In one of his Instagram posts, Jason Dzamba (@jasondzamba) asked the question, “How would you describe 2020 in one word?” My word for this year was transition. For a lot of people, their word for the year would be something more like, stressful, hard, depressing, or trying. For the majority of people, there have been at least a few moments of worry this year. Hopefully you’ve been able to come back to a sense of centeredness, but in case you find yourself getting stuck in a spiral of constant worrying now, or ever, I’d like to give you a few ideas that help me to stop worrying.
1. Imagine 3 different outcomes.
First, imagine the best outcome that could possibly happen. If everything works out exactly as you want it to, exactly as you have it planned, what would that look like?
Next, imagine the worst possible outcome that you can think of. If everything falls apart and nothing goes as planned, if what you fear the most actually happens, what would that look like?
Now, for the third outcome, imagine the middle of the above two. What would happen if things don’t go perfectly as planned? If some things work out well, and some things don’t, but it all still works out in the end?
We often worry about things not working out, about everything that could possibly go wrong, but rarely does the worst of the worst ever actually happen.
2. Learn to believe in your ability to handle anything that happens by celebrating your wins on a daily basis.
We have an amazing ability to handle whatever is thrown at us. Remember this…even if the worst happens, you can handle it. It won’t be easy necessarily, but you can handle it.
What makes this easier is if you begin to celebrate even your smallest wins on a daily basis. Doing so builds your confidence little by little each day. So when things do go awry, you believe in yourself even more.
3. Do something like Qigong or Yoga, take a walk – in nature if possible, or have a dance party in the living room.
This helps for a few different reasons. One, movement floods our bodies with feel good hormones. Two, doing something other than sitting with our worries helps us to step away from them for a little while. Three, things like Qigong and Yoga have specific exercises that work with the meridians in our bodies to help us release these feelings in a healthy way, so that we don’t continue the cycle of overthinking.
The other good thing about these practices is that, once you learn the basics, you can also do the exercises in your mind to help yourself calm down at night, or somewhere you can’t physically do them. Almost every night I go through the Qigong exercises in my mind as I fall asleep. Where they are a moving meditation normally, they become a form of still meditation. If my mind wanders, I bring it back to the exercises as many times as it takes. Depending on what is going on, sometimes it takes a little longer.
4. Be patient with yourself.
It’s not an easy thing to overcome worrying. Even if you’ve been practicing and doing really well, you can find yourself falling back into worry very easily when life throws you a curve ball. Don’t beat yourself up if this happens. It doesn’t mean that you’re not doing well. It doesn’t mean that you growth is stalling out. It means that you’re human.
5. Journal everything out.
If something is really bothering me, and I can’t quite sort out why, I’ll grab my notebook and just start writing. I’ll write anything and everything that comes to mind. If what pops in my mind is “bing bang bongo cherry pie singing gorilla” then I write it down. Sometimes I’ll write 4 or 5 pages of nonsense, but eventually, I’ll start to get to the heart of what is really bothering me. The trick with this is that you have to not censor your thoughts.
No one has to read it. You can burn it or shred it when you’ve finished. But allowing yourself to write freely like this helps because it allows you to stop trying to fit what you’re thinking into a box, or into what you’re worried about. It gives you the chance to figure out why you’re so worried about the worst outcomes in the first place.
6. Redirect your thoughts.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying force yourself to change your thoughts. I’m not saying shove your feelings down and try your best to ignore them. This never works long term. It may work for a little while, but those feelings will come back up somewhere, somehow. Instead, process your thoughts in a healthy way, and then redirect your thoughts using any of these practices.
7. Practice grounding techniques.
When we’re ungrounded, we’re more likely to worry, or to be stressed out. Something as simple as deep belly breathing can help you feel more grounded and more centered.
To practice deep belly breathing: Take deep breaths in and out through your nose. When you breath in, feel and imagine the breath going all the way down into the lower part of your belly. Feel your belly go up and down, in and out, instead of just your chest.
Breathing in this manner helps us to calm down when we’re feeling worried, but it works much better if you practice it before the stress actually hits as well.
8. Take a nap.
Not as an avoidance or an escape, but because being tired makes us much more susceptible to stress. Even taking a 10- or 20-minute power nap can help. It can also give our minds the break needed to allow us to see a better way of doing things. When we’re tired, we can’t always see all of the solutions that are available to us. We also tend to forget that we’re strong enough to handle whatever happens either way.
9. Do something creative.
Whatever your thing is: painting, drawing, coloring, crocheting, sculpting, woodwork. Your imagination is your limit. Being creative gives us another way to process our emotions. It gives our minds a break. It’s soothing.
When I’m stressed out and I need a break to process things, I paint or crochet. Painting backgrounds for my pictures is something that I can do and not really think about anything but the colors and feeling the smoothness of the paint. Fingerpainting is my favorite. =)
10. Give yourself a set time to worry, then move on.
Call a friend and talk about things for a few minutes, but then, if you don’t find a solution, change the subject. Don’t allow yourself to dwell on those things that you’re worried about. The more you allow yourself to do this, the deeper you get into the spiral, and the harder it is to stop yourself. Then go back to it later if necessary.
Don’t just shove it down or ignore it forever, but if you need to do so, for a short time, to give yourself a break, take a break.
11. Get up and do something.
Often our worries hit at night when we lay down to go to sleep. This happens because it’s generally the first time all day that we’re completely still and quiet. If your mind starts racing, and you can’t seem to redirect it gently, get up and stretch or read. Do something mindless. Don’t scroll on your phone, or watch or read anything that is too stimulating, but also don’t lay there and try to just force yourself to stop thinking about it.
When this happens to me, I lay there for a bit and do Qigong practices in my mind. If this doesn’t help, then I get up and stretch. If I still can’t calm my mind down, then I’ll write it out.
12. Focus on what you do want to happen, rather than what you don’t want.
This is a big key to stop the worry before it even starts. But even if you’ve already worried yourself into a spiral, take a moment and say to yourself: “I acknowledge my worry, anxiety, fear, and feelings of not being in control, and I release them. I can only do what feels best in this moment, knowing what I know now, with what I have. Worrying will not change the future, or give me more information. It will only make me sick.” Repeat this to yourself as many times as you need to.
The main thing to remember when you find yourself stuck worrying about things, is that there is nothing wrong with you.
Everyone has periods in their lives when they worry. It’s a natural human reaction to want things to go as well, as easily, and as smoothly as possible, and to be disappointed when they don’t.
Using these ideas isn’t going to erase worry from your life all together. What they will do is help you to work through those worries a little faster when they do arise. They will keep you from getting stuck in worry to the point that you can’t function or see a way out. Life will always be unpredictable, and worrying about things never helps. Instead, try the above ideas, and find the ones that help you.
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