August 18, 2017

How To Overcome Worrying (10+ Experts Share Their Best Strategies & Insights)

How To Overcome Worrying (10+ Experts Share Their Best Strategies & Insights)

"When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened." 

- Winston Churchill

In this column, you will learn simple but powerful tips on how to overcome worrying in life from a wide range of experts.

Clicking on the expert names below will take you to their individual blurb on overcoming worry.

# Surrender- Let go, Let God

Surrendering to God is not a way of abdicating responsibility for your life. Surrendering to God is a way you take full responsibility for your life. Placing the future in the hands of God is the most responsible place we can be. ~Marianne Williamson

Incessant worry is one of life’s biggest buzz kills. It steals our joy, creativity and life force. It keeps us tossing and turning at night searching for the perfect solution or pinned to the wall in an endless cyclone of “what ifs”.

It’s disruptive, unrelenting, and intolerable. So why do we continue to do it?

Let’s break it down.

Human beings consist of two parts: one part ego or lower-self and the other part spirit or higher-self.

The ego is comprised of fear and control. It is the first voice we hear. The ego’s job is to keep us small and unenlightened. Its peak experience is our pain and it will do anything to keep us there by feeding us thoughts of fear and worry.

The other part, our spirit, is comprised of love, truth and inspiration. It is our connection Source – our God-space. It is the small still voice within we hear when we quiet our mind. It is guidance that helps us choose action that will assist our situation for the highest good for all concerned. All our best answers come from our spirit.

With each trial we encounter, we get to choose between our ego’s voice or our spirit’s voice.

After studying A Course in Miracles by proxy through Marianne Williamson, I learned something so incredible, so valuable, it changed my life forever.

Marianne states in her best-selling book A Return to Love:

“Faith is believing that the universe is on our side, and that the universe knows what it’s doing. Faith is a psychological awareness of an unfolding force for good, constantly at work in all dimensions. Our attempts [worry, fear, control] to direct this force only interferes with it. Our willingness to relax into it allows it to work on our behalf.”

After learning this key principle, I began to practice it in my life. “Surrender” became my mantra. I practiced every time a situation caused me alarm and worry. I learned to let God handle anything that was bigger than me and my diminutive capabilities. I stopped listening to my ego, I trusted and I let go.

When my ex’s behavior annihilated my life and I was forced into a menacing court battle, I surrendered. I let go, let God. I knew this situation was far bigger than my capabilities and in order to achieve the best outcome for all concerned, I had to let God do her work. My job was to remain quiet and clear so I could hear the small still voice within and take my next best step. Because I did not interfere with God’s work, everything fell beautifully into place.

When my eldest daughter became gravely ill and almost died 5 years ago, I surrendered. I gave it to God. I knew this was God’s business and I had zero control over this situation. To succumb to despair would only hinder me from being strong for her and impair clarity so vital for decisions regarding her care.

Through surrender, I was equipped to be calm for my frightened child and surprisingly, I felt a deep inner knowing that she was going to be okay. Even though her doctors were telling me through tear-filled eyes, “it doesn’t look good”, I knew better. My daughter made a full recovery.

It’s important to note that letting go may or may not relieve you of every particle of worry. In both situations above, I was not 100% cured of all worry – I’m not Buddha or Jesus after all – however, my worry became manageable. By practicing the art of surrender, we unwind from the coils of terror and walk into the arms of Divine Will.

Surrender starts when we are aware enough to know something is bigger than we are. It’s about remembering the times in our lives we let go and how everything fell into place.

It means having faith in a force so powerful our minuscule awareness can never comprehend it. Surrender is a deep inner knowing that all is in Divine Right Order although it may resemble a disaster right now. It’s trust in knowing you are not exempt from God’s grace and you will be led through this trial if you let go and let God do her work.

Surrender Practice ~

Find a quiet space - sitting alone, walking, driving. Visualize yourself wrapping your worry up in a beautifully adorned box. Know your worry is now contained in this box. Release the box to the universe. Visualize it swirling upwards much like a helium balloon until you can no longer see it. Rest knowing God has received your worry and has set to work on it the minute you let go. Repeat this practice until you fully feel the release. Thank God for handling this worry in the best way possible.

Kristen Brown, Author and Certified Empowerment Coach – www.sweetempowerment.com

# Remind yourself of the futility and wasted energy of worrying

I would like you to take a few moments to remember the last time or any time that you actually solved a problem by worrying about it. You won’t be able to come up with anything, because it never helps. I sometimes wonder about the biological purpose of worrying. We all do it and yet I can’t think of a single evolutionary purpose that correlates with worrying.

It’s taken me years to get disciplined enough to stop worrying and even now I’m not always successful. I eventually did it the same way I stopped counting calories; I reminded myself that counting calories never affected my weight and that worrying has never solved any of my problems. Needless to say, I didn’t quit overnight, but I’m a person who responds well to reason; I don’t like being trapped in any futile endeavor. I’m controlling that way.

Worrying is a milder form of chronic anxiety. Anxiety, as probably everyone knows by now, puts our bodies into an unhealthy fight or flight mode. Cortisol and adrenaline (two stress hormones) are only good for emergency situations. At such times those stress hormones can save your life. But otherwise their presence in our systems is linked to serious health issues, including diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

For our health, not to mention quality of life, we need to eliminate worrying. I use the word “eliminate” purposively. While no one can completely eliminate stress, we can stop worrying.

Here are some tips:

1. I begin by reminding myself that while I’m worrying, I’m wasting my physical, emotional and intellectual resources on a process that will never solve or even help my situation.

2. I write down the worry and begin to analyze it. I look at whether it’s something that I can do anything about, like not being happy at work, or something that I have little or no control over, like the world political situation.

3. If it’s something that I have some control over, I make a list of things that I can do to make some inroads into the problem. It’s surprising how good it feels to take some action, no matter how small.

4. I do not let myself brood or sink into depression. I stay active. Exercise is a good remedy for worrying. It’s something that you can control and almost always produces positive effects. Feeling in control of part of your life makes it easier to tolerate those parts that you don’t have control over.

5. Mindfulness is a state of consciousness that keeps you focused on the present. To be mindful is to slow down and notice your world as it is in that moment. Worrying is almost always future focused. It’s the “what ifs” that may or may not even occur. Try to stay in the present as much as possible.

6. Some of my clients have found it helpful to set aside a time for worrying. When a worry comes up, they write it down and then set it aside. At some designated time of the day, they take out their list and spend a finite amount of time, maybe 15 minutes, really letting themselves worry.

I really think the AA Serenity Prayer is worth saying on a daily basis. It asks God or any higher power to teach you to tell the difference between what you can control, and what you can’t. Letting go of what you can’t control frees you up to take more control of those aspects of your life in which you can actually make a difference. It’s empowering!

Sally Leboy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

# Accept worry

Worrying can become just one more thing to worry about. Most of us have a running tally of our bad habits, things to work on, things we should do, and people we want to be. Being an anxious person is not part of that ideal and so it’s added to our to-do list: item #37 Stop worrying. That’s a nice goal but worrying about our worrying just creates more stress.

Instead, give yourself some credit.

Know that anxiety is a natural human emotion. Like our other emotions, it’s functional- helping us prepare for tasks and respond to threats. Accept that worry is normal and healthy and try to catch yourself from automatically jumping to self-judgement. Telling ourselves our worrying is out of hand and that there’s something wrong with us does not stop the worry. In fact, it increases it.

Being a worrier isn’t a flaw.

Our anxiety can be in hyperdrive which is definitely unpleasant but that doesn’t make you a freak of nature. Increased worry usually has to do with increased stress. Ask yourself if there is something to worry about. Be compassionate toward yourself. Think of your worry as a voice trying to get your attention. You wouldn’t just shut it down if that voice came from a friend voicing a concern. You would notice: “oh they seem stressed”, check what’s bothering them “what’s wrong?”, and show some empathy and validate: “I’m sorry, that sounds rough”. You can do this to yourself.

Validate your own emotions.

This can be a simple as reminding yourself that you’re a human and humans have emotions. You don’t have to understand it or feel the worry is justified to accept that it’s happening and be nice to yourself about it. When you notice it: Oh, I’m worrying again, I wonder what’s wrong. Maybe you get to the root of it, maybe not. Either way, don’t forget the most important step which is to validate your feeling and figure out how to take care of yourself in this time of stress: I guess I’m stressed today, it happens, I’m going to be easier on myself and focus on self-care.

Accepting your worry isn’t the only solution, but it is the best place to start.

We are inclined to be self-critical and reject our feelings but unfortunately this does not aid our efforts to be happy, healthy, and productive. Being hard on yourself does not motivate you or make you feel calm, it only increases your negative emotions. Acceptance isn’t saying you enjoy worrying or that you’d like to encourage more worry in the future. Accepting is saying to yourself that worry is happening and it’s okay because you’re a human (I’m assuming) and sometimes humans worry.

Anne Halleck, MA, LMHC, RYT – www.annehalleck.com

# Regain perspective and regain control

Where would we be without worry?

Would we lose all motivation? Would we never solve our problems? Would we be overwhelmed by the unexpected? Isn’t it irresponsible not to worry? Awareness, planning, and problem solving are not worrying. You know the difference.

Worry pretends to be necessary.

Like the rocking chair analogy, it gives you something to do, and has never gotten you anywhere. It’s a very familiar, comfortable approach we’ve practiced since childhood, and we mistakenly believe it will lead to a solution.

Uncertainty is part of every day.

When is it appropriate to start worrying? Is it when something bad happens? Is it when something bad is about to happen? Is it when you think of something bad possibly happening? Can you find logical answers to those questions?

Have you noticed that you tend to treat all the things you worry about as if they are real or true? Are they? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could remember this the next time we get caught up in fretting?

Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Dr. Rebecca Gladding have written a wonderful book called, “You Are Not Your Brain”. They address bad habits and unhealthy thinking with a four step method to help your brain work FOR you, not against you. Maybe some of these techniques, backed by research, can help YOU!

In this book, worrying falls under the category of deceptive brain messages, which I will refer to as DBM’s. Their definition is, “Any false or inaccurate thought or any unhelpful or distracting impulse, urge, or desire that takes you away from your true goals and intentions in life (i.e., your true self).”

When we see worry for what it is, this knowledge can help lead us to regain perspective and become aware that our brains are playing with us.

We don’t need to, and very often shouldn’t, believe everything we think. Schwartz and Gladding propose a couple of easy, memorable processes that bring us back to perspective.

When we have a plan, we feel less vulnerable and more able to shift our approach.

· Recognize the uncomfortable thought or impulse

· Dismiss the faulty logic or urge to act

· Accept that though these thoughts arise we don’t need to act on them.

The four steps in their method are:

1. Relabel – When you feel the discomfort, catch yourself and become aware of the sensation. Call it what it really is.

2. Reframe – Realize your worry triggers, your DBM’s, are not helping you. Identify that they are just thinking errors passing through your brain. They are not necessarily accurate or even part of the real you. Notice the sensations that come, without giving them significance, and recognize them as false intrusions from DBM’s.

3. Refocus – Direct your thoughts and attention to a productive action – anything you want to be doing. Make a list to have nearby, and plan what to do the next time DBM’s come into your mind. Some suggestions are, go for a walk, lift weights, dance, play a game, call a friend, resume a task you’ve been working on, cook, write, and focus on a hobby. One of my favorite ways to refocus is to use Loving Kindness Meditation, which I have mentioned in previous articles. A few minutes will shift those sensations in an amazing way, and you will also be building resilience.

4. Revalue – rather than allow shame, regret, perfectionism, anxiety, mistakes, or other unwanted feelings to dominate your thoughts, choose to use your power to shift toward that higher, healthy, wise advocate within and bring acceptance that DBM’s have no value. Clearly see what is happening and broaden your point of view to what is constructive and healthy. Stick to feelings that are true and contribute to self-care. Know that sensations are often only masquerading as helpful, and that your true feelings are the healthy ones.

Some great ways to build the resilience that leads to clearer perspective are:

· Regular exercise

· Daily doses of humor

· Plenty of sleep and regular rest

· Connection to people you share healthy interests with

· Minimal exposure to TV and news sources

· Work with a coach to organize, clarify, and take control of the things within your power

· Meditate and/or create a soothing mantra

One of my favorite mantras comes from a Shaker prayer. “All shall be well, and all shall be well. All manner of things shall be well.”

May you regain perspective to live with grace, peace, and ease.

Laurie Curtis, CPPC, CiPP – www.curtisease.com

# Be mindful

Karma is created by the thought, the word and the deed.

This means that in creating karma, the intention is as powerful as what we do. I say this to remind us that our intentions are a powerful influence on the course of our actions. And it all begins with the thought. For example, if your intention is to avoid conflict you might agree to do something that you really don’t want to do.

Be mindful of situations in which you create worry for yourself.

Set good boundaries and don’t back yourself into a corner by over committing or doing things that cause you to worry. This means that you don’t say you will do something when you know you are not going to do it. You will find yourself making excuses and avoiding the person that has expectations of you based on what you said.

When you say the opposite of your intention, you compromise your own integrity.

Let me explain. If you have already decided that you don’t want to do something but SAY you will do it anyway, you are not being truthful with yourself and others. If you do not want to do something, you don’t have to make excuses or justify why you don’t want to do it. If you are not honest about your intentions, you will find yourself trying to avoid the person you committed to. You will worry and live looking over your shoulder because you know you weren’t honest.

If someone is pressuring you and insisting that you do something you don’t want to, set your boundaries and be firm and clear that you don’t want to do it.

This is sometimes easier said than done. Some people don’t like to hear “no” and will try to wear you down with persistence. This is where you need to be strong and stand your ground. Disengage and walk away if someone does not respect the boundaries you are setting. Once you give in and agree to something that someone else is insisting on, then you give them the message that it is okay to wear you down to get what they want.

Be impeccable with your word and say what mean and mean what you say. When you stay in your integrity, you can sleep at night knowing that your are engaging the world in a way that keeps you honest with yourself and others.

Being mindful about over committing is one way to reduce having to worry about certain things that might be within our control.

Sometimes, we might have a hard time saying “no” if it affects our employment, education or reputation. At the same time, be clear about your limits with others as it sends the message about where you stand and what you are willing and not willing to do in certain situations. Don’t diminish your worth, but be humble too. Don’t be arrogant, demanding or entitled. Just simply be clear and concise in your response. Don’t be afraid of silence. Don’t keep talking and back yourself into a corner.

For example, say something like, “Thank you for the invitation, but I will be unable to attend.” You don’t have make excuses or have to keep saying “no.” Even if the person keeps asking what you will be doing instead, just smile and keep saying “I won’t be able to attend.” Disengage and walk away if the person cannot respect your answer.

When we worry, we are worried about the outcome of a particular issue.

Ask yourself if worry will change the outcome. When we are attached to an outcome, we can obsess about it because we have so much invested in the result. Ask yourself what purpose it serves to worry about something that is not within your control. Ask yourself how much time you want to lose to worry. Be confident in your ability to manage the problems that come your way. Be mindful that you give yourself credit for the lessons you have learned in life. Be open to learning more as you experience new things.

Mindfulness can help you with your worry by helping you to step back and look at the big picture.

Ask yourself what you are really worried about. Is it something that you can control or is it “worry” about something that is not yours to worry about? Do not get stuck in the petty details of a situation or get sucked into other people’s drama. Be the author of your own script and don’t let people determine your boundaries for you. Examine the ways that you are enabling others in your life that is creating worry.

Be bold and walk yourself through your worry.

Ask yourself what the worst case scenario would look like. Talk it out with a friend or someone you trust. Talk to a therapist and ask for support in reframing the cause of your worry. Look for ways to slow your thoughts down and challenge your worry. Reflect on how you can shift your perspective to you see your own power in a situation. Believe in the knowledge that you can set a boundary without feeling guilty or taking responsibility for other people’s issues. Have confidence in your own ability to do what you need to do to stand in your power and take care of yourself.

Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT – www.themindfullife.net

# Cultivate self-belief

“Believe in yourself. Have faith in your abilities. Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers, you cannot be successful or happy.”

-Norman Vincent Peale

Believing in yourself is a crucial step toward living a worry-free life.

Without your own support, you’re left depending entirely on other people and external circumstances, which are beyond your control. But when you can truly believe in yourself and your abilities, you’re able to live from a place of stability and faith in yourself, which extends to the rest of your life. You’re able to look at problems or challenging situations and feel confident that you’ve got your own back. You’ll feel more grounded and supported, knowing that you can handle anything that gets thrown your way.

So how can you cultivate self-belief, especially if it’s not something you’re naturally inclined to doing? Here are a few steps and tips to help you!

Step 1. Become aware of your thoughts.

Notice what goes on inside your head when you start to worry. Pay attention to the words you use about yourself or whatever is happening to cause this feeling of worry, and notice how these thoughts make you feel.

Are your thoughts negative and just bringing you down further? Or are they supporting you and encouraging you? How can you change your thoughts to be more positive and supporting?

The language that we use with ourselves is so powerful. The more aware we become of our thoughts, the more conscious we can be in choosing language that lifts us up and supports us instead of tearing us down.

Step 2. Choose empowering beliefs.

What are the limiting beliefs that are holding you back from believing in yourself and your abilities? Maybe it’s that you’re not good enough, or that you don’t deserve to have the things that you want, or that you’re a failure, or that you’ll never be able to succeed.

Whatever the belief is, question where it comes from. When is the first time that you can remember feeling that belief? When did you start living by it? Then take a moment to ask yourself: is that belief really true? Or are you able to see a way where you could live a life without that belief? How would you feel if you let that limiting belief go? Can you start to see a life without it? Can you think of a more empowering belief that you can choose instead?

Step 3. Write down your new empowering thoughts and beliefs.

There is power in journaling and physically writing things down. Grab a pen and paper and write down what came up for you through this exercise. Include your new positive, supportive thoughts and beliefs about yourself.

This transformation could look something like:

Thought: I’m worried about being able to pay my bills this month.

Limiting belief: I’m always going to be in debt and never have financial security.

New empowering thought / belief: I am capable of achieving financial independence. I’m open to receiving abundance in all areas of my life, including my finances.

Or…

Thought: I’m worried about my upcoming review at work.

Limiting belief: I’m not doing good enough, I’m not meeting my sales numbers, and my manager thinks I suck at my job.

New empowering thought / belief: I’m always doing the best that I can at any given moment with the resources available to me. I support myself and trust that I’m on my path. I’ve always got my back and I know that I’m trying my hardest, but that I’m human, and mistakes will happen. I support and love myself regardless.

You can take this one step further by adopting these new beliefs as mantras.

You can repeat them in meditation, or simply repeat them in your head whenever you need to feel centered and supported (i.e. in line at the grocery store, while you’re sitting in traffic, before you respond in a confrontation with another person, etc.). I also have found success in writing down these beliefs on index cards and placing them around my apartment in locations where I’m guaranteed to see them – on my bathroom mirror, my dresser, on the stand where I hang my car keys – as a daily reminder of this truth.

By cultivating self-belief and empowering thoughts, you are taking conscious action toward living a happier, worry-free life.

You will feel supported in all situations, good or bad, because you will know that you have your own back. And suddenly, the external stuff doesn’t seem to have as much as an impact on you. Because internally, you know you are enough. 🙂

Lauren Madden, Health & Wellness Life coach – www.seekouthappiness.com

# Accept uncertainty

Worry is an unpleasant feeling that most, if not all, people encounter at various points throughout their life. Since we cannot fully predict how a future event will turn out, sometimes we agonize over what will be and can't handle the uncertainty. That is often the root of worry and anxiety. Therefore, a way one can cope with and possibly eliminate those negative feelings is to learn to accept uncertainty.

How to accept uncertainty:

1. Stop Catastrophizing

When one is feeling anxious they may tend to catastrophize and go to the worst case scenario. Most of the time, the outcome is not as bad as the person imagined it would be. When you find yourself becoming anxious over a situation, ask yourself "how likely is it that that will really happen?"

Many people are surprised to find, when they consciously decide to answer that question, they realize it is not very probable, making the uncertainty of the future event more bearable.

2. Cope Ahead

A lot of the time when one is worrying, they foresee a bunch of potential negative outcomes, which is what creates the anxiety. When that is the case, imagine yourself managing well in all the various potential outcomes and ultimately being ok. Take the time to sit and really visualize each scenario and what it would look like. Then watch yourself coping and handling the situation well. Showing yourself that you will be fine no matter what will make the uncertainty of the future less scary.

3. Focus on the present

When you allow yourself to obsess over the uncertainty, not only does it create unnecessary stress, but it get so built up in your mind that you lower your overall tolerance. Keeping your thoughts in the present and trying to distract from the worry thoughts help one to have the mental energy to manage uncertainty as it comes.

4. Be your own cheerleader

Come up with a mantra or words of encouragement that you can say to yourself. This helps keep your focus positive and increases resiliency. Therefore, you can feel more confident and self-assured when facing uncertainty. Some examples of good mantras are: "I am strong and courageous and can get through this!" "I believe in myself and my capabilities!" "I can handle whatever comes my way!"

5. Compare to past events

Throughout our lives, situations come up where we worry due to uncertainty. It generally turns out fine. Even if there is some short term stress and tension, ultimately, people are resilient and move on. Remembering these times where we were fine and things turned out fine can help one to maintain confidence when faced with uncertainty. These past situations are proof of one's capability to handle things and they reinforce that uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing and something one can handle.

6. Practice, practice, practice!

The more you implement these tools, the more habitual they will become in your mindset. It will take conscious effort in the beginning but eventually uncertainty overall will not feel as terrifying, therefore, lessening the amount and intensity of worry.

Alyssa Mairanz, LMHC - www.alyssamairanztherapy.com

# Challenge the reality of anxious thoughts

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

Anxiety....

Ah yes! Anxiety! Come in my dear friend!

Anxiety: “I find it rude of you to interrupt my anxiety joke with your positive attitude!”

What is anxiety?

And how does it affect the way we think? Or is it the way we think that gives us anxiety? Quite the chicken or the egg dilemma if you ask me! Well I’m here to tell you that our pesky stinkin’ thinkin is the culprit in this quandary. Now whether it used the candlestick holder or the lead pipe, that i’m not sure?!

In a nutshell, Anxiety is, excessively worrying about irrational things.

Was that helpful?

Not yet?

Those that deal with anxiety are often trying to gain a sense of control over severe negative thoughts, in which we create, in order to keep ourselves prepared for anticipated or unanticipated events. Sounds fairly primal if you ask me! In fact, it is.

If we are anxious, then we are prepared to handle a perceived threat that may be coming our way. However, the key word here is perceive.

If we are perceiving a potential threat heading our way, then, it’s almost like we have psychic fortune telling abilities or something? Is that taking it to far, Miss Cleo?

You see, some worry and some stress can serve a purpose.

Chances are, if you struggle with anxiety you once had to worry excessively in order to survive the situation you were going through at that time. However, now you’re most likely finding this worry has turned to anxiousness and maybe even panic attacks, social anxiety, phobias, substance abuse, self-harm or even depression.

We are all guilty of committing cognitive distorted thinking.

What is cognitive distorted thinking you might ask? They are unhelpful, underlying beliefs that we have created for ourselves over time. Some of these distortions are referred to as: All-or-nothing thinking, fortune telling, jumping to conclusions, blaming, personalizing and oh so much more! When we engage in distorted thinking, we are creating barriers for ourselves such as stress, insecurity, feeling overwhelmed, anger, depression, fear, guilt, suffering, anxiety.

Allow me to reassure you, that there is hope for those who wish to challenge the reality of anxious thoughts.

Allow me to also reassure you that challenging our anxious thoughts takes practice. After all, you didn’t get into this position over night, therefore we must learn to take everything day by day, moment by moment. Literally 24 hours at a time or maybe even one hour at a time?

Ok so how do we tackle this anxiety beast?

We could draw our swords or set our traps? Too simple! We must be strategic. We must out think the way we’ve been thinking. We must first and foremost, become self-aware of when our negative thoughts are beginning to flood our minds. But how will I know my thoughts are negative? That’s simple! You won’t feel good. Negative thoughts equal negative emotions, see what I just did there? Let Mood-Congruent thinking be your guide! When you’re feeling anxious, sad, angry, overwhelmed, insecure, examine the thoughts you are literally having at that moment.

Literally! Grab a piece of paper, write your thoughts down, and ask yourself:

1. Is what I am thinking 100% true?

2. Does what I’m thinking serve my best interest?

3. Does what I’m thinking advance and protect my health? In other words, is it adding more stress to my life or less?

4. Does what I’m thinking get me what I want, need and deserve?

If you answer “No” to any of the 4 questions, then it’s time to reevaluate what you’re thinking!

We must practice challenging our anxious thoughts every single day. It. Will. Get. Easier. Trust the process! Allow me to reiterate that you did not get to this point over night. Perhaps your anxiety is the result of 40 years of worrying, so let’s aim to begin seeing progress around 40 days? Then 40 weeks. You’ve got this! Being hopeful is half the battle, applying yourself a little bit everyday will carry you through. I believe in you.

Megan Harley, MS, LPCC - www.counselingandfitness.com

# Drop your expectations and face your fears

Worrying can take up serious chunks of our brain space.

It can paralyze up by stopping our decision-making processes and even stop us following our dreams, if we let it, which is a crime in my book! This is ridiculous really when you consider that our fears, which are what is behind all our worries, are just figments of our imagination. They are not real!

Equally, worrying is often about our expectations – about trying to predict the future! That’s quite funny, when you think about it, that we spend so much time dwelling on things that don’t yet exist! This light-hearted way of looking at things is one sure-fire way to bring us out of our anxious thoughts.

As someone who has experienced their fair share of worries in their life, as well as coached people to find freedom from their own fears, I’ve discovered a few more pointers to avoid those pesky worries overwhelming us…

Drop the picture in your head of how you think things should be

How many of us waste hours and hours of every day in our lives picturing how we think things will turn out and then agonizing over an imagined outcome that is completely made up in our heads?! I know I am often guilty of this!

Sure, have an idea of what you want, have goals and use visualization as a tool, but don’t hold rigidly to your image of how things ‘should’ be, as things almost never turn out as we expect them to. Good job too, as the Universe might just have something more amazing in store for you than you could ever imagine (and it usually does), so stop trying to predict the future and stay open to the infinite opportunities in every experience.

If we can let go of our expectations and be grateful for the learning in every situation, then we will live happier lives. Or, in the words of Alexander Pope; “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”.

So, be flexible and open to new opportunities. In any situation, you can choose to be disappointed because things didn’t turn out exactly as you expected, or you can be open to the new direction this could take you in.

Recognize that worries are driven by fear, which is not a real thing

What is fear anyway? Can you touch it? Well, for me, it can certainly feel at the time like it is very big and that it affects all areas of my life. Fear can trick you and wears many disguises, but it has to do this because – once you strip away all the illusion and see it for what it really is – you realize FEAR HAS NO POWER OVER YOU. It evaporates into the nothingness that it truly is.

I’ve heard fear described as an acronym for ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’. I think that’s a really useful description to remember because, although it seems so real, fear is not tangible and exists only in your mind – in the worries about things that have never actually happened and probably won’t ever happen. This reminds me of the quote from Mark Twain: “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened”.

Understand that fear and worries are temporary

Fear is also temporary. Even though you feel sometimes like you are in a black hole, you are totally overwhelmed by your worries, it’s always been this way and you can never get out; that’s just fear telling you another lie. It will soon pass. Trust me, I know this!

Buddhists talk about fear (and other ‘delusions’) being just like bad weather in the mind. The clear blue sky of your calm mind is always present, but sometimes the black clouds of fear obscure your view and that is all you see.

In the same way that, if you are in a plane, you can fly above the clouds and see the clear sky above, you can know that the calmness is always there and the clouds will soon blow away.

Weather always changes. If there is a storm in the sky, we do not worry that it will break the sky, as we know it will be sunny again soon. Similarly, we know that fears and all sorts of emotions arise in our mind and then subside again to make way for other feelings.

Fear is common to all of us – it unites us and makes us human

Another thing about fear is that, although it makes you feel isolated, it is something that all of us feels at one time or another. We are not alone in our fear. In the words of Emily Kimbrough, “Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand”. Fear might show us its face in different ways, but it is part of what makes us human.

A few years ago, when I first started my blog to write about facing my own considerable fears and leaving the corporate world after 17 years to follow my dreams of helping people with their self-development, I received one of the most moving letters of my life.

This was from a friend whom I had no idea was facing so many personal challenges and, essentially, so much fear. Wow! I was bowled over by his courageousness in sharing this with me and by his strength. He put in the letter that me showing my vulnerability in my blog helped contribute to him making some difficult decisions and changing his life. This blew me away!

I was so humbled and honored by his beautiful words. In so eloquently sharing his story with me, he made a real connection. And, when you think about it, pushing through our fears unites all of us. Once we realize that we are not alone in our feelings, fear has no hold on us.

Fearlessness doesn’t exist

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather experiencing fear and going ahead with your dreams anyway. In the film ‘Peaceful Warrior’, Nick Nolte’s character Socrates said: “A warrior is not about perfection or victory or invulnerability. He is about absolute vulnerability. That is the only true courage”. And we are all warriors, in our way, quietly fighting our own internal battles and pushing through our own fears.

Those people who you might admire for their strength and courage are unquestionably having to face a lot of their private fears to do what they do. They might look like they have it sussed, but you don’t know what is going on in their head and the challenges they face. “Don’t compare your inside to somebody else’s outside” – good to remember in the age of Facebook!

Gratitude banishes fear

This one really is the key to so much happiness and peace in life. If you can find a lesson to be grateful for in every experience and if you can be thankful for even the simplest things around you, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of contentment. I cannot recommend enough starting a daily gratitude diary to get your mind focused on things to be thankful for – after all, whatever you focus on, you attract more of into your life.

I’ve heard worrying described as “praying for what you don’t want” – the idea being that by spending so much time thinking about negative things, you actually bring them into your life! Instead, use gratitude to banish fear.

You cannot be worrying about the past or future if you are rooted in the present

Breathe! Be present in the moment. Stop your mind dragging you off into worrying about the past or future by focusing on the here and now. Are you still alive? Yes! Is there something to be grateful for right now? Of course! Be open to completely experiencing the moment you are in right at this very second.

Don’t spend your life wishing you were somewhere else or you will miss the amazing things that are happening right now. As John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you whilst you are busy making other plans”. Don’t get to the end of your days, realizing you missed them all because you were worrying about what comes next!

Be ok with not knowing – you don’t have to worry about controlling the outcome

Instead of trying to control the outcome of everything around us, because we think it will make us feel safer, can we welcome surprises? If you can develop more trust in your ability to handle whatever life throws at you (and you must be doing pretty well as you are still here!), you will worry considerably less. Can you be excited, rather than daunted, by not knowing what could happen in the next moment? There is a real sense of freedom in this. If you knew the whole plan for your life, it would be pretty boring! Not knowing makes it more of an adventure!

Humor is an antidote to worrying

As I said at the beginning of this article, taking a more light-hearted approach to life helps us be free of worries. Life is really a game, but many of us get so serious about the smallest of things. The more we can have fun and approach things in a playful manner, the less stress we will have. So, don’t take life so seriously and let your inner child run free!

Fear is actually beneficial in protecting us and helping us grow

It’s worth remembering that fear had a great evolutionary advantage in protecting us when we were cavemen. If we didn’t have any fear, we wouldn’t run away when being chased by bears and we wouldn’t survive very long! However, whilst there is an absence of bears and other such serious external threats in our modern-day environment, the fight or flight center in our brains doesn’t seem to know how to switch off! We end up treating events such as job interviews or our boss shouting us as life-threatening events. We need to remind ourselves constantly to put our fears in prospective and that our boss isn’t actually going to eat us – although it may seem that way at times!

Fear also has a lot to teach us about ourselves. It we never experience fear, we would not grow. If we don’t step out of our comfort zone, into our stretch zone, we will never know how far we can go or what we can achieve. In the words of Abraham Maslow: “At any given moment, we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety”. I certainly choose growth!

Finally: worrying never solved anything

Next time you are worrying yourself silly and stopping yourself from doing something, big or small, have a look at what is holding you back. Maybe you are making excuses. Maybe you don’t even recognize it yet as fear. If it is fear, that’s great because identifying it is half the battle. It can then be understood, examined and conquered. One thing is for sure though, worrying about it isn’t of any practical use.

​I’d like to leave you with a quote from Shantideva, the 8th century Indian Buddhist scholar, who said some wise words about the effect of worrying;

“If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?”

Jo Ritchie, Personal and Business Coach– www.joritchie.com

# Journal your way out of worry

Whether you are a writer or not, you may want to consider using this researched and studied technique to improve your physical and emotional health. Journaling is a valuable tool to improve your day to day living. When you write out problems or concerns, it helps you organize your thoughts, so you can make better, more rational decisions. It encourages you to look closely at who you are and what you are doing that may create difficulties. It eliminates the tendency to worry about things that may never even happen. It allows you to brainstorm how to make positive changes and it gives you an opportunity to reflect on your experiences and circumstances.

Journaling can reduce stress and even improve immune function, relieving some physical ailments like asthma and arthritis. Studies conducted at Southern Methodist University and Ohio State, College of Medicine report that people who expressed their feelings on paper had an increase in T-cell production and in overall good health. Journaling is similar to the “Dear Diary” you kept when you were 17, but it is more. It is an effective instrument that helps you gain valuable personal insights as well as release pent up emotions. Both men and women benefit from this simple, cost-effective therapy.

Here are some tips to follow when you start to journal:

  • 1. Write about the events of the day, any life changes (divorce, death, marriage), job or career challenges, relationship hassles and health related concerns. Always share your feelings, including fears, anger, frustrations, happiness and joy.
  • 2. Don’t concern yourself about how it sounds. Just write and keep writing until you get your thoughts completely out. Let it flow naturally so spelling, grammar, handwriting and organization of thoughts do not matter.
  • 3. Write any time of the day. In other words, when you feel you need to write about something, do it then.
  • 4. Spend about 15 minutes each day expressing your thoughts.
  • 5.t Your thoughts are your own, so don’t share your journal with others. You are not writing for anyone but yourself.

Notice how you feel after you write. You may experience a sense of emotional relief, a lifting of some heavy burden. You may notice that things don’t have the same impact they had before you wrote. I encourage you to make journaling a part of your healthy living tool kit and you will reap the rewards of better health, less visits to the doctor and greater overall life satisfaction.

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

# Take deep breaths

You can decrease your anxiety, stress, and worry, in an instant without seeing a Doctor or Therapist and it’s absolutely FREE, by taking slow deep breaths.

The breath is the first and last thing we do in life, and without it, we would not survive. The breath is therefore considered life force energy; it gives us life.

Breathing is an unconscious activity of the body, however, we do have the ability to consciously control it. Unfortunately, the average person has become used to shallow breathing and only takes in a fraction of air for their lungs, and this includes people who are physically fit. Ideally, people would inhale enough air to fill their lung capacity.

When people become anxious or stressed, their breathing actually becomes even more shallow and rapid. Shallow breathing causes carbon dioxide to drop in your blood stream and if this drops too low, it causes your blood vessels to constrict throughout your body.

As a result, you may notice when you’re stressed, your speech becomes faster, your thoughts become more muddled, and if this continues for a while, you can develop a headache and become dizzy. When you’re stressed and worrying, shallow breathing actually further negatively impacts on your mental and physical well-being.

The importance of breathing properly cannot be underestimated when it comes to managing stress, worry, fear and anxiety. Breathing slowly and deeply releases endorphins and allows the life force energy to enter your body (instead of blocking it) and it instantaneously relieves your stress, calms your mind, and relaxes your body.

Deep Breathing Technique

1. Adjust your posture by pushing your shoulders back to open up your throat and chest to allow in more air.

2. Scan your body for any tension.

3. Imagine your lungs go all the way down to your abdomen and you have to fill the bottom of your lungs with oxygen first.

4. Notice your breath as you slowly breathe in through your nose and you begin to fill your lungs with oxygen and your stomach expands (do not raise your shoulders or expand your chest).

5. Hold your breath for one second and send the oxygen to the extremities of your body (hands, feet and head).

6. Slowly breathe out of your mouth.

7. As you breathe out the stale air, feel the tension and worry leave your body.

8. Repeat this process a few times. Rescan your body for tension and continue if required.

Anxiety is the feeling of excitement, but without the breath. If you want to instantly turn your feeling of anxiety into excitement, breathe deeply!

The next time you feel stressed, worried, fearful or anxious, notice your breathing and you will probably realise your breathing is shallow and rapid. Remember your deep breathing technique, it doesn’t take long to master.

Sharon Craig, Relationship Coach – www.coach2connect.co

# Practice meditation

I can be stressed, or tired, and I can go into a meditation and it all just flows off me. I’ll come out of it refreshed and centered and that’s how I’ll feel and it’ll carry through the day. Ray Dalio

Did you know that a lot of successful people meditate? This is because meditation is a highly effective method for eliminating worry. And the best part is- it’s free!

Meditation decreases mind chatter and excessive worry thoughts by creating awareness and then space between you and your thoughts. Have you ever been swept away by your own fears, doubts or worry? Have you ever been so preoccupied with your own thoughts that you were not present to the people around you? This is the black magic of worry.

Many people do not recognize just how much time is spent on worrying. You have to create a space for awareness in order to recognize it’s hold on you. The good news is that you can eliminate unnecessary worrying by practicing meditation.

Here’s why!

· Meditation slows down the mind which is great for stress reduction. Meditation lowers overthinking and worry thoughts that drains your energy! It acts like a restorative drink of water, and allows your body to relax too.

· When you slow down your mind, it allows you to identify your concerns or fears and how to best overcome them which helps you to find better solutions. This cuts out of a lot of unnecessary thinking because it is easier to find solutions when you are clear and calm.

· Meditation helps you feel grounded and connected to yourself and higher wisdom, which is great for developing your intuition and spirit.

· Meditation is an essential practice that keeps your life in balance. You engage both left and right hemispheres of your brain.

· Meditation slows down aging by lowering stress!

Make the decision to eliminate worry from your life by practicing meditation.

If you need to worry, then schedule a 20 minute “worry time”. The benefits of less worry is that when you are less worries, and more present in the NOW, you will notice the good in your life. This will increase your happiness and well-being.

You can develop habits to support a positive mindset like practicing meditation, expressing gratitude, nurturing relationships, taking care of your body, and increasing flow in your life. Also when you are less worries, you reduce the tendency to ruminate.

Rumination happens when you go over and over your negative thoughts and feelings in your mind. This only fuels the worry, and it’s not a fun ride.

I used to hate meditation and avoided it for years because I am an active person and like to be productive, but found that meditation actually made me more productive and slowing down allowed me to stay balanced. I now love meditation and practice it on a daily basis-even if it’s only five minutes. I teach my clients to do the same because I want them to thrive!

Here’s a simple way to practice meditation.

Find a quiet place to sit. Keep your eyes looking down or on a fixed place in the room. Connect with your body and feel the breathe go down to your belly, and feel it rise out.

Breathe in to a count of four, and breathe out to a count of four. Do this for one minute, and then build up from there. The counting helps you find your own pace and rhythm.

There are also a lot of great YouTube videos and apps out there, and I have some in my book Making Happiness Last.

Dr. Shannon Tran – www.shannontranphd.com

# Exercise

One of the first things a therapist will recommend to you to help reduce anxiety and worry is exercise.

If you have gotten a physical recently and you are cleared by your doctor, exercise is going to be an essential tool to help you to stop worrying. The special thing about exercising is this awesome hormone that is released during your physical activity. That hormone is named endorphins. For all of you Legally Blonde fans, Elle Woods is convinced Brooke didn’t kill her husband because Brooke exercises and endorphins make you happy and happy people don’t go around killing their husbands. Happy people full of endorphins don’t go around worry about things either.

Now you may be wondering what type of exercise is needed in order to help with worrying.

The exciting answer is any and all exercise is going to be good for you. Going out for a walk in nature and observing the scenery using mindfulness can help reduce worry in the moment. Yoga is another excellent exercise that can help improve relaxation. By learning relaxation techniques, you will have some skills to stop worrying and start living.

If you need more athleticism to your exercise, try running a 5k and work at beating your personal record. One of the most important things about exercise is to do in regularly and routinely. Going out for a run once a week isn’t going to be as beneficial as having a schedule of 4-5 days of moderate to intense exercise.

Another way you can make exercise work for you is to find a workout buddy.

Find someone you can chat with and share your worries with. Go for a long walk and talk about everything that is on your mind. Make a commitment to only talk about your worries on the walk and then let it all go for the rest of the day. Alternatively, find a yoga studio you can join and then make friends with the other people. Yoga studios often have other events for you to attend. It can be an instant community for you. And the more community support you have, the better chances you have at reducing your worry.

Nike put it best: “Just Do It”.

Get out today and go for a walk. If you only have ten minutes to spare, start with those ten minutes. Work up to exercising for at least 30 minutes on most days. If you missed that yoga class in the morning, find a YouTube video you can do at night. It doesn’t matter how you get your body moving, the key is that you move.

Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP - www.amandapattersonlmhc.com

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