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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

How to Stop Worrying: Steps You Can Take

In my prior post, we explored chronic worrying, some of the more common reasons why people develop the habit of constantly worrying, and the negative consequences.

Habitual Worrying
Let's explore how you can become more aware of your negative habit of worrying all of the time and what you can do about it.

How to Stop Worrying
The Serenity Prayer is a wise prayer to remember. The 12 Step programs, like A.A., have adopted it, but it's valuable for everyone to remember:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference

Know what you can change:
If there's some action that you can take to improve your situation, do it. It will empower you and make you feel less afraid of whatever might happen. If you can't change it and there's nothing for you to do, then there's no use in worrying. Rather than railing against what you cannot change, it's better to accept it (assuming that it's not an abusive situation) and make peace with it.

One Way to Stop Worrying:  Accept What You Can't Change and Change What You Can
Designate a time to worry:
This might sound funny, but it's better than spending all day and half the night worrying. Make a deal with yourself: You can worry each day for 15 mins. at whatever time you designate. If you feel yourself starting to worry either before that or after that, remind yourself of the deal that you made with yourself and stick to it.

Ask yourself: Realistically, what are the odds?
Step back from your situation and look at it as if you're someone else. If you look at it objectively and you think that the odds are high that your worst fears will come true, what, if any, positive steps can you take to mitigate the worst case scenario? If the odds are low, ask yourself if it's productive to keep worrying.

Be Objective and Ask Yourself:  What Are the Odds?
Think about prior times when you became overly worried and things turned out all right
Think about all the times that you became a nervous wreck and everything turned out just fine. Did your worrying have any impact on the situation? What did you learn from that situation and can it be applied to the current situation that you're worrying about now.

Think about if you are engaging in all or nothing thinking
For instance, do you tell yourself things like, "If I don't get everything that I want in this situation, I know I won't be happy with it at all."

Ask yourself if you are catastrophizing
Do you tend to expect the worst case scenario most of the time? Are you blowing the problem out of proportion?

Ask Yourself if You're Blowing Things Out of Proportion?
Ask yourself if you tend to take a negative situation and then generalize it to all similar situations
For instance, do you have a tendency to say things to yourself like, "My last boyfriend was a jerk, so all men are jerks"?

Ask Yourself if You Take a Negative Situation and Generalize It to All Similar  Situations
Ask yourself if you tend to allow negative thoughts to overtake you
Do you tend to see the glass as half empty most of the time rather than half full?

Think about what, if anything, you're doing to manage your stress
Do you meditate or do yoga? Do you participate in a regular regime of exercise that is right for you? Do you listen to relaxing music? Do you talk to supportive friends and family? Do you go out for a walk at lunch time?

Develop Stress Management Techniques, Like Getting Out in Nature
Getting professional mental health treatment
If you've tried all or most of these ideas to overcome chronic worrying and you still can't overcome this habit, you could benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional that can help you to work through these issues.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist and EMDR therapist.  I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my web site: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation with me, call (212) 726-1006.

Also, see my article:  How to Stop Worrying: What is Chronic Worrying?

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