- Did I turn my curling iron off?
- Oh my gosh, did I lock the apartment door?
- Do you think the company will have to do layoffs this year?
- Sarah hasn’t called me in a while. Did I upset her?
In this busy day and age, you’re faced with lots of sources of worry. Given the number of things 21st century citizens have to fret about, it’s no surprise that 86 percent of all adults would categorize themselves as worriers. In fact, the average adult spends 50 minutes a day worrying, as found by a study conducted by Rescue Remedy.
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If you’re one of the people who self-identifies as a worrier, you don’t have to just accept this label as an inevitability. There are things you can do to reduce the degree to which you worry and, in doing so, improve the overall quality of your existence.
1. Create A “Worrying Time”
If you’ve been a worrier for decades, it’s not something that you’ll likely be able to quit cold turkey. As you start on the path to reducing the amount of time you spend worrying, begin by setting aside a certain period of time each day that you’ll dedicate to exploring your concerns.
Setting aside 30 minutes per day and making this the only time you spend worrying can have a positive impact on your overall well-being, suggests research from Penn State University. If you think of something that could worry you outside of this time, write it down and don’t revisit it until your next scheduled worrying break.
It is decidedly easier to let go of your worries if you write them down. Keep a journal in which you catalog your thoughts and concerns. Spend time each day reflecting on your life in general and your worries in particular.
When you write down a worry, spend some time reflecting on it and write about ways that you could solve this quandary or reasons why this concern might not be so valid. When you do this you engage in a metacognitive process that naturally helps you resolve some of your concerns.
3. Categorize Worries
Some things are solvable. Maybe you’ve got financial issues that you could resolve with a little modification to your spending patterns. Or perhaps you’re in an unhealthy relationship that you can exit.
These things can be changed. Because of that, it’s reasonable to worry about them. Other things, like how happy your parents are – or aren’t – in their marriage or whether or not you’ll be transferred in your job, aren’t things over which you have any control.
If you don’t have any control over something, it makes no sense to worry about it. Divide your worries into these two categories, and throw out the ones that fall into the latter. This will naturally cut your worries down exponentially.
4. Stop Being So Hard On Yourself
For many people, perfectionism serves as a major source of worry. No matter how hard you try, you can’t make everything perfect. And that’s okay. By accepting that things will, from time to time, be flawed, you can make it easier for yourself to cope when things don’t quite go your way.
When you see something that really bothers you – be it a crooked towel in your bathroom or a spot on your kitchen floor, let it be. By allowing imperfection from time to time, you can make life easier to handle overall and reduce your worry.
5. Be Selective With Friends
Some friends are a natural source of worry. They spend their time gossiping or bringing up engaging – yet worry-inducing – topics. These friends aren’t ones who will help you on your quest to worry less. If you’re truly committed to reducing your worries, limiting your time with these concern causers is a critical step.
If you have a close friend who falls into this category who you don’t want to cut off ties with, speak to them about your concerns. Explain that you are trying to reduce your worrying and ask them to help.
If they’re willing to change their ways and help you avoid excessive worry, keep hanging out with them. If, instead, they continue their same behaviors, seek a less stress-inducing friend with whom to spend your time.
6. Keep Yourself Busy
People naturally worry most when they have time on their hands. If you find yourself continually overwhelmed with worry, try filling your life to the point where no room remains for these unnecessary concerns. Take a painting class, join a book club, or take up a sport. Select whatever interests you and dive in. As you dedicate more and more of your extra energy to this new source of stimulation, you’ll have less time and energy to dedicate to your fretting.
7. Work Out
Not only does hitting the gym help you fit into those skinny jeans – and, more importantly, make your doctor happy – it can also reduce your worries. Research has proven that exercise is an effective way to reduce stress levels.
By engaging in regular physical activity, you create a stronger sense of internal balance and burn off some of the stress that often leads you to worry. To make your workouts fun and sustainable, select a physical activity that you actually enjoy and mix it up, doing different things throughout the week instead of one repetitive task for which you will quickly tire.
8. Embrace Discomfort
Many people worry most when they are uncomfortable about something or in some situation. One effective way to remedy this – cause your own discomfort. In your life, you’ll face periods of discomfort, or you’ll miss out on quality life experiences because you’re so set on avoiding this discomfort.
Be strong and overcome this once and for all by doing something that you know will make you uncomfortable. If you’re a horrible dancer, take a class. If you hate large crowds, head to a packed bar. When you first confront these stress causers, you’ll naturally feel ill-at-ease.
This feeling will fade, however, and ultimately you’ll start to feel more comfortable as you will see that the situation that you have so fervently avoided really isn’t all that bad after all.
9. Accept Uncertainty
Many people worry most about things that are entirely outside of their control. The reason for this is obvious – they can’t do anything about it, and that scares them.
Yes, not being in complete control can be terrifying, but you simply must accept that there are times and places – many of them, actually – in which you won’t be able to retain complete control. Remind yourself of this often. By continually revisiting this idea, you can help yourself come to terms with the stress associated with confronting things that fall outside of the realm of your control.
This will not only help you worry less, but also help reduce some of the most serious stress that is likely impeding your happiness.