Confession time: I'm a total nail-biter. I attend weekly meetings of hand-wringers and lip-gnawers. But even though I'm not one to just plug my nose and canon ball in when it comes to situations that make me nervous, there are ways to stop worrying and take charge of your life. Being cautious isn't a character flaw — rather, it'll make sure you don't plow head-first into disasters. But when you take that trepidation into the extreme and become a jittery, the-sky-is-falling mess, then things can get a little messy. It's OK to want to look both ways before crossing the street, but you shouldn't let your nervousness take over your life.
Which is easier said than done. Like I said, I take meeting notes at Worry Warts anonymous every Tuesday night, so I understand the struggle. But there's a way to check your worry when it's growing a little wild at the edges, and all it takes are some tactics. For example, you can practice mindfulness, where you force yourself to stay in the here and now, or let it wash over you so you acknowledge the feeling and move it along on its way. Below are 11 ways to stop worrying — it's time to grab control again.
1. Hang Out With Your Worry
When we get a bout of nervousness, the usual reaction is to deny it. Nothing is fazing us and we're 100 percent in control and this dark cloud hanging over us is just circumstantial. Instead, stop the denials and just hang out with the feeling for a minute, with no plan of tackling it. Personal development expert Joey Klein of self development site Inspiyr said, "don’t tell yourself why you were justified in having the emotion, or even about the person, place or thing that triggered it. Instead, just sit with the emotion without thinking about the circumstance, and in a matter of less then 90 seconds, you will start to feel much better." By allowing yourself to experience it and acknowledge it, you can fold it up and move it to the side. You spend less energy that way.
2. Toss Out The What Ifs
When you make a decision, make your peace with the fact that it's done. There's no need to rehash the what-ifs because a choice has already been made. Lifestyle writer Sebastian Klein at Lifehack pointed out, "Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver." Even if you don't love the outcomes of your choice, look how you could keep building forward rather than peeking back.
3. The Glass Is Half Full
Rather than focusing on how things can blow up in your face, try to zero in on what's going great with the situation. Lifestyle writer Cephas Stope from self-development site Pick the Brain suggested, "Instead of forcing yourself on stopping a thought, try switching it to a better one." The next time you think of why something might fail, don't pretend you never had it. Instead, replace it with a positive rebuttal as to why it will go smoothly.
4. Gather Perspective
When your worries start taking up too much brain space, there's a simple question you can ask yourself that could stop all of that in its tracks. Lifestyle writer Henrik Edberg from self-development site The Positivity Blog offered, "So when you feel worries starting to pop up ask yourself this: How many of the things I feared would happen in my life did actually happen?" It's rare that the sky falls down around our ears, and this question will remind you that.
5. Put It On Paper
Get your worries off of your mind by putting them on paper, making you feel like you transferred them off of your shoulders. Business writer Stephanie Vizza at entrepreneur site Fast Company offered, "Getting your emotions down on paper sounds like it could fuel anxieties, but according to a University of Chicago study published in the journal Science, the activity has the opposite effect." By knowing that your fears are on paper, two things can happen: You can see how silly they are, or you now feel like they're jotted down and you don't have to hold onto them as hard.
6. Don't Fear Uncertainty, Thrive In It
Rather than gnawing your lip over how you can't control the future, be excited about that prospect. Sure, it can throw you a curve ball. But you always have the chance to knock it out of the park. Life coach Susanna Halonen from self-improvement site Happyologist explained, "Learn to embrace this uncertainty and thrive in it. Who knows, it could even bring some exciting new opportunities you never even thought about." There are exciting things in the unknown.
7. Plan For The Worst
If you're not really into the whole idea of just dealing with things as they come, then let's try tactics. Think of what the worst case scenario could be, and then plan a strategy to offset it. Klein offered, "Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer." Create a game plan to cut it off at the knees, and then you won't have as much to worry about.
8. Shut It Down During Vulnerable Moments
You know when you're in bed and trying to fall asleep, and every worry you've ever had comes rushing at you like a tsunami? Instead of indulging in that freak out, tell yourself you're not going to deal with it until you're in a more clear state. Edberg explained that you should say, "I will think this situation or issue through at a time when I know that my mind will work much better." That includes bed time, hungry moments, and super-stressful situations. Don't give your worries attention until you have a clear head to think them through.
9. Practice Mindfulness
Rather than jumping ahead and worrying about something you can't quite control, focus on breathing deep and staying in the present. Why? Because the here and now is something you can control. Halonen pointed out, "Learning to be present will help you keep your mind focused on what you’re doing now rather than worrying about things you can’t change." Take it one step at a time.
10. Jump Into Action
If you're worried, do something about it! Edberg explained, "I ask myself: What is one small step I can take right now to start improving this situation I am in?" You don't need to fix the problem completely (if you could, you wouldn't be stressing,) but taking one small action step will put you more at ease.
11. Chanel The Mood You Want Instead
Do you want to stop the worrying and instead embrace your present? Read blog posts written by people that found a way to do just that. Do you want to take the stress in stride and square your shoulders like a warrior? Watch a video where people are doing that, and channel their determined faces. Klein observed, "Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly: 'Our life is what our thoughts make it.'" Change your worry-apt attitude by being inspired by people that take their struggles in stride. It might help you change your tune.
So what do you think: Are you ready to grab control?
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