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.
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. Once you realize that worrying is the problem, not the solution, you can regain control of your worried mind. 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. 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.
These types of thoughts, known as cognitive distortions, include:. 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. Productive, solvable worries are those you can take action on right away.
Unproductive, unsolvable worries are those for which there is no corresponding action. If the worry is solvable, start brainstorming.
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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. If the worry is not solvable, accept the uncertainty.
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. 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. If you worry excessively, it can seem like negative thoughts are running through your head on endless repeat.
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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. 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.
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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. By being fully engaged in the present moment, you can interrupt the endless loop of negative thoughts and worries. 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.
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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.
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. It may seem like a simplistic solution, but talking face to face with 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. 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.
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Human beings are social creatures. Your anxious take on life may be something you learned when you were growing up.
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When considering who to turn to, ask yourself whether you tend to feel better or worse after talking to that person about a problem. Acknowledge and observe your worries. Let your worries go. 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. Moser recently had a study come out in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, showing that the brains of worriers and non-worriers actually work differently in a stressful event. Then, the participants looked at negative images -- such as a woman having a knife held to her throat by a masked man -- as their brain activity was monitored and recorded.
They're more willing to take chances. While worriers have a hard time making decisions -- they take a long time because they can become crippled by all the potential negative outcomes -- non-worriers are more willing to test out solutions to a problem even if a bad outcome is possible, Moser says. In that same vein, non-worriers are also more flexible in the way they think about things, so they don't get stuck in a negative thinking rut.
They have a sense of perspective. Non-worriers are able to distance themselves from a situation in order to gain perspective. However, worriers can increase their perspective, Moser explains. One method for doing this is thinking of all the worst possible scenarios, and then evaluating how likely each of them is to really happen. For example: If a worrier is concerned about losing her job, she may jump to the worst-case scenario, which is that she will end up living under a bridge, homeless and alone.
But Moser says that talking a worrier through a scenario like this helps her understand how un likely that outcome is to happen. Moser suggests another simple strategy to gain perspective: Using your own name instead of "I" when referring to your emotions. For instance, saying "I'm going to fail" is harsh and doesn't allow any distance between you and the thing you're worried about. But "if you talk about yourself in the third person, you can take better perspective," Moser says. They get to the root of their worry.
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The problem with worrying is that it can spin out of control until the thing you're worried about is 10 steps removed from your immediate issue. That's why it's so important to figure out what the real problem is in order to stop the worry cycle. It's important to move from problem-generation, which is what worriers are prone to do, to problem- solving. They don't stop worrying -- they just designate time for it. So, she recommends using a strategy called the "worry chair. Don't worry outside those 15 minutes, and make sure that you're spending your worry session in the same spot hence the term "worry chair"!
I can switch my attention off that and go on to other things,'" Purdon says.
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They have confidence they can handle whatever comes at them. Non-worriers, on the other hand, possess the confidence that if something were to happen, they'll just They have the ability to see positive outcomes in seemingly bleak situations. Take the graphic image Moser used in his Journal of Abnormal Psychology study, described earlier.
If you were to look at an image of a woman being held at knifepoint by a masked man, what do you think the next immediate outcome would be? A worrier would likely only think of the worst-case scenario, while a non-worrier would have the capacity to think, "That woman is in distress, but maybe she breaks away from her assailant and runs to safety," Moser explains.
Non-worriers are able to see that there could be a positive outcome to a negative event. They ask themselves the right questions. Worriers who are trying to tamp down on their worrying tendencies could find it useful to ask themselves a series of questions when they're going down a negative path. And is it imminent? They know how to perceive their negative emotions.
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