“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
— Bobby McFerrin
The truth is we all worry. There are bills to pay, children to raise, deadlines to meet, and crises in many parts of the world.
Some worrying can actually be helpful; it means we aren’t shirking our responsibilities and that we care what happens to ourselves and the people we love. However, there comes a point where worry becomes excessive and overwhelming, taking over all of our thoughts and leaving us tired and depressed.
Here are some practical strategies to help you deal with unhealthy worry when it starts consuming your time and energy.
1. Learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy worry
It’s critical to our physical and emotional health to learn the difference between normal, healthy worry and worry that is unfounded or irrational, and to learn how to minimize your worrying once you’ve realized that it has become unhealthy.
Needless worry takes a toll on our energy, our time, our emotions and our sleep. We find ourselves unable to focus on our tasks and unpleasant to be around. Determining the worries that are valid and those that are not is extremely important to maintaining a healthy and well balanced life.
2. Write it down
Get those worries out of your head and put them out in the open. Try to be clear and specific about what exactly it is that you are worried about. Seeing a worry in print may help you let go of it, find an obvious solution to the problem, or when appropriate, inspire you to do something about it.
Journaling or keeping a diary is a good way to write down and release your worries on a regular basis.
3. Find someone to talk to
Whether you choose a friend, spouse or professional counselor, it can be extremely helpful to tell someone about your worries. Hearing yourself saying them out loud may be all it takes to help you realize that you’re worrying needlessly. In addition, your sounding board may be able to offer sound advice that can help you solve problems and reduce your stress.
4. Define the worst-case scenario
What’s the worst that could happen if your fear is realized? You will often find that the worst-case scenario is not as bad as you first imagined. Think about what you would do and how you would handle the situation if it actually happened.
Once you’ve clearly defined the worst-case scenario, decide that you can accept and deal with it if it does occur. This decision alone can eliminate many of your unhealthy worries.
5. Think about the likelihood of your worry coming true
In many cases, you may find yourself needlessly worrying about something that is very unlikely to happen. For example, if you live in California, the possibility of a tornado or hurricane is minimal.
Make a list of all the likely positive outcomes for each of your worries. The longer the list, the better it will help you counteract your worries.