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Worrying about the state of the world. Worrying about the future. Maybe you worry about your health, or the health of someone you care about. Worrying about your job/work, your finances and money. Your relationship. Worrying about your kids, parents, friends, partners or what other people might think about you … Wouldn’t it be lovely to stop worrying so much?
Some people consider themselves ‘worriers’, it’s just what they do. It might be such a big part of their identity they don’t know who they’d be if they didn’t worry. Other people might find they’re prone to worry when certain situations arise that are a source of stress for them. Most people at some time or another will worry about something. In this article I’m going to share some ways to stop worrying that you can start to use straight away, whichever camp you fall into.
The thing about worrying is that it doesn’t actually make any difference to the outcome
Worrying uses a lot of energy and emotion but doesn’t make any difference to the outcome of the situation. Sometimes people think that worrying is a way to show how much they care about the person/situation. Or that ‘because they care’ they ‘should’ worry. The reality is that you can care very much about the person/situation and not waste masses of your time and energy worrying about various outcomes that most likely won’t happen.
Another reason people sometimes give to justify their worrying is that it’s a way of helping them prepare or be prepared for the future. Or that they’re ‘being realistic’. I’ll talk more about this later. But for now you can plan ahead and be prepared without worrying about it. You can be realistic and not get lost in worry. The worrying aspect is optional.
Just before we get onto some of the ways to stop worrying it’s important to understand what worrying is.
Worrying is just your imagination creating negative potential outcomes
You can get really invested in these potential outcomes and start to create stories about them. We can get lost in these stories and repeat them over and over in your mind. We experience a fear based emotional response where you basically feel awful, this in turn can create physical responses such as nausea and knots in your stomach. It can lead to a negative cycle that’s very unpleasant to get stuck in. The great news is that you can just as easily use your imagination to create positive potential outcomes for the same situation. We don’t have to worry, it’s optional.
Because worrying is all in the mind you need to pay more attention to what your mind is up to, in order to stop worrying.
Become more self-aware and mindful
The more self-aware and mindful you become the easier it is to notice what you are thinking about. When you notice you’re worrying and thinking about potential negative outcomes choose to deliberately change what you’re focusing on. You can choose where to place your attention and focus. This might be as simple as focusing on your breath for a while. Easier said than done? Maybe at the beginning, but with regular mindfulness practice you will build your mind muscles and have far more control over where you place your attention. You’ll also change your relationship with your thoughts so that you can just notice them without getting lost in them. As this underpins so much of how we can go about changing how we think and feel in life (and therefore how we experience life), you might want to find out more about how to become more mindful.
Focus on the positive potential outcomes instead
Once you’ve noticed you’re worrying you can do something about it. One thing you can do is use your imagination to come up with positive potential outcomes instead. Focus on how things could work out really well and how you’d like things to be. What would be the ideal outcome or outcomes? If you notice your mind going back to the negative, catch yourself and shift your thoughts back to positive possibilities instead. Thinking positive thoughts will leave you feeling better and won’t drain your energy and emotion.
Focus on what you’re grateful for in the situation
Regardless of the situation there will be things you can be grateful for. Focus on these things. If you can only think of one thing to be grateful for, focus on that and be genuinely grateful for it. Allow yourself to really ‘feel’ grateful. If you can’t think of anything to be grateful for consider how much worse the situation could be. Then realise how fortunate it is that you’re in the situation you’re actually in rather than that scenario. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, things can almost certainly be worse. It’s not pretending that the situation you’re worried about isn’t bad or possibly truly terrible. It’s acknowledging it for what it is and identifying any aspects that you can be grateful for. Gratitude is a very powerful quality. You can’t feel bad or think negative thoughts when you’re focusing on things you’re truly grateful for.
Be honest about the reality of the situation
Often when we worry we tell ourselves stories about the situation that just aren’t true. Stop worrying by being very honest with yourself about the situation. What is the reality? If negative possibilities come to your mind go through each of them. Play them out, step by step. If such and such did happen, what would you do? How would you deal with it? How likely is it this will actually happen? If it’s a genuine concern, what can you do about it right now? Very often when we go through this process it takes us out of a state of stress and worry. We’re able to dismiss the ‘catastrophising’ stories for what they are, our imagination working overtime. It also allows us to feel at least half-way confident that we’d have a plan of action should we need one. And, very importantly that we’d be able to deal with it.
If you know there’s something you can do to improve the situation you’re worried about or to influence it in a positive way – take action. If you have serious concerns about a potential outcome, develop a contingency plan. What could you do right now that would minimise the negative impact of that potential outcome? How could you feel more prepared for it? There’s a big difference between worrying about a potential outcome and taking action. Worrying won’t impact the outcome, taking action will.
Accept what you cannot change
Taking action is great when there is something you can do that will make a difference. Often though we find ourselves in situations where we can’t influence the outcome directly. This can be very frustrating and often we fall prey to worrying and over-thinking as it gives us the sense that we’re ‘doing something’ about the situation. As I’ve already said worrying doesn’t change or influence the outcome, neither does over-thinking. It does however drain your energy and make you feel rubbish. In these cases accepting the situation for what it is is the only sensible course of action.
Acceptance is not the same as apathy or resignation. Acceptance is about making peace with the situation. From this place of acceptance you will be able to deal with whatever happens with less resistance and greater ease. You’ll be able to think more clearly. You’ll find it easier to maintain a balanced state from which to navigate whatever is going on in your life. I often recommend the Serenity prayer to my clients when they find themselves in situations they can’t directly influence or take action on.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”.
And remember that as well as accepting the situation you can always send love and positive vibes to the person/situation. That’s a great way to take some action regardless of the situation which is positive, has the potential to make a difference to the situation (who’s to say that it can’t make a difference?) and doesn’t involve worrying.
Develop a mindset that expects good things to happen
Very often chronic worriers have a mindset that expects bad things to happen. They focus on what can go wrong or expect something bad to happen. Maybe it’s because something good has just happened to them, sometimes they just think they’re being ‘realistic’. They always imagine the worst possible outcomes even when they’re not that likely to happen. This kind of mindset has often been years in the making and over time it just becomes ‘the norm’. Your mind gets used to thinking in a certain way. And as your mind is on auto-pilot most of the time and we’re generally not consciously aware of what we’re thinking it continues unencumbered. If you want to stop worrying this has to change.
The good news is that habits you learn, you can un-learn. You’ve developed one way of thinking, you can develop another way of thinking. It’s totally possible to develop new tracks for your thoughts to run on. Yes it can take time but it’s very doable. Working with someone like me can reduce the amount of time it takes to make these changes in thinking, but you can do it for yourself as well. You need to become more aware of what you’re thinking at any given time, shift your attention to the thoughts you want to focus on, rinse and repeat.
Trust that everything will be ok and that you can deal with whatever happens
Very often we can doubt ourselves and our abilities. When we do this it opens up far more opportunities to worry about. When we don’t trust that things will work out for the best, in whatever form that takes, it creates stress and worry. We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, nobody does. But if we can develop trust that things will always work out for the best (even if it’s not in a way we would choose), it takes a lot of pressure off our shoulders. If we can trust that regardless of what life throws at us we can handle it, we feel stronger and better able to cope with anything.
Tools to help you stop worrying
Whilst mindfulness and becoming more self-aware are the foundations on which long-term change will be built there are plenty of tools and techniques you can use to help yourself along the way. The following are some examples of supports I use both for myself and my clients. Flower essences and essence aura sprays can help to balance our energy and provide a deep level of support for our mindset, thought patterns and emotions. Vibrational essences like those from Crystal Herbs (who I’m an affiliate of) can provide gentle, ongoing support to help you stop worrying.
Each essence supports a different mindset or way of feeling. For example, if you’re prone to worrying about the safety of others Red Chestnut can help. Mimulus is for fear and worry about known things e.g. illness, finances, losing your job, other people – anything you can easily identify as the source of your worry. Whereas if you tend to worry for no specific reason, or you can’t name the source of your worry Aspen would be a good choice for you. The Strength & Courage spray helps with overcoming fear and reminding you of your own innate strength and courage. You can be guided by the description of the essence, your intuition or use a technique such as dowsing or muscle testing to help you select which would best support you at this time.
More techniques you can use to help you worry less
Other tools you can use to support yourself might include a gratitude journal, where you make notes daily of things in your life you’re grateful for. If you are worrying about something in particular make sure you include as many things about that situation as you can daily, until it’s resolved.
Practising grounding and ensuring you ground your energy regularly will help you feel stronger and more robust in yourself, so you’ll feel better able to cope. Your energy won’t be flying around your head promoting overthinking and worry, you’ll be clear headed so you can think more clearly about the situation. You’ll also be more open to your intuition.
You could use affirmations as part of your daily routine to help re-train your way of thinking. They can also be used as a focal point for your attention if you notice your mind wandering to negative thoughts. Examples of helpful affirmations might include “I focus on the positive and expect good things to happen” or “I trust everything will work out perfectly”.
I hope you’ve found these ways to stop worrying helpful. Be kind to yourself along the way as it will take time for the changes to take hold and become your new way of thinking. If you’d like extra support to help you address your current mindset do get in contact.