Want to Stop Worrying? Here’s How!

Note: This is the second of a two-part series. Click here for part one

The following tips on how to stop worrying come from Edward M. Hallowell’s book Worry:

  1. Attack your worry; don’t let it attack you. Charge toward the issue. Then you will not over think the problem of how to handle it instead; you will simply act. Attack the problem, rather than letting it attack you.
  2. Analyze the problem and take corrective action. This is what non-worriers do. Sit down with a spouse or friend and ask “What concrete corrective action can I take to reduce my worries on this matter?” It is better to do this with someone—because alone you’ll be more likely to become anxious and quit.
  3. Exercise at least every other day. Exercise helps prevent toxic worry. It reduces the background noise or anxiety the brain accumulates during the average day.
  4. Develop connectedness in as many different ways as you can. Whether it is feeling connected to your family, or the connections with people we have from our past, or our connections to friends, neighbors and colleagues, or our feelings of belonging to the people we work, play or learn with, or the connectedness we feel being a part of nature, or feeling held in the hands of God. The more you develop and increase your feelings of connectedness, the less you will suffer from toxic kinds of worry.
  5. Do what is right. This is obvious advice, but it is worth mentioning because so many of us behave as if it were not important. The simple, but hard fact is that if we do wrong over and over again—we will not be happy. We will worry and suffer inside, and our consciences will give us a hard time.
  6. Pray or meditate. If you are religious, pray every day. This is good for your soul and it can make you worry less. If you are not religious, meditate. If you don’t know how, read Dr. Herbert Benson’s classic book The Relaxation Response (William Marrow, 1975), or some other book on meditation. Prayer and meditation help us keep things in perspective. They calm our minds.
  7. Add structure to your life. Many everyday worries are directly related to disorganization: What have I forgotten? Why didn’t I bring that brochure with me? Lists, reminders, a daily schedule, a basket next to the front door where you always put your car keys so you don’t start off your day with a frantic search for your keys—these concrete bits of structure can dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend each day in useless or destructive worry.
  8. Try doing something that you like. It is almost impossible to worry destructively if you are engaged in a task you enjoy.
  9. Turn off your gloom-and-doom generator. Many people who are problem-worriers have a tendency to “catastrophize” ordinary concerns. They can turn a minor problem into a potential disaster. By pumping up everyday worries into possible catastrophes, the worrier inflicts great pain upon himself. The best way to counter this tendency to catastrophize small worries into huge ones is to “reality test” the situation by talking it over with a trusted ally or friend.
  10. Never worry alone. When you share a worry, the worry almost always diminishes. You often find solutions to a problem when you talk it out, and the mere fact of putting it into words takes it out of the threatening realm of the imagination—and into a more concrete manageable form.
  11. Look for what is good in life. We are reminded so often of what is bad that we have to look for what is good. Take an inventory everyday of what is good. Big things—children, friends, health, a mate—and little things. Every day, before you go to sleep, look at what you are grateful for.

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