Man suffers most from the suffering he fears, but which never appears. — Dutch proverb
People worry about things that are important to them:
Some people worry about worrying.
Worrying probably stems from childhood. Children with a dominant parent who grew up in a performance environment tend to worry more.
Worry is the bridge between fear and depression. It is unhealthy. People who worry suffer more from stomach, head and back pain and stiff necks. Worrying puts your entire body under pressure. And it makes you older.
Research shows that body cells of people with pressure and stress are sometimes as much as ten times older than of people who worry less.
It’s an illusion that worrying gets you somewhere, like a control over your life if you only think through all the scenarios.
Worrying has also a lot to do avoiding fears.
To solve a problem you have to take action, confront others. Worriers find this scary and avoid it. And the problem stays.
Some people believe that thinking about doom scenarios braces them emotionally against negative things and failure.
But it doesn’t work like that. One study showed how people who just took an exam felt right before and right after the announcement of the result. It seems that doom thinkers felt worse before the result, but didn’t feel better than the optimists afterwards, independent of a positive or negative result.
The net result of bracing yourself for the worst is negative, because you feel worse before and have no profit afterwards.
In short, worrying is of little use.
There are a few tactics to bring your mind to rest.
Limit your worry to 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon. In between, try to stop negative thoughts until the next 15 minutes slot.
Make it uncomfortable. Don’t worry in bed or on a comfy couch. Sit on a straight-backed chair.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by worries, you consciously look for them during the worry time. This gives structure to your worries and makes the rest of your time worry-free.
Research shows that this method is more effective than therapy.
If you still can’t stop worrying, try to switch between negative and positive thoughts. Replace negative thoughts with a positive memory (your wedding, a party with friends, a nice holiday or something nice that happened during the day).
It allows for a break from worrying.
8 steps to worry less
1. Be aware that it doesn’t help
Reflecting is important. But if there is no solution or result, worrying misses its goal. Worrying becomes repetitive and you run around in circles, which drains your energy and makes you tense. Time for a change! Being aware of it is the first step.
Exercise, go for a walk. Moving changes your brain and gives it different perspectives. Moving might even bring a solution.
3. Plan it in
Put it in your agenda. From 8-8h15 and 20-20h15. If you worry during the day, postpone it to later. That way you don’t spend the whole day with your worries. Don’t do it just before going to sleep. Eventually reduce to 15 minutes every other day, etc.
4. Don’t be too hard on yourself
If you don’t allow yourself to worry, chances are that you will do it. It’s like asking you not to think about a white bear for 5 minutes! Be nice, cut yourself some slack, even if you worry in between.
5. The STOP method
When you catch yourself worrying, say STOP and look for things to do, to get your mind off it. Read a book, go to the supermarket or for a drink with friends.
6. Be critical
Ask yourself critical questions when you worry:
– is this true?
– what is the worst that can happen?
– what needs to happen to solve this problem?
– what would someone else with the same problem advise?
Write this down. It allows you to work towards the solution.
7. Be in the NOW
Worries focus your attention on the past (what went wrong) or the future (what could go wrong, or hopefully it’ll get better). You’re not living in the moment. But being in the NOW breaks the circle. Pay attention to what you are doing: listen to what your friend says, taste what you eat,…
8. Confront yourself
Why does this affect me? Am I sad, hurt or mad? And why? Did I not take care of myself? Is that something I find difficult?
Be honest with yourself. You will get to know your strengths and weaknesses and that will allow you to better solve your problems.
The best medicine against worries: tackling the problem head on.