating your thoughts and distracting you from work, school, or your home life. This is where the strategy of postponing worrying can help. Rather than trying to stop or get rid of an anxious thought, give yourself permission to have it, but put off dwelling on it until later.
- Create a “worry period.” Choose a set time and place for worrying. It should be the same every day (e.g. in the living room from 5:00 to 5:20 p.m.) and early enough that it won’t make you anxious right before bedtime. During your worry period, you’re allowed to worry about whatever’s on your mind. The rest of the day, however, is a worry-free zone.
- Write down your worries. If an anxious thought or worry comes into your head during the day, make a brief note of it and then continue about your day. Remind yourself that you’ll have time to think about it later, so there’s no need to worry about it right now. Also, writing down your thoughts—on a pad or on your phone or computer—is much harder work than simply thinking them, so your worries are more likely to lose their power.
- Go over your “worry list” during the worry period. If the thoughts you wrote down are still bothering you, allow yourself to worry about them, but only for the amount of time you’ve specified for your worry period. As you examine your worries in this way, you’ll often find it easier to develop a more balanced perspective. And if your worries don’t seem important any more, simply cut your worry period short and enjoy the rest of your day.
Tip 2: Challenge anxious thoughts
If you suffer from chronic anxiety and worry, chances are you look at the world in ways that make it seem more threatening than it really is. For example, you may overestimate the possibility that things will turn out badly, jump immediately to worst-case scenarios, or treat every anxious thought as if it were fact. You may also discredit your own ability to handle life’s problems, assuming you’ll fall apart at the first sign of trouble. These types of thoughts, known as cognitive distortions, include:
|All-or-nothing thinking, looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground. “If everything is not perfect, I'm a total failure.”|
|Overgeneralization from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever. “I didn't get hired for the job. I'll never get any job.”|
|Focusing on the negatives while filtering out the positives. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right. “I got the last question on the test wrong. I'm an idiot.”|
|Coming up with reasons why positive events don't count. “I did well on the presentation, but that was just dumb luck.”|
|Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader: “I can tell she secretly hates me.” Or a fortune teller: “I just know something terrible is going to happen.”|
|Expecting the worst-case scenario to happen. “The pilot said we're in for some turbulence. The plane's going to crash!”|
|Believing that the way you feel reflects reality. “I feel like such a fool. Everyone must be laughing at me.”|
|Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn't do and beating yourself up if you break any of the rules. “I should never have tried starting a conversation with her. I'm such a moron.”|
|Labeling yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings. “I'm a failure; I'm boring; I deserve to be alone.”|
|Assuming responsibility for things that are outside your control. “It's my fault my son got in an accident. I should have warned him to drive carefully in the rain.”|
How to challenge these thoughts
During your worry period, challenge your negative thoughts by asking yourself:
- What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true?
- Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at the situation?
- What’s the probability that what I’m scared of will actually happen? If the probability is low, what are some more likely outcomes?
- Is the thought helpful? How will worrying about it help me and how will it hurt me?
- What would I say to a friend who had this worry?
Tip 3: Distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries
Research shows that while you're worrying, you temporarily feel less anxious. Running over the problem in your head distracts you from your emotions and makes you feel like you're getting something accomplished. But worrying and problem solving are two very different things.
Problem solving involves evaluating a situation, coming up with concrete steps for dealing with it, and then putting the plan into action. Worrying, on the other hand, rarely leads to solutions. No matter how much time you spend dwelling on worst-case scenarios, you're no more prepared to deal with them should they actually happen.
Is your worry solvable?
Productive, solvable worries are those you can take action on right away. For example, if you're worried about your bills, you could call your creditors to see about flexible payment options. Unproductive, unsolvable worries are those for which there is no corresponding action. “What if I get cancer someday?” or “What if my kid gets into an accident?”
If the worry is solvable, start brainstorming. Make a list of all the possible solutions you can think of. Try not to get too hung up on finding the perfect solution. Focus on the things you have the power to change, rather than the circumstances or realities beyond your control. After you've evaluated your options, make a plan of action. Once you have a plan and start doing something about the problem, you'll feel much less anxious.
If the worry is not solvable, accept the uncertainty. If you're a chronic worrier, the vast majority of your anxious thoughts probably fall in this camp. Worrying is often a way we try to predict what the future has in store-a way to prevent unpleasant surprises and control the outcome. The problem is, it doesn't work. Thinking about all the things that could go wrong doesn't make life any more predictable. Focusing on worst-case scenarios will only keep you from enjoying the good things you have in the present. To stop worrying, tackle your need for certainty and immediate answers.
- Do you tend to predict bad things will happen just because they are uncertain? What is the likelihood they will?
- Given the likelihood is very low, is it possible to live with the small chance that something negative may happen.
- Ask your friends and family how they cope with uncertainty in specific situations. Could you do the same?
- Tune into your emotions. Worrying about uncertainty is often a way to avoid unpleasant emotions. But by tuning into your emotions you can start to accept your feelings, even those that are uncomfortable or don't make sense.
Tip 4: Interrupt the worry cycle
If you worry excessively, it can seem like negative thoughts are running through your head on endless repeat. You may feel like you’re spiraling out of control, going crazy, or about to burn out under the weight of all this anxiety. But there are steps you can take right now to interrupt all those anxious thoughts and give yourself a time out from relentless worrying.
Get up and get moving. Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment because it releases endorphins which relieve tension and stress, boost energy, and enhance your sense of well-being. Even more importantly, by really focusing on how your body feels as you move, you can interrupt the constant flow of worries running through your head. Pay attention to the sensation of your feet hitting the ground as you walk, run, or dance, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the sun or wind on your skin.
Take a yoga or tai chi class. By focusing your mind on your movements and breathing, practicing yoga or tai chi keeps your attention on the present, helping to clear your mind and lead to a relaxed state.
Meditate. Meditation works by switching your focus from worrying about the future or dwelling on the past to what’s happening right now. By being fully engaged in the present moment, you can interrupt the endless loop of negative thoughts and worries. And you don’t need to sit cross-legged, light candles or incense, or chant. Simply find a quiet, comfortable place and choose one of the many free or inexpensive smartphone apps that can guide you through the meditation process.
Practice progressive muscle relaxation. This can help you break the endless loop of worrying by focusing your mind on your body instead of your thoughts. By alternately tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in your body, you release muscle tension in your body. And as your body relaxes, your mind will follow.
Try deep breathing. When you worry, you become anxious and breathe faster, often leading to further anxiety. But by practicing deep breathing exercises, you can calm your mind and quiet negative thoughts.
Relaxation techniques can change the brain
While the above relaxation techniques can provide some immediate respite from worry and anxiety, practicing them regularly can also change your brain. Research has shown that regular meditation, for example, can boost activity on the left side of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for feelings of serenity and joy. The more you practice, the greater the anxiety relief you’ll experience and the more control you’ll start to feel over your anxious thoughts and worries.
Tip 5: Talk about your worries
It may seem like a simplistic solution, but talking face to face with a trusted friend or family member—someone who will listen to you without judging, criticizing, or continually being distracted—is one of the most effective ways to calm your nervous system and diffuse anxiety. When your worries start spiraling, talking them over can make them seem far less threatening.
Keeping worries to yourself only causes them to build up until they seem overwhelming. But saying them out loud can often help you to make sense of what you’re feeling and put things in perspective. If your fears are unwarranted, verbalizing them can expose them for what they are—needless worries. And if your fears are justified, sharing them with someone else can produce solutions that you may not have thought of alone.
Build a strong support system. Human beings are social creatures. We’re not meant to live in isolation. But a strong support system doesn’t necessarily mean a vast network of friends. Don’t underestimate the benefit of a few people you can trust and count on to be there for you. And if you don’t feel that you have anyone to confide in, it’s never too late to build new friendships.
Know who to avoid when you’re feeling anxious. Your anxious take on life may be something you learned when you were growing up. If your mother is a chronic worrier, she is not the best person to call when you’re feeling anxious—no matter how close you are. When considering who to turn to, ask yourself whether you tend to feel better or worse after talking to that person about a problem.
Tip 6: Practice mindfulness
Worrying is usually focused on the future—on what might happen and what you’ll do about it—or on the past, rehashing the things you’ve said or done. The centuries-old practice of mindfulness can help you break free of your worries by bringing your attention back to the present. This strategy is based on observing your worries and then letting them go, helping you identify where your thinking is causing problems and getting in touch with your emotions.
Acknowledge and observe your worries. Don’t try to ignore, fight, or control them like you usually would. Instead, simply observe them as if from an outsider’s perspective, without reacting or judging.
Let your worries go. Notice that when you don’t try to control the anxious thoughts that pop up, they soon pass, like clouds moving across the sky. It’s only when you engage your worries that you get stuck.
Stay focused on the present. Pay attention to the way your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, your ever-changing emotions, and the thoughts that drift across your mind. If you find yourself getting stuck on a particular thought, bring your attention back to the present moment.
Repeat daily. Using mindfulness to stay focused on the present is a simple concept, but it takes time and regular practice to reap the benefits. At first, you’ll probably find that your mind keeps wandering back to your worries. Try not to get frustrated. Each time you draw your focus back to the present, you’re reinforcing a new mental habit that will help you break free of the negative worry cycle.
Basic mindfulness meditation
- Find a quiet place
- Sit on a comfortable chair or cushion, with your back straight, and your hands resting on the tops of your upper legs.
- Close your eyes and breathe in through your nose, allowing the air downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully.
- Breathe out through your mouth.
- Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
- If your mind starts to wander, return your focus to your breathing with no judgment.
- Try to meditate 3 or 4 times per week for 10 minutes per day. Every minute counts.
Click here for a free mindful breathing meditation.
Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
Grupe, D. W., & Nitschke, J. B. (2013). Uncertainty and Anticipation in Anxiety. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 14(7), 488–501. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn3524
Stubbs, B., Vancampfort, D., Rosenbaum, S., Firth, J., Cosco, T., Veronese, N., Salum, G. A., & Schuch, F. B. (2017). An examination of the anxiolytic effects of exercise for people with anxiety and stress-related disorders: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Research, 249, 102–108. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2016.12.020
Newman, M. G., Llera, S. J., Erickson, T. M., Przeworski, A., & Castonguay, L. G. (2013). Worry and Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Review and Theoretical Synthesis of Evidence on Nature, Etiology, Mechanisms, and Treatment. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 9, 275–297. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050212-185544
Kircanski, K., Thompson, R. J., Sorenson, J., Sherdell, L., & Gotlib, I. H. (2015). Rumination and Worry in Daily Life: Examining the Naturalistic Validity of Theoretical Constructs. Clinical Psychological Science : A Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 3(6), 926–939. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702614566603
Wells, A. (2005). The Metacognitive Model of GAD: Assessment of Meta-Worry and Relationship With DSM-IV Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 29(1), 107–121. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-005-1652-0
Aylett, E., Small, N., & Bower, P. (2018). Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Health Services Research, 18(1), 559. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3313-5
Support in the U.S.
NAMI Helpline– Trained volunteers can provide information, referrals, and support for those suffering from anxiety disorders in the U.S. Call 1-800-950-6264. (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
Find a Therapist– Search for anxiety disorder treatment providers in the U.S. (Anxiety Disorders Association of America)
Support in other countries
Support Groups– List of support groups in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and South Africa. (Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
Anxiety UK– Information, support, and a dedicated helpline for UK sufferers and their families. Call: 03444 775 774. (Anxiety UK)
Anxiety Canada– Provides links to services in different Canadian provinces. (Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada)
SANE Help Centre– Provides information about symptoms, treatments, medications, and where to go for support in Australia. Call: 1800 18 7263. (SANE Australia).
Helpline (India)– Provides information and support to those with mental health concerns in India. Call: 1860 2662 345 or 1800 2333 330.
Last updated: October 7, 2022
- Stop worrying by practicing mindfulness and meditation. ...
- Stop worrying by practicing deep breathing. ...
- Stop worrying by doing a body scan. ...
- Stop worrying by sharing your fears with supportive friends and family. ...
- Stop worrying by focusing on what you're grateful for. ...
- Stop worrying by keeping a daily emotions journal.
Are you always waiting for disaster to strike or excessively worried about things such as health, money, family, work, or school? If so, you may have a type of anxiety disorder called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD can make daily life feel like a constant state of worry, fear, and dread.
- Stay active. ...
- Steer clear of alcohol. ...
- Consider quitting smoking cigarettes. ...
- Limit caffeine intake. ...
- Prioritize getting a good night's rest. ...
- Meditate and practice mindfulness. ...
- Eat a balanced diet. ...
- Practice deep breathing.
Worrying excessively can have the same effect on your body as chronic stress, triggering the fight-or-flight response and releasing stress hormones like cortisol. Chronic stress has been shown to contribute to serious health issues, such as digestive problems, heart disease and suppression of the immune system.
- Notice When You're Stuck in Your Head. Overthinking can become such a habit that you don't even recognize when you're doing it. ...
- Keep the Focus on Problem-Solving. ...
- Challenge Your Thoughts. ...
- Schedule Time for Reflection. ...
- Learn Mindfulness Skills. ...
- Change the Channel.
Someone driven to worry or anxiety through thinking. worrier. worrywart. neurotic. fussbudget.
Synonyms for worrywart. handwringer, nervous Nellie. (or nervous Nelly), worrier.
B-complex, vitamin E, vitamin C, GABA, and 5-HTP are 5 vitamins commonly used to help with anxiety and stress.
- Apple cider vinegar.
The B-vitamins in bananas, like folate and vitamin B6, are key to the production of serotonin, which can help improve your mood and reduce anxiety.
- Notice Your Surroundings.
- Focus on One Thing at a Time (Don't Multitask)
- Be Grateful For What You Have Now.
- Accept Things As They Are (Not How You Want Them to Be)
- Practice Mindfulness Meditation.
- Spend Time With People Who Make You Feel Happy and Fulfilled.
- Be Mindful of Everything You Do.
- Practice Deep Breathing Exercises.
In addition, medications originally designed for depression, the SSRIs (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Effexor, Cymbalta, and others), are also capable of lowering the underlying level of anxiety which takes a lot of steam out of this phenomenon.
Overthinking is not a recognized mental disorder all by itself. However, research has found it's often associated with other mental health conditions, including: Depression. Anxiety disorders.
People who overthink things regularly, psychologists believe, are often those who may have larger self-esteem or acceptance issues, Dr. Winsberg explains. If you're constantly overthinking (more on that later), however, it may be a symptom of clinical anxiety and depression or even obsessive-compulsive disorder.
While overthinking itself is not a mental illness, it is associated with conditions including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance use disorders. Rumination can be common in people who have chronic pain and chronic illness as well, taking the form of negative thoughts about that pain and healing from it.
- Give yourself some mental and physical wind-down time. ...
- Don't worry in bed. ...
- Focus on mental imagery. ...
- Separate productive worry from unproductive worry.
The two most common diagnoses associated with intrusive thoughts are anxiety and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). They can also be a symptom of depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Bipolar Disorder, or Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The truth is that everyone overthinks things from time to time. In my therapy office, it is one of the most common things I deal with. People often come in for their appointments saying things like, "I can't relax.
"Overthinking can affect how you experience and engage with the world around you — preventing you from making important decisions, keeping you from enjoying the present moment and draining you of the energy you need to handle daily stressors," explains Dr. Fowler.
- “Instead of worrying about what you cannot control, shift your energy to what you can create.” ...
- “Don't waste your time in anger, regrets, worries, and grudges. ...
- “More smiling, less worrying. ...
- “You probably wouldn't worry about what people think of you if you could know how seldom they do.”
Anxiety happens when a part of the brain, the amygdala, senses trouble. When it senses threat, real or imagined, it surges the body with hormones (including cortisol, the stress hormone) and adrenaline to make the body strong, fast and powerful.
Anxiety can be caused by a variety of things: stress, genetics, brain chemistry, traumatic events, or environmental factors. Symptoms can be reduced with anti-anxiety medication. But even with medication, people may still experience some anxiety or even panic attacks.
Follow the 3-3-3 rule.
Look around you and name three things you see. Then, name three sounds you hear. Finally, move three parts of your body — your ankle, fingers, or arm.
- try talking about your feelings to a friend, family member, health professional or counsellor. ...
- use calming breathing exercises.
- exercise – activities such as running, walking, swimming and yoga can help you relax.
Anxiety becomes more common with older age and is most common among middle-aged adults. This may be due to a number of factors, including changes in the brain and nervous system as we age, and being more likely to experience stressful life events that can trigger anxiety.
Someone driven to worry or anxiety through thinking. worrier. worrywart. neurotic. fussbudget.
- Medications With Caffeine.
- ADHD Drugs.
- Asthma Medication.
- Thyroid Medicine.
- Seizure Drugs.
- Medicine for Parkinson's Disease.
Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.
“The term high functioning anxiety describes an individual who, despite feeling anxious, seems able to effectively manage the demands of day-to-day life,” says psychologist Adam Borland, PsyD.
Many people associate crying with feeling sad and making them feel worse, but in reality, crying can help improve your mood - emotional tears release stress hormones. Your stress level lowers when you cry, which can help you sleep better and strengthen your immune system.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." "When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles." "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."
- Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
- Avoid Stimulants. ...
- Get Enough Sleep. ...
- Just Breathe. ...
- Practice Mindfulness. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Do What You Enjoy. ...
- Where to Get Help.