Sometimes it feels like there's always something to worry about, even if we try to put whatever is bothering us in the back of our minds. To help ease the stress, you can only spend so much time distracting yourself with friends and activities, but it's important to know the best, scientifically-proven ways to stop worrying, especially when you're best friend isn't available for happy hour every day. Between navigating relationships, managing jobs, and even keeping up with everyday tasks, it seems as if we can never catch a break, but you can set yourself up for relaxation if you take on some habits that can help keep your stress levels low.
When you feel like you have a lot on your mind, the first thing to do is to recognize what's bothering you. "The biggest mistake people make when worrying is to try to ignore it," says Chief of Adolescent Psychiatry Joseph Shrand, MD over email. "As soon as you do that you give the worry more power because your brain thinks it will never be able to solve the problem."
Many of us have our go-to hobbies that help keep our negative thoughts at bay, but there are also a number of things you can do that have been proven by experts to be effective at quelling anxiety. Next time your mind is spinning with "what ifs" and hypotheticals, try the below six, scientifically-proven ways to stop worrying so much.
1. Write Down What You're Grateful For
"Research proves that simply writing down who you are grateful for triggers positive health benefits," says Dr. Giacomo Bono, Assistant Professor of Psychology at California State University to Bustle over email. "When you are feeling anxious or worrisome, think about who you are grateful for." Indeed, studies have found that people who journal the things that make them happy manage stress better, have happier days, and even experience less physical pain.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Participating in mindfulness meditation has been shown to improve anxiety, eliminate stress, and improve eating and sleep habits. And meditation doesn't just have to be sitting in silence; you just have to intentionally be aware of your thoughts for a short period of time. "Practicing mindfulness activities and meditation allow you to stay in the here and now," says clinical psychologist Dorian Crawford, PsyD, LP, LMHC over email. "Often a repetition of a favorite mantra can be used to keep yourself focused on now instead of what is worrying you about the future."
Working out can not only do your body good, but it can also help relieve your mind. According to Harvard Health, exercise has been shown to reduce the amount of stress hormones in the body, and frequent exercise has been found to reduce long-term anxiety and depression.
4. Plan "Worry Time"
"Designate 'worry time' at a set time of the day, not longer than 30 minutes," says clinical psychologist Jelena Kecmanovic over email. "Whenever worries show up during the rest of the day, put those thoughts 'on a shell,' to be returned to during the 'worry time.'" Having a specific time of day to worry can stop you from ruminating throughout the day, and it can help reduce stress and anxiety symptoms.
5. Focus On Others
"Happy people will never just be self-involved," says psychologist Dominick D. Hankle PhD. "Research demonstrates people who are happy are less self-focused and reach out to others and other’s interests." Doing something for others such as volunteering can help lower stress, help you feel more connected to the world, and even lower your blood pressure, studies show.
6. Get Some Sleep
"Being tired causes irritability and over time can lead to depressed mood and even heightened levels of pain," says Dr. Kristen Dean, a Licensed Family Practice Physician with Doctor On Demand. One study even found that people who slept for 4.5 hours each night for just one week reported feeling more stress, anger, and sadness, demonstrating the effects of even short-term sleep deprivation.
Worry may be affecting you more than you realize, so it's important to take it seriously and attack it head-on sooner rather thna later.
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