Does worry get you down? Keep you stressed all day – and up all night? Constant worry and negativity not only doesn’t feel good, it can hurt our health, weight, and energy level.
While we probably can’t really STOP worry (sorry about deceiving you with the title), here are some tips on how to not let our worries get us down.
1. Write down your worries
Do this right before going to bed. When these worries pop into your brain you can say to yourself, “I’ve written them down…and there’s nothing I can do about it right now.” In fact, if your worries have to do with work, why not write them down – and leave the list at work. You can take care of them tomorrow.
2. Just observe
In my yoga class, the teachers are always reminding us that worried, anxious thoughts will always pop into our mind – including the long list of things we should be doing instead of working out right now. The secret to minimizing our worries is NOT to try to stop them. That’s kind of like telling ourselves we can never have sweets for the rest of our lives. And, what happens? All we can think about are those sweets!
Instead, practice being mindful and simply observing those thoughts without judgement. It takes some practice, but I’m getting better and better every day. How do you observe? I’ve had attendees at my speaking events tell me that they imagine those worries floating away on a cloud or floating on a leaf in the river. Find out what works for you. And, keep reminding yourself that the worries are written down so you don’t have to keep them in your brain.
3. Practice deep breathing
Worry is usually accompanied with the “fight or flight” reaction. The stress hormones including adrenaline cause your pulse and breathing to increase – along with your blood pressure and blood glucose (this is why stress causes poor health). This stress reaction might be helpful if you’re needing to run away from a bear, but in most of our first world situations, it’s not going to help. So, counter that stress reaction by taking a few deep breaths. You’ll immediately feel your pulse coming down.
Years back during a tropical storm, water from the neighboring creek started to flow into our house. I immediately started to freak out and was totally immobilized – unable to make simple decisions about what to do. I wanted to call my next door neighbor, but couldn’t even think of his name. So I stopped and took some deep belly breaths and immediately my clarity came back. Try it, it actually works!
4. Be your own best friend.
When your friends come to you with their worries, do you agree with them? (“Yes, you’re right…you really are a piece of crap, you’re fat, and inadequate…). NO! As their friends, we know their inadequacies (hey, we have ours, too), but as a good friend we remind them that MOST of the time they are doing things well. We even give them examples. Start treating yourself like you do your friends. Counter your own negative self-talk. Ask yourself if what you’re worried about really is true. Think of other examples in which things worked out perfectly fine. Don’t dwell on the negative all the time. Mark Twain once said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
5. Schedule worry time
One of my clients told me she gave herself permission to worry right after work. When worries popped into her brain throughout the day she would say (to herself), “I can worry at 5PM.” Then, she would allow herself to worry on her drive home after work…until she reached the halfway point in her drive. Then she would switch to thinking about her evening – what to have for dinner, what she was going to watch on TV, or whatever….but no more worrying. When you give yourself permission to worry, but limit the time, it’s easier to enjoy the rest of the day.
6. Find solutions.
Honestly, sometimes there’s nothing we can do about some of the things we worry about…since we have no control over them. That’s where stress management strategies are helpful – like getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising on a regular basis, practicing our hobbies, hanging out with positive people, and practicing relaxation. When we CAN do something different, then take some of your worry time to come up with solutions. Ask your friends for some ideas – and see a therapist if your worry is interfering with your life.
I was on a news show a few years ago talking about how to maintain a positive attitude. Watch it HERE.