Feeling worried and anxious is part of everyday life. Whether it's an upcoming deadline, unpaid bills, or an important meeting, we've all got something on our minds.
It can cause us some stress, a bunch of “what-if” thoughts, and even keep us up at night.
But when does it get to be too much?
When does “normal” worrying become something else entirely?
Bonnie, a mother of four, dealt with crippling anxiety daily.
On the surface, she seemed “normal” and looked like someone who had it together. Deep inside, however, she knew something was off.
Bonnie used to be able to let the small things slide, like her kids bickering during breakfast, morning rush traffic, and her office computer glitching while at work.
But as the stress of her weekly routine piled up, she found herself stuck in her head and caught in an endless loop of negative thoughts.
"One morning, I was just staring at myself in the bathroom mirror while feeling like I was strapped in a rollercoaster ride against my will," Bonnie said.
She continued, “Negative thoughts swirled in my head, and I conjured up worst-case scenarios… my conscious mind knew it wasn’t real, but part of me believed it anyway.”
What Bonnie realized was that her mental worrying was already manifesting in her body physically, and that let her to a full-blown anxiety attack.
Like Bonnie, millions of people struggle with letting their worrisome thoughts get out of hand.
The habit of worrying can create a feedback loop where your thoughts put your body in an agitated state. And once you’re physically agitated, your mind interprets this as a red flag.
As such, your system goes into panic mode as a self-defense mechanism. This heightened state of alert is nature’s way of protecting you from a perceived threat.
However, the problem is that always being in this agitated state can take a toll on us – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Stress caused by too much worrying can keep a person on edge and always on guard against "threats" around them. Even small issues can trigger a loop of negative thinking, which can make it extremely challenging for them to function.
Physically speaking, worrying can make you “sick to your stomach” and feels like your insides are in knots. Other symptoms include constant headaches, chronic fatigue, and mental exhaustion.
Some might try to cover this up through unhealthy habits like self-medication, binge-eating, substance abuse, or scrolling endlessly through their social media feeds.
What most people don’t realize is that these habits are only distractions that can cause even more negative effects in the long run.
But the good news is that you CAN stop worrying and live a normal life again.
It’s just a matter of practicing the right HABITS.
You see, constant worrying is nothing more than a behavior you’ve picked up at some point in your life...
...and like ALL behaviors, this is fueled by a set of habits you’ve acquired over the years.
So, these habits are your brain’s way of responding to stressful situations or threats.
This is why you need to disrupt these negative thought patterns with a DIFFERENT set of habits instead.
When you practice these new habits, you’ll form new connections in your mind that lead to better behaviors.
At the same time, you’ll weaken those old mental pathways that were based on fear and worrying.
That said, here are five easy but effective ways to create new pathways in your brain and put a stop to worrying for good:
One of the breakthroughs that Bonnie made was to separate herself from her thoughts.
She says, “I realized that those worrisome thoughts were nothing more than noise. I told myself that it was just something the mind does, so I shouldn’t take it so seriously.”
John Kehoe, author of “Mind Power,” tells us that we’re living simultaneously in TWO worlds.
The first one is the inner world of our thoughts, and the second one is the outer world of our circumstances.
And the better we can make that distinction, the happier we’ll be.
Most people forget that the thoughts from inner reality aren’t always an accurate reflection of their external reality.
Marcus Aurelius, an ancient Greek philosopher who was emperor of Rome for twenty years, said:
“External things are not the problem. It’s your assessment of them. Which you can erase right now.”
That’s why you need to cultivate the habit of challenging worrisome thoughts.
It’s always a good idea to take a step back and give yourself the space to question them.
Ask yourself, “Is this thought of mine an accurate reflection of what’s REALLY going on? Or is it just my assessment of things?”
After that, look for supporting evidence to prove whether those thoughts are valid or not.
Another question you could ask yourself is, "Would it help me if I assessed the situation differently?”
When you force your brain to look at the situation from another angle, this will re-wire your thought patterns in a more positive way.
This may sound a little unusual, but this habit can keep worrying to manageable levels.
To do this, you can decide on a specific time to go over the things that are bothering you.
For instance, you could spend 15-20 minutes after lunch to make a list of your worries and write down a plan of action for each of them.
If any of these thoughts pop up during the day, just put them in your list and save it for your scheduled time.
This habit is a great way to stay objective about the things that are worrying you. At the same time, you’re also allowing yourself to worry in a measured way.
So doing this will take the pressure off and keep your stress levels to a minimum throughout the day.
Attending to your needs is another habit that keeps worrisome thoughts at bay. As stress builds up, it can trigger a negative cycle of worrying, which leads to even more stress.
Like Bonnie, many people feel the most vulnerable to being worried when they're burned out.
That’s why you need to set aside time to recharge yourself mentally and physically. Doing this can be your best weapon against worrying excessively.
Here are some ways to improve your self-care routine:
Read a book or listen to music at night: shut off all electronics and screens two hours before sleeping, and use that time to read something instead. You could also put on something instrumental music (like jazz, classical, acoustic, or slow-paced electronic music) instead. Alternatively, you can play it in the background while reading if you don't find it distracting.
Find a creative or artistic outlet: activities like drawing, painting, writing, poetry, singing are all excellent ways to let off steam and stimulate your brain in a positive way.
Get physical: Exercise increases circulation and triggers a release of endorphins and other feel-good chemicals - all of which are good ways to release stress and take the edge off.
Practice deep breathing exercises: people tend to breathe more quickly as part of their stress response, so it's helpful to slow down deliberately.
Try taking in deep, deliberate breaths - your belly should rise as you do this. Then your abdomen should contract as you exhale through your mouth.
This forces your mind and body to relax, which is what you want when dealing with worrisome thoughts. Find a time to do this during the day, or as part of your bedtime ritual.
You don’t have to face your worries alone. Find someone to talk to so you can get some perspective.
As mentioned earlier, positive self-talk (i.e.b, challenging negative thoughts) is helpful.
However, you can also benefit greatly by sharing your concerns with a trusted friend, relative, or colleague who won't judge or criticize you.
Also, they can help you realize that your feelings (as valid as they are) aren’t always an accurate representation of what’s really going on. Plus, they offer you a different solution that you haven’t thought about yet.
When you’re worried, it can get in the way of your creative and problem-solving skills. So, their take on the matter could be just what you need.
Most of our worries have to do with things that haven’t happened yet.
And when you’re too focused on the future - and NOT on the present moment - this can make you feel powerless.
Here’s a simple fact that most people ignore: worrying does NOT affect the outcome...
...but taking action in the present moment CAN.
Worrying excessively and getting stuck in “what if” thoughts can be paralyzing. It’s like being caught in a hypnotic trance that keeps you from helping yourself.
And the only way to break free from this trance is to shift your focus on “The Now.”
As the famous philosopher Alan Watts once said:
“There is never anything but the present, and if one cannot live there, one cannot live anywhere.”
But how can you bring yourself in the present moment?
When you’ve got a million things on your mind fighting for your attention, it might seem impossible.
However, people have been practicing the art of stillness since ancient times. They call this mindfulness, which is the habit of practicing awareness of the present moment.
Anyone can do this through meditation. This is a powerful way to break the cycle of overthinking and feeling bad.
You can do this by sitting in a quiet room free of distractions and focusing only on your breathing. You can also take note of any sensations you’re feeling, such as the tightness in your muscles or even your heart beating.
However, many people find this too challenging to do on their own, so they turn to guided meditation audio tracks to help them through this process.
My friend, Dr. Steve G. Jones, a clinical hypnotherapist, has recently come out with a self-hypnosis program called "No More Worrying."
Using ambient sounds and gentle narration, this special type of meditation audio is the fastest way to enter a relaxed state...
...and listening to this track for just minutes a day is an effective way to re-wire thought patterns…
...end anxiety, and break free from negative mental habits.
And for a limited time, he’s offering it for an 85% discount to make it easy as possible for everyone to take advantage of this amazing new track!