Worrying isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it leads to productive behavior. A student who worries about his grades might be motivated to study hard. Or a person who worries about his health may exercise often.
Excessive worry, however, can cause significant distress and interfere with your productivity. Worrying about a presentation you’re going to give next week can make it difficult to concentrate. Or constant worry over a health problem can interfere with your sleep, which could complicate your health issues even more.
If your anxiety is a little over the top, here are seven strategies that can calm your worries fast:
1. Acknowledge Your Fear
Telling yourself, “Don’t think about it,” is likely to backfire. The popular “white bear experiment” in 1987 highlighted that paradoxical effect. When participants were told to avoid thinking about ‘white bears,’ they reported increased images of white bears popping into their minds.
Trying to suppress your worrisome thoughts may add to your distress. Accept that you feel anxious and your intrusive thoughts may actually subside.
2. Reframe Your Unrealistic Thoughts
Anxious feelings can lead to catastrophic predictions. Imagining one bad grade will ruin your entire future, or one minor mistake will cause you to become homeless and destitute, will fuel your anxious feelings.
Replace your exaggeratedly negative thoughts with more realistic statements. When you think something like, “I’m going to stumble over my words and look like a complete idiot,” remind yourself, “I have worthwhile things to communicate and if I mess up, it won’t be a big deal.”
3. Engage in Problem-Solving
Separate the things you can control from the things you can’t. Then, focus your efforts on addressing the problems you have some control over.
If you’re worried you’re going to look unprofessional at your job interview next week, take steps to prepare yourself the best you can. If you’re concerned about your debt, work on a budget. Whenever possible, turn your worrisome thoughts into productive behavior.
4. Calm Your Body
Feelings of anxiety can lead to unwelcome physical symptoms, like increased heart rate, dry mouth, sweaty palms, and upset stomach. You may even have trouble sleeping or difficulty sitting still. Those physical symptoms can feed anxious feelings and upsetting thoughts, which will make your anxiety even worse.
Take steps to calm your body. Go for a jog, do some yoga, practice deep breathing, orperform relaxation skills. Calming your body can be key to calming your mind.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Stop worrying about something you said yesterday, or fretting about something you’re going to do tomorrow, by staying in the present. Practice mindfulness skills and become completely in tune with what is going on around you right now. Being mindful quiets anxious thoughts and reduces the stress response to your body.
6. Set Aside Time to Worry
Whether you’re waiting on test results from the doctor, or you can’t stop worrying about your financial future, create a specific time to worry. A 2011 study published inPsychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that setting aside time to worry reduces intrusive thoughts throughout the day.
Schedule a 30 minute time slot to worry. When anxious thoughts enter your mind at other times during the day, remind yourself, “It’s not time to worry about that yet.” When you reach your scheduled time to worry, sit and worry until time is up. It can help contain your anxiety to a specific time period and prevent uneasy thoughts from overtaking your entire day.
7. Do Something Different
When you struggle to get your mind off your worries, and you can’t take steps to solve the problem, get your body up and moving. Go for a walk, knit a scarf, clean a closet – do whatever it takes to stay busy. Getting your mind off your problems for a few minutes can reduce your stress and give your mind a much needed break.
When you’re plagued with worry and you can’t engage in a physical activity – like when you’re stuck in a boring meeting or when you’re trying to fall asleep at night – give your mind a job to do. Begin with 100 and count backward by 7, or try to list the states in alphabetical order. Come up with something that requires enough concentration that you won’t have brain power left over to worry.
Via By Amy Morin at Forbes