Worrying is not pure evil. In fact, it is our brain’s natural response against potential threats, helping us prepare in advanced. But too much worrying can take a huge toll on our health and well-being. Chronic worrying, which normally leads to anxiety issues, has been shown to increase the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), poor immunity and other health problems.
Do you constantly find yourself worrying about various stuffs, even the most insignificant ones? According to a study review by the University of Surrey, worry is ‘a chain of thoughts and images that are affectively negative and relatively uncontrollable’. Worrying can get you hooked into a cycle of negative thinking, which in turn, makes you anxious and more likely to be depressed.
To avoid the harmful effects of excessive worrying, consider the following techniques. They are not just tips, but scientifically proven ways that can get you back on track when the world seems to be giving you a lot of reasons to be worried.
Admit that you’re worried. A 2005 study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which appeared in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, found that people who suppress their unwanted thoughts end up feeling more distressed by said thoughts. On the other hand, those who were more accepting of their intrusive thoughts had lower levels of anxiety and depression, and were less likely to be obsessional.
Be mindful. One of the most effective strategies to reduce worrying and combat anxiety issues is to practise mindfulness. This technique involves a non-judgmental awareness of present thoughts and emotions. Being mindful allows you to identify the thoughts that are keeping you worried and assess whether your worrying has a logical basis. It also helps you reconstruct your way of thinking so it is more geared towards the positive, not the negative.
Set time for worrying. Try not to allow worrying to interfere with important activities. Instead of worrying all day, create a schedule for worrying and designate about 30 minutes to it. Researchers at Penn State University advise using this ‘worry time’ productively by thinking of possible solutions for your worries.
Write them down. Just as the old advice ‘face your fears’, it would also be helpful if you could face your worries. Don’t push them away because the more you do, the more intense they become. Instead, write down your worries. Researchers at University of Chicago have proven this effective. According to them, writing down your worries could be counterintuitive but it’s like ‘emptying the fears out of your mind’.
Get involved. When you are being hunted by unwanted memories, consider doing something that engages your mind and body. Maybe you can engage in a sport activity, do the garden, re-decorate your room etc. According to a study by the Medical Research Council in England, keeping your hands busy and your mind distracted could prevent flashbacks from traumatic experiences.
Get moving. Exercise is an effective stress-buster. But it also works well in reducing anxiety and worries. Several studies have found that that exercise has effects similar to that of medications, in warding off feelings of blues, and anxiety issues.
Break the rules sometimes. We all want to be healthy and everything, but the need to follow each and every rule when it comes to health can be a source of worry and anxiety too. It’s fine to take a day off from exercise, or eat ice cream or any of your favourite ‘not-so-healthy’ snacks, as long as you don’t make them a hobby.
Limit your use of technology. Research carried out by Anxiety UK revealed that nearly half of people feel ‘worried and uncomfortable’ being away from their Facebook and email. According to the charity, this suggests that some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use, and not let themselves be controlled by technology. Consider getting a digital detox once in a while.
Meditate. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre found that meditation has positive effects on different brain regions, such as the anterior cingulate cortex which controls thinking and emotions, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which controls worrying.
Consider some therapies. Cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnotherapy are scientifically proven ways to counter anxiety disorder, and other related issues like depression and mood problems. Acupuncture and massage therapy may also help.
Hope this article has given you ideas on how to stop excessive worrying. Would you like to share more tips? Feel free to post a comment below.