It is sometimes hard to know how to stop worrying. However, asking yourself certain questions can help put your worries in perspective and find a more effective solution to your problems.
While worrying can sometimes be useful, often it is a negative, stressful state that does little to improve our situation. Worrying excessively can cause mental and physical health problems and it certainly isn’t much fun. Unfortunately, though, it can be hard to know how to stop worrying.
Often we think that worrying helps in some way, but unproductive overthinking never provides a solution. Asking questions about your worrying habit can help you to switch from negative, unproductive thinking to a better way to deal with the problems that occur in life.
To get your worrying habit under control, try asking these 7 questions.
1. Is this a realistic worry?
Many of the things we worry about are not likely to ever happen. We worry that someone may get seriously ill or there might be an accident. Or we worry that our boss will be cross and fire us. We might worry that our house might burn down, or we may be attacked on the subway.
Of course, these things are possibilities, but at any given period of our lives, they are statistically unlikely. And of course, worrying about them doesn’t help. We sometimes think that by worrying we can protect ourselves from the devastating effects of these traumas if they should happen.
But it doesn’t work like that, in fact, the opposite is true. Worrying takes the peace and joy from the present. It can be hard to know how to stop worrying about these things, but asking if they are realistic is a good start.
2. Will worrying change anything?
There are two types of worrying. The first is worrying about things that haven’t happened and may never happen, which we covered in the first point. Then there is worrying about things that have happened or are very likely to happen.
While it is worth doing our best to ignore or distract ourselves from the first kind of worry, this second kind may sometimes be useful. The important thing to remember is that rather than incessantly worrying about what might happen and letting it overtake our minds, we can choose to think about the issue in a more practical way. Worrying won’t change anything, however, thinking up solutions and making a plan may.
For example, if you were worried that you didn’t have enough money to pay the rent at the end of the month, you could lie awake thinking about it all night, contemplating how you will soon be living on the streets or your friend’s couch. Alternatively, you could make a plan to get that money. You could consider speaking to a family member about a short-term loan, cutting back your expenses or finding a way to make some extra cash.
3. Will this matter in a year from now?
Often our worries get out of proportion. For example, when we have people over for dinner, we may worry that the cake we have made for dessert won’t rise and the event will be a disaster.
When you are not sure whether something is worth worrying about, try asking whether this will matter in a year from now. Chance are you won’t even remember what you are worried about by then. So, it can’t be worth wasting much time worrying about it now!
4. What would someone else do in this situation?
If you are not sure whether your worry is reasonable or whether you are inflating it in your head, try considering it from another person’s point of view. What would you say to someone else if they came to you with this worry? This can give you a whole new perspective on the problem.
Of course, you can also talk to a trusted friend about your situation. Their perspective might help you to feel less overwhelmed.
5. What is one small step I can take right now to start improving this situation?
If your problem is something you can do something about, such as the problem of paying the rent, you may still be overwhelmed by the problem. There can be so many variables that our minds’ go around and around in circles trying to think of solutions.
To stop this, ask yourself what practical step you could take right now to help ease the problem. Perhaps call a family member, cancel your TV package or scour the internet for extra work or freelancing opportunities. Taking things one small step at a time can reduce worry and feelings of overwhelm.
6. What am I grateful for?
Another way to learn how to stop worrying is to try being grateful for what you have. Appreciation can help us to switch from negative thinking to a more positive frame of mind. This helps us to refocus on what is good in our lives rather than the problems.
Write down all the things you have to be grateful for in your life, from the love of a good friend to a cup of hot coffee.
7. What can I do in the present moment to make my life more pleasant or meaningful?
We often worry because it feels like there is so little we can control in our lives. Spending some time planning and taking part in things that make our lives pleasurable and meaningful can give us a sense that at least part of our lives is under our control. These don’t have to be big things, like moving to Italy or learning to abseil. We can start with small acts of self-care such as taking a walk, sitting in the sunshine for a few moments or starting to work on our dream project for ten minutes every day.
Worrying is a natural part of life and most of us can’t help worrying from time to time. But using these questions can help make your worries work for you instead of against you.
If you are constantly worried or anxious, it is worth talking this through with a trusted friend or counsellor. If you have trouble working out how to stop worrying, there are many therapies that can help you to worry less.