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3 Ways to Manage Worry by Perspective Shifting

How looking at the bigger picture helps us with our daily concerns

Stefan Stefancik/Pexels
Source: Stefan Stefancik/Pexels

In a typical day, our minds can seem to race from one concern to the next. If our brains aren’t fretting about the events occurring in the present, they’re worried about things that happened in the past or nervous about possibilities for the future. And while some of our problems do benefit from extra consideration, we tend to exhaust our mental resources unproductively, fixating on the things we cannot change, as well as lesser, more inconsequential concerns.

Though it's all too easy to get stuck in a spiral of angst, there are ways to help break yourself free. The following set of cognitive strategies works quickly and is readily available to pretty much everyone. These techniques focus on reframing problems by providing a bigger picture perspective and can be applied on the spot whenever smaller worries begin to build.

1. Remember your mortality

Few things are certain in life, but at the time of this writing, death is still inevitable. In the best-case scenario, we enjoy healthy, happy lives for around 100 years before a timely passing. It can be incredibly helpful to remember and contrast this fact with the smaller concerns that keep us from appreciating and enjoying our lives. It’s hard to hold too tightly to our more trivial problems when we appreciate our finite time on this planet.

2. Make a timeline

Think back to your concerns from an hour ago, a week ago, and a year ago. How many of them are still as bothersome now? As you’ve likely discovered, humans have a tendency to overestimate the importance of whatever issues are most immediately visible.

In theory, this could help us to take care of our problems quickly. However, when we lose perspective on what matters in the long run, we’re apt to overburden ourselves with the perceived significance of present issues unnecessarily.

You can help diminish the power of this cognitive distortion by asking yourself how important your problem will be in a day, a week, a month, and so on, developing a better sense of how much the concern really matters and giving yourself a break from needless distress.

3. Look up!

At night, when we’re removed from the distractions of our hectic days, our concerns can grow in the silence, keeping us awake and shattering the peace that comes from finishing the day’s work. But night also presents a unique opportunity for countering our worry. Looking up into the darkened sky, we are reminded that Earth is just a tiny blue sphere in an incomprehensibly massive universe.

Even if you live in a city with light pollution, you can usually see a few stars and the moon. We can use the glow of these heavenly bodies to shed light on the relative insignificance of our issues. If you’re really struggling to see the stars (or if it’s daytime), try looking at pictures or videos of space for a smaller but worthwhile boost in perspective.