Worry is a powerful emotion. It keeps thousands, if not millions, of people in employment. It drives sales of prescription drugs and increases referrals to specialist medical professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists. An entire economy exists to help people stop worrying.
Worry can be a source of stress and anxiety which can have a detrimental effect on an individual’s health. It can lead people to commit a crime, commit an act of violence, or even self-harm. Worry is a powerful emotion but of the many ways in which worry impacts this world, you would struggle to find one which is positive for the individual doing the worrying.
Why you should stop worrying
Of all the emotions which you may experience, worry is one of the prime contenders for the title of ‘most useless emotion’. There are 3 core reasons why worry is useless:
- You can spend a lot of time worrying about something which may not happen. This is time that you will never get back; time which could have been spent doing something which would move your life forward.
- Even if the event about which you have been worrying does happen, the time spent worrying about it could have been used taking proactive action which would have prevented it from happening.
- Worry can cause you to procrastinate and avoid doing something which you would really like to do. You worry that something may go wrong so you don’t take action. If you never take action, you never really know whether the outcome you were worried about would actually have happened. Even if it had happened, you most likely would have been able to deal with it anyway.
Worry is something which you may learn as a child. Worry may be your natural reaction whenever you think about something new. If you let worries take over your life, you will never fulfil your dreams and your health is likely to suffer. There is good news though. Just as you learned to worry, you can train yourself to respond differently. It will take time but by instilling some positive new habits, you can learn to live with the uncertainty and stop worrying.
7 Strategies to stop worrying
The following tips, when practiced regularly, will help to change your instinctive reaction when faced with uncertainty. They will help you to stop worrying about the unknown, and embrace uncertainty.
1. Live in the present
Worry is triggered by uncertainty about future events. The more you think about these events, the more you realise that the outcome is uncertain. Rather than think about the future, choose to live in the present. By all means, have plans for the future but when these plans are made; return your focus to the present moment.
2. Ask an honest question
When you find yourself worrying, you need to realise that your worry is achieving nothing. You can remind yourself of this by asking yourself an honest question ‘Will worrying about this get me the outcome I desire?’ The obvious answer is ‘No’. The only thing that will achieve the outcome you desire is positive action. When you remind yourself that worrying is pointless, you can stop worrying and motivate yourself to focus on positive action.
3. Immerse yourself
If you find yourself worrying about something which you have to do, remind yourself that you will never know until you try. You can then gradually immerse yourself in the activity. Breaking the overall objective into smaller steps allows you to stop worrying about the big goal and focus on making gradual progress by taking one step at a time.
For example, if you are worried about delivering a group presentation, you might start by practicing your presentation alone in the room. Next time, you can practice in front of a friend. Each time you practice, you can increase the number of people you present to. Your confidence will grow and your worry will decrease with each practice session.
For more tips on this, check out the Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting.
4. Use coping imagery
Imagery is a very effective tool for managing worry. When you are worried about a forthcoming event, you tend to visualise it going wrong. This makes the situation feel real and increases your worry.
You can use coping imagery to replace the negative imagery with something more positive. There is no point visualising the event going perfectly as you will not believe it. Instead you can:
- Determine what it is that you are worried might happen
- Decide some coping strategies which you can use if it does happen
- Visualise the event going wrong
- Visualise yourself using the coping strategies successfully
Do this for 5 minutes, 3-4 times per day. This helps you to stop worrying, by building your confidence in your ability to cope with the situation, if it does arise.
Similar to immersing yourself, you can rehearse most situations. Whenever there is an upcoming event which you may be worried about, rehearse it. Even if it is not possible to rehearse the full event, rehearse the parts which you can rehearse. The more you rehearse, the more comfortable you become. When it comes to the big moment, you will be more confident that you can deliver thus reducing your worrying.
6. Use Socratic questions
When you worry, you tend to make assumptions. You do not challenge these assumptions; you just accept them to be true. Socratic questions are questions which force you to stop and think. They are questions which cannot easily be answered with one word. Socratic questions are particularly useful for breaking down assumptions and negative beliefs. When you challenge these assumptions, you often see that there is no truth in them and you quickly stop worrying. Some of the most common Socratic questions include:
- Why do you think that?
- Is that always the case?
- What evidence do you have to support that?
7. Seek alternatives
When you worry, you tend to see only one potential outcome. Forcing yourself to consider other possibilities will weaken the stranglehold of the worrying thought. When you see that there are other possibilities, you will no longer feel certain about the negative outcome. As you see more potential positive outcomes, you can become more motivated to make one of these outcomes occur.
Worry is one of most pointless activities you can indulge in. It stops you from taking positive action and can lead to a myriad of health, relationship and personal problems. Entire industries have been created to help people deal with worry. Despite this, the truth remains that worry is a self-inflicted emotion. Rather than worry, you must focus your energy on taking positive action, in pursuit of your goals and the life you desire. To do this, you can use the 7 strategies, outlined above, to help you stop worrying. It will take time, patience and effort but you can live a positive life, free from worry. Use the 7 strategies and to stop worrying and start living.
Image credit: Leroy Allen Skalstad