How to Stop Worrying About the Future

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It’s normal to worry from time to time. Given life’s many unknowns and challenges, worry is a natural response to many situations. However, chronic and all-consuming worry can be troublesome and interfere with our ability to function freely and calmly in our daily lives. Here are some helpful tips to reduce your worrisome and negative thoughts.

Why Do We Worry About the Future?

Stress is a natural response to uncertainty. When we're in a new situation or facing confusing circumstances, it's normal to feel worried about what the future may hold. These feelings help us anticipate what may come and may even motivate us. In small amounts, stress can be beneficial.

When that stress becomes chronic, however, we may start to see negative effects on our mental and physical well-being. Worrying too much can also cause us to avoid the things we find stressful, which can worsen anxiety.

People who worry chronically may also perceive things differently from others. They may anticipate that negative things will happen more often and may show a heightened response to real and perceived threats.

Recap

Some amount of stress and worry are normal, but chronic anxiety about the future can have a detrimental effect on your health and well-being.

Avoid Fortune Telling

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.

Analyze the Risks

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.

Schedule Time to Worry

Some people find it helpful to schedule 30 minutes each day just to worry. If worrisome thoughts creep in at any other time, 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.

Identify and Replace Worrisome Thoughts

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: "Statistically, air travel is safe. Professional and competent airline staff are in control, and I can just relax and enjoy my trip."

You can also try using thought-stopping to quiet your worrisome mind.

Learn and Practice Relaxation Techniques

By learning and practicing relaxation techniques, you will be able to reduce intrusive worry. Some techniques that may be helpful include:

Getting Help

If chronic worrying is getting in the way of your everyday life, it may be time to seek professional help. A therapist may be able to help you get to the bottom of your worrying and learn skills and techniques to cope.

Summary

Worry is a normal part of life, but chronic or excessive worry can negatively impact your health and well-being. Learning stress-reduction and relaxation techniques can help you get the symptoms of chronic worrying under control. Cognitive skills like avoiding fortune-telling, replacing negative thoughts, and scheduling a time to worry can also offer benefits. If you are experiencing chronic anxiety about the future, therapy can support you through the process of learning new coping skills.

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