Do you worry too much? Worries are essentially pessimistic thoughts, and when you harbor pessimistic thoughts for long enough, your brain will probably work hard at making them come true. What’s more, even when good things happen to you while you have pessimistic thoughts, you won’t be able to take joy in these good things because your negative thoughts are eating away at the joy.
The worst thing is when you worry about worrying. That’s like supplying an addict with a limitless supply of drugs.
Not all worrying is bad though!
There is in fact a positive kind of worrying, which researchers call adaptive worrying. Adaptive worrying can serve a good purpose in your life and be constructive, because it helps you to solve problems that are likely to occur with challenges you’ll face in the future. A kind of pre-emptive problem-solving.
The five most common areas for adaptive worrying are:
- lack of confidence
- “aimless future”.
However, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re very likely doing more than engaging in adaptive worrying. (Even if you think you’re not). According to research by Dr. Graham Davey, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Sussex, in Brighton, England, falsely believe that their worries are actually helpful. They tend to belief that their worrying protects them from something bad happening.
Pathologic worrying (and how it hurts you)
Excessive worrying however affects your life negatively. Their worrying is out of control, and they not just worry about probable realistic future challenges and how to solve them, but also worry about things that are unlikely to occur and things which aren’t likely to affect them at all, or where the consequences are so unsubstantial that the effects of worrying outweigh the negative effects of the thing actually occurring.
Worrying will cause a constant anxiety level and chronic stress. (Although worrying is not the same as anxiety. Anxiety is more based on physiological factors, whereas worrying is largely cognitive.) You’re not as mentally sharp as you could be. Worries can make you lose sleep, and sleep is one of those basic building blocks of long-term health and happiness that you don’t want to compromise.
3 ways to stop worrying
There’s no one-size fits all approach. Everyone is different. But here are three ways to have proven to be highly effective.
1. Hack your worrying by scheduling it
Is it difficult to stop worrying? You bet it is. In fact, many people who try find that stopping cold is not so easy. Maybe you find it is too hard to completely stop worrying.
And if that’s the case, then simply do this:
don’t stop worrying. But don’t worry too much either.
You put a limit on your worries. Now you can worry as much as you like, but you do so within a certain timeframe. For example, every day, you can set aside 10 or 20 minutes just for worrying. And during these 10 or 20 minutes every day, you do nothing but worry.
But for the remaining 23 hours and 40 minutes of your day, you don’t allow yourself to worry. Whenever a worrying thought enters your consciousness, you simply say: “Stop! I’ll save that for later!”
If you’re concerned that you’ll forget about this worry, you can write it down on a piece of paper that you’ll later pull out when it’s worry time, just to be sure.
This way, you’ll teach your mind that you can control your worries, while still getting all the benefits that worrying might have for you on some level.
And when you try to fight your worries, what often happens is that they actually become stronger. Because of all the energy and thought you invest into fighting and resisting your worries, it actually fuels them and makes them bigger, gives them more emotional power over you.
That’s why an approach like “scheduling” your worries can work.
2. Rate your worries vs your realities
Put things in perspective: On a scale of 1 to 10, how worried do you feel about a particular issue? Write down that number. Then, on a scale of 1 to 10, how important is that particular issue really in your overall life? Many times, you’ll find that your “feeling score” is much higher than the “real importance score”.
3. Stop worrying with hypnosis
Another way to avoid fueling your worries is by using hypnosis. Because what hypnosis does is that it directs your attention away from worries and to more positive things.
If you look at worries from a micro level, they are really a multi-phase process.
First, there is something that triggers a worrying thought.
Then you engage in that worrying thought, elaborate on it, make it bigger.
And finally at some point something happens that distracts your attention away from the worry, at least for a while. Maybe it’ll be another worrying thought, but in the end that initial worry isn’t there anymore, at least for now – it might linger somewhere and show up again at some point, but for some time it’s gone.
Now what hypnosis does is that it can rewire the triggers. So that at first, when something that used to cause you worrying thoughts, will now lead to more productive mental strategies.
And it can also help you to distract your mind faster from the worry and to more helpful mental strategies. So it’s really a two-fold approach, and you can (and probably have every good reason to) try it out yourself.