Has worry about the future ever stopped you from sleeping well? Has worry ever affected productivity in your day? Has worry ever altered your mood?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, know that it is normal. Worry happens to all of us. The important piece to handling worry, though, is to prevent it from becoming chronic (persistent or constantly recurring).
The Dalai Lama once said, “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it is not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”
Our human brains are tuned into knowing that life has many unknowns and challenges, and we naturally want to make sure “everything will be okay”. So, ridding ourselves completely of worry may never happen. The good news is there are techniques that you can adopt to help you stop worrying about the future.
Steps to Stop Worrying in the Moment
When you do start to worry, try these steps to regain control. But first, do not beat yourself up for worrying. It is helpful to notice your thoughts rather than try to suppress them because more often than not the harder you try to suppress worries the faster and bigger they come back!
Allow Uncertainty – Choose to accept a level of uncertainty about the future.
You do not have to fix everything and attempt to make life perfect. Instead, take on the attitude of “I do my best” and whatever happens, happens. By adopting the mindset that allows a degree of uncertainty, you give yourself the freedom to just “be” … to live in the moment and not worry about the future. The “what if’s” go away. As you practice this in your daily life, you learn to tolerate uncertainty.
Practice Deep Breathing – Have you ever noticed how you breathe when you are worrying? Your breathing often becomes shallow when you fret. When you focus on deep breathing, it allows your body to relax and it takes you out of the worry mode.
As you focus on deep breathing, your heart rate slows down. Your blood pressure decreases. Your body relaxes. Cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone, decreases. As your nervous system responds to the physical release of stress your worries feel much less important.
Be Mindful in the Moment – Instead of spending time worrying about something that might happen in the future, concentrate on being in the present. This does not mean you suppress your worries. Try writing your worries down on a note to think about later. Refocus and be mindful of where you are and what you are doing at the moment.
Use your five senses to their fullest. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you taste? What do you smell? Center your thoughts on what you are experiencing this very moment vs. what might or might not happen in the days or years ahead.
Techniques to Help You Stop Worrying About the Future
Each of the steps that we have covered will help you stop worrying in the moment. As you practice these steps, they will become habit, and soon you will not only recognize worry, but you will find it easier to turn it off.
Here are three techniques to help you stop worrying about the future:
- Cultivate Extra Gratitude
Gratitude includes thoughts of appreciation and thankfulness, which is impossible to feel at the same time your mind is overloaded with worry.
Your brain cannot shut out negative thoughts and worry all the time, so why not make it a practice to switch your brain over to gratitude whenever you can? You can make this switch easier through a daily technique of writing down three to five things you are grateful for.
Not only will this help you replace any negative thoughts with thankfulness, but it will also help you retain positive thoughts and less worry throughout your day or night.
- Journal Your Worries
Journaling is a therapeutic way to release anxiety, problem-solve, and gain clarity. By writing your worries out, you become aware of not only how you are feeling, but you often find the resolution to what troubles you.
Write down what you are worried about. You can make a simple list or write paragraphs, just be open and honest with yourself.
Once you have written out your worries, go back and decide what you have control over. What can you fix? Are there steps you can take to prevent whatever you are worrying about from happening? Is what you are worried about important?
If you cannot fix what you are worried about (if you have no control over it), or you find it to be of little to no importance, leave it on paper and allow yourself to move on. (Remember, you can allow some uncertainty!)
If you can fix what you are worried about, determine what you need to do to make it happen. Write down the steps that you need to take—then take action rather than fretting over it.
If you do not know what steps to take, look at your entry another day. You might find clarity. You might also realize that it was not important to begin with. Win-win!
- Schedule Your Worry Time
Make your journaling time your worry time. If you prefer to not write or journal, set aside a specific time each day to manage your concerns. This will help you break away from constant worry.
Once you are in the habit of setting worries aside until a given time (Be patient with this!), consider spacing your worry time to every other day or certain days of the week. This will train your brain to think, “No worries today, I’ll jot this down and tackle it tomorrow.”
Make sure you set time aside to pamper yourself after you have tackled what troubles you. Do something soothing and relaxing for you! Pat yourself on the back for taking charge of worry.
Build a Support System—Talk it Out
We are social beings. We are not designed to live in isolation and internalize all our feelings. Build a strong support system so you can talk your worries out before you feel as if they are swirling out of control.
Your support system doesn’t need to be a large group of people—just a trusted friend, family member, coach, or a professional— people that know the steps you are taking to stop worrying about the future, and are dedicated to you help you stay accountable to your actions.
If you feel overwhelmed with worries about your future, we understand. Life is challenging, especially in today’s changing world. We wish your family wellness and calm. We are here for you.
There are three easy ways to make an appointment with us, online, call 619-600-0683, or text 619-607-1230.