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How to Stop Worrying

You Can Break Free From Chronic Worry

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Updated June 30, 2009

It is actually possible to learn how to stop worrying. But first, it is important to know that worry can be normal and even beneficial in certain circumstances. For example, if you’re worried about doing well on an upcoming exam, you may be motivated to study hard. But, sometimes worry becomes pervasive and interferes with our ability to live a happy and peaceful existence. And instead of being a motivating factor, chronic worry can interfere with the actions necessary to achieve our goals.

A friend once told me she felt as if she was worrying her life away. When I asked her what she was worried about, she replied, “Everything.” As our conversation continued, I soon discovered that she did, indeed, worry about everything – even when there was no apparent reason. Her financial status was excellent, but she worried about finances. She worried about the smallest details surrounding the health of herself and her family. She even worried that she would not pack the right clothes for an upcoming trip. Worse, her worrisome thoughts left little room for anything else in her life.

Worry and Anxiety Disorders

Worry can be a symptom of an anxiety disorder. For example, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive worry about routine matters. The worry associated with GAD is out of proportion and may even exist when there is little or no need for concern. Panic disorder often comes with worry about one’s health or when and where the next panic attack will strike.

The good news is that anxiety disorders are very treatable conditions. If you believe your worrying may be a symptom of an anxiety disorder, it is important to get help. There are many treatments available, including medications and psychotherapies that can reduce or stop your symptoms.

You may have a problem with worry if you:

  • Consistently worry about future failures, dangers or other types of negative outcomes
  • Ruminate, or repeat in your mind, the same worry or worries
  • Try to stop worrying by anxious avoidance of certain situations
  • Become paralyzed with worry and are unable to focus on, or implement, constructive solutions to your problems

How to Stop Worrying

  1. Learn and Practice Relaxation Techniques

    By leaning and practicing relaxation techniques, you may be able to reduce intrusive worry. Some techniques that may be helpful include:

    Deep Breathing
    Progressive Muscle Relaxation
    Guided Imagery
    Meditation
    Journaling

  2. Use Thought Stopping

    One effective and quick technique to help you with the intrusive worrisome thoughts is called “thought stopping.” The basis of this technique is that you consciously issue the command, “Stop!” when you experience repeated worrisome, unnecessary or distorted thoughts. You then replace the worrisome thought with something more positive and realistic.

  3. Other Tips to Stop Worrying

    Do you find yourself worrying about a future event because you are picturing a negative outcome? Analyzing your worrisome thoughts and analyzing the risks realistically is important in overcoming chronic worry. Here you will find more tips on how to stop worrying.

Sources:

Davis, M., Eshelman, E.R. and McKay, M. “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 5th Edition. 2000 Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

McKay, M., Davis, M. and Fanning P. “Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life. 1997 Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

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