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5 Techniques To Stop Worrying
Worrying is a habit that could be constructive (it spurs us to solve problems or prepare for an eventuality) but at the same time detrimental to one’s peace of mind (it could develop into an anxiety problem). Chronic worriers, whether they are problem-solvers or not, know from experience that being “plagued with worrying thoughts” is not exactly productive; in fact, it could even distract from actual day-to-day productivity. Worse, excessive anxiety triggers stress response hormones that in turn exact a physiological toll: difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, dizziness, acid reflux, indigestion, and even short term memory loss. In time, chronic worrying may lead to heart disease, ulcers, panic attacks, and digestive disorders, among others. For some, it could also lead one to pick up harmful coping habits such as smoking and binge-drinking. While stopping worrisome thoughts is easier said than done, perhaps the following techniques could help you kick the habit.
1. Determine whether the worry is “valid.”
Are you worrying about an actuality, a possibility or an improbability? The first is a “valid” worry, the second needs further study, and the last should be relegated to the realm of imagination. Actual problems would include finishing a deadline, paying your credit card bill, finding a babysitter for your child, minimizing the costs of a trip abroad. Possibilities can be vague what-ifs, such as being diagnosed with cancer or getting into a car accident during one’s commute. Actualities are solvable, possibilities not necessarily so, and knowing the difference will help you put things in perspective. As for improbabilities, such as a terrorist attack on the bus you are riding to work, or the deployment of a ballistic missile on your city, or Mars crashing into the Earth’s orbit – let the authorities worry about counter-terrorism and security, and leave the rest in the fictional realm of espionage agents and superheroes.
2. Pick your “worries.”
Ever heard the expression “pick your battles” (meaning, choose the fight that you could win or retreat and survive to fight another day)? The same principle can be applied to worrying. Try to assess what you are worrying over: Is it imminent? Is it under your control? Is it solvable? If the worry is not imminent, then perhaps you can set it aside for a later date and focus on the more pressing problems.With the next question regarding control, you will have to ask yourself whether you have any sort of influence or whether your actions will have any impact on what you are worrying over. This leads to the final question of whether you will be able to solve the problem at all. The point being, if the worry is out of your hands your course of action would be to prepare for it, rather than prevent it.
3. Determine a course of action.
Problems can be dealt with on a step-by-step basis: it could be a matter of time management and of setting goals and limits (scheduling work hour projections for finishing the deadline), researching (e.g. to avail of an amnesty program for paying the credit card bill, paying for budget plane tickets and budget hotel), and recruiting the right people (interviewing based on references and agreeing to guidelines for work and compensation with sitter). As for possible what-ifs, these merely require preparation rather than immediate action. If at risk for cancer, effecting lifestyle changes and regular medical checkups will ease the worry – you have already done what you reasonably can to minimize the risk. If you’re worried about car accidents, maintaining your car in good condition and observing vigilance on the road will be more productive than worrying that another car will crash into you (an eventuality that is out of your direct control, you can only react if and when it occurs).
4. Accept the things you cannot change.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Religious or not, this prayer for serenity is a useful in its practicality. Wisdom means determining the differences between actuality, possibility and improbability; real or imagined; what can/may be done, and what can/may result. In some cases, you have no control over circumstances: let it go. While you may have the courage and willpower to see a course of action to its completion, there are no guarantees that what you can do will reach the expected and desired result. Acceptance will help you reach a more serene frame of mind. And remember: know when to pick a worry and to surrender a worry.
5. Meditate your way to serenity.
The practice of meditation has a direct impact on a person’s peace of mind. At its most basic, meditation can be relaxing and will minimize the effects of nervous tension and anxiety; at best, it improves one’s cognitive ability, including the mind’s capacity for problem-solving. Clarity of thought, self-knowledge and emotional detachment are benefits of meditation. How does one appreciate and experience the “now”? What is real and what is imagined? What is truth and what is illusion?