Anti-Worry Techniques

First, ask yourself: can I control this thing I’m worried about?
If the answer is yes, ask yourself, what do I want to happen?  What are some of the ways I might make it happen? Decide which of these choices is the best. (If you’re not sure, pick one at random)  Then do it.

If the answer is no, consider the following techniques.

Busy Bee” approach: since it’s hard to think about two things at once, getting involved in something will push your worries aside.  Activities in which you are physically and/or mentally active (e.g., talking to a friend, gardening) are usually more distracting than passive activities (e.g., watching TV).

Remind yourself that you can’t change the situation; the task is to learn to let go and accept it–and devote your energy to the things in life that you can change!

Practice relaxation techniques: deep breathing, “mini-vacations,” muscle tension/relaxation, meditation.  Bookstores and record stores often carry relaxation tapes.

Practice thought-stopping: as soon as you start to worry, think the word “STOP!” and immediately focus on a pleasant thought or activity. (You may also picture a big red stop sign to add to the effect.)  Keep doing this whenever the thought comes back: although you may have to thought-stop several times in a row at first, eventually it will take effect.

Write down your worries in a notebook as they come, but don’t read them until later. Set aside a time to read them, then tear them up and throw them away. (They’re not worth holding on to, are they?)

Put off worries: choose a half-hour a day when it would be convenient to worry–but not at bedtime.  If worries come up before then, tell yourself that you have too much to do and the worry will have to wait until the worry time.  Focus on something else in the meantime. When the worry time comes, you can worry nonstop for half an hour and get a full day’s worries out of the way–or skip it if you still have better things to do.

Finally, you can face the worry head-on and “talk back” to it. Attack the worry with the following questions.

  • What’s the worst thing that could happen?
  • Although I don’t want it to happen, could I survive it?  How?
  • How likely is it that my worst fear will happen?
  • What proof do I have? 
  • What else might happen instead? 
  • What are some of the possible good outcomes?
  • What has happened in similar situations in the past?
  • Of all the times I’ve worried, what percentage of the time have my worries come true? 
  • When my fears did come true, what did I gain by worrying ahead of time?

Worrying is:

   paying interest on a debt you may never owe…

   and suffering in an imaginary life while the real one passes you by.

See additional resources on the Links page.