9 Steps to End Chronic Worrying


Are you a worry wart? A nervous Nellie? Do you constantly fret about everything and anything from your health to how you are perceived at work to whether or not a terror strike is imminent?

If this sounds like you, then you may be nausea, fatigue, and aches and pains,” he says. In addition, 93% of people with generalized anxiety disorder also have an overlapping psychiatric disorder such as depression, according to Leahy.

Do You Worry Too Much?

Worrying doesn’t always deserve such a bad rap. Sometimes worry is a good thing, says Bruce Levin, MD, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. “If there is an actual threat then there is something to worry about,” he says. “If you run into a bear in the woods, you have something to worry about.” In these cases, “not worrying may be more of a problem than to worry.”

So how much worry is too much worry?

“It depends on the degree to which that disproportionate worry affects you and how much you are suffering and how much it limits you,” he says. “If it’s posing interference in your life or is enough of a problem or nuisance that you are distressed, the good news is there is help.”

9 Worry-Busting Steps

No. 1. Make a list of your worries. Identify what you are worried about, says Leahy.

No. 2. Analyze the list. “Look at whether your worry is productive or unproductive,” Leahy says. A productive worry is one that you can do something about right now. For example, “I am going to Italy, so I may be worried about making plane and hotel reservations,” he says. “This is a productive worry because I can take action now by going online to make reservations.”

By contrast, an unproductive worry is one which you can’t do anything about. “It is more of a proliferation of ‘what ifs,’ over which you have no control and there is no productive action that will lead to a solution,” Leahy says. For example, losing sleep and worrying about whether or not you will get cancer is unproductive.

No. 3. Embrace uncertainty. Once you have isolated your unproductive worries, it’s time to identify what you need to accept in order to get over them, Leahy says. You may need to accept your own limitations or it may be a degree of uncertainty that you need to accept.

For example, you very well may get cancer some day as no one really knows what the future holds. “Many worried people equate uncertainty with a bad outcome, but uncertainty is really neutral,” he says. “When you accept uncertainty, you don’t have to worry anymore. Acceptance means noticing that uncertainty exists and letting go and focusing on the things that you can control, enjoy, or appreciate.”

No. 4. Bore yourself calm. “Repeat a feared thought over and over and it will become boring and will go away,” Leahy says. If your fear is dying of cancer, look in the mirror and say, “I may die of cancer. I may die of cancer.” Say it enough and it will lose its power.

No 5. Make yourself uncomfortable. “Worriers feel that they can’t tolerate discomfort, but if you practice discomfort, you will accomplish a lot more,” Leahy says. “The goal is to be able to do what you don’t want to do or things that make you uncomfortable.”

Worriers tend to avoid new things and situations that make them uncomfortable, such as parties or public speaking engagements. The preemptive worry helps them avoid discomfort, but if you force yourself to do the very things that make you uncomfortable, you will rely less on worry as a coping strategy.

No 6. Stop the clock. “Worried people often have a sense of urgency,” Leahy says. “They think, ‘I need the answer right now and if I don’t get it then something terrible will happen.'” Look at the advantages and disadvantages of demanding such urgency. “Rather than focus on the sense of urgency, instead focus on what you observe right now,” Leahy says.

“Ask yourself, ‘What can I do in the present moment to make my life more pleasant or meaningful?'” he says. “You can either focus your mind on getting an answer right now or focus on improving the moment.” The latter is the better strategy. Take a deep breath, read, or listen to music to stop the clock and curtail your anxiety.

No 7. Remember that it’s never as bad as you think it will be. Anxiety or worry is all about anticipation. The ‘what ifs’ are always way worse than how you feel when something actually happens. “Worriers tend to worry about things that even if they happen, they can handle it,” Leahy says. “Worriers are actually good at handling real problems.”

No 8. Cry out loud. “The emotional part of the — the amygdala — is suppressed when you worry,”>fatigue or rapid heart rate. Use your emotions; don’t try to get rid of them because when you are crying or angry, you are not worried.”

No 9. Talk about it. Beside the cognitive therapy techniques mentioned above — which can help change troublesome behaviors — talk therapy can also help chronic worriers worry less by getting to the root of their issues. Often talk therapy and cognitive behavior therapy can work together, Taub says.

“Each individual needs to understand what causes their anxiety or what it is related to,” she says. “If you dig deep enough and go back to the early bases, it goes away because you have gotten to its roots.”