Are You Worrying Too Much?

Tired businesswoman with head in hands looking away
Learn to stop worrying so much. Caiaimage/Agnieszka Wozniak / Getty Images

It’s normal to worry from time to time. Given life’s many unknowns and challenges, worry could be considered a natural response to many situations. But chronic and all-consuming worry can be troublesome and interfere with our ability to function freely and calmly in our daily lives. More importantly, problem worry can make recovery from panic disorder or agoraphobia more difficult.

How to Reduce Your Worrying Thoughts

Here are some helpful tips to reduce your worrisome and negative thoughts:

  1. Avoid Fortune Telling
    1. When you find yourself worrying about a future event because you are picturing a negative outcome, you are, in effect, saying, “I can predict the future.” But, the fact is, you can’t, and you are worried about what may happen, not what will happen. Worry itself serves no purpose unless it spurs a plan of action.
  2. Analyze the Risks
    1. If your mind has been taken over by chronic worry, your risk assessment skills may be distorted. You may even find yourself consumed with worry about future possibilities when there isn’t any real evidence that the negative event will actually come to pass. For example, perhaps you constantly worry about your job performance and fear being fired, but, you have received no indication from your boss, or anyone else, that you’re not performing up to par. Looking at your situation realistically may help you reduce your worry.
  3. Schedule Time to Worry
    1. Some people find it helpful to schedule 30 minutes each day just to worry. If worrisome thoughts creep in at any other times, put them aside by telling yourself you have a scheduled time to worry. Your goal is to worry only during your scheduled 30 minutes each day.
  1. Identify and Replace Worrisome Thoughts
    1. Write down your worrisome and distressful thoughts. Alongside each worrisome thought, list some positive substitution statements. For example, if you worry that your plane may crash during upcoming air travel, you may counter this thought with:
    2. Statistically, air travel is safe.
    3. Professional and competent airline staff are in control, and I can just relax and enjoy my trip.
    4. You can also try using thought stopping to quiet your worrisome mind.
  2. Learn and Practice Relaxation Techniques
    1. By learning and practicing relaxation techniques, you will be able to reduce intrusive worry. Some techniques that may be helpful include deep breathingprogressive muscle relaxation, guided imagerymeditation, and journaling.

Davis, M., Eshelman, E.R. and McKay, M. “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook, 5th Edition. 2000 Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

McKay, M., Davis, M. and Fanning P. “Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life. 1997 Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Edited by Katharina Star, Ph.D. on 10/30/15.