7 Ways to Calm Your Worries Fast
6. Schedule a specific time to worry. (Research shows it really works.)
Posted Oct 25, 2015
Worrying isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it leads to productive behavior. A student who worries about his or her grades might be motivated to study hard. A person who worries about his or her health may exercise often.
Excessive worry, however, can cause significant distress. Worrying about a presentation you’re going to give next week can make it difficult to concentrate. Constant worry over a health problem can interfere with your sleep, which could complicate your well-being even more.
If your anxiety is peaking, here are seven strategies that can help calm worries fast:
1. Acknowledge Your Fear
Telling yourself, “Don’t think about it,” is likely to backfire. The popular “white bear experiment” in 1987 highlighted that paradoxical effect: When participants were told to avoid thinking about white bears, they reported increased images of white bears popping into their minds. Trying to suppress worrisome thoughts may add to your distress. Accept that you feel anxious and your intrusive thoughts may actually subside.
2. Reframe Unrealistic Thoughts
Anxious feelings can lead to catastrophic predictions. Imagining that one bad grade will ruin your future, or that one minor mistake will cause you to become homeless and destitute, will fuel anxious feelings.
Replace exaggeratedly negative thoughts with more realistic statements: When you think something like, “I’m going to stumble over my words and look like an idiot,” remind yourself, “I have worthwhile things to communicate. If I mess up, it won’t be a big deal.”
3. Engage in Problem-Solving
Separate the things you can control from the things you can’t. Then, focus your efforts on addressing the problems you have some control over.
If you’re that worried you’re going to look unprofessional at a job interview, take steps to prepare yourself the best you can. If you’re concerned about your debt, work on a budget. Whenever possible, turn worrisome thoughts into productive behavior.
4. Calm Your Body
Feelings of anxiety can lead to unwelcome physical symptoms—increased heart rate, dry mouth, sweaty palms, or upset stomach. You may have trouble sleeping or difficulty sitting still. Those physical symptoms can feed anxious feelings and upsetting thoughts, which will make your anxiety even worse.
Take steps to calm your body. Go for a jog, do some yoga, practice deep breathing, or perform relaxation skills. Calming your body can be key to calming your mind.
5. Practice Mindfulness
Stop worrying about something you said yesterday, or fretting about something you’re going to do tomorrow, by staying in the present. Practice mindfulness skills and become completely in tune with what is going on around you right now. Being mindful quiets anxious thoughts and reduces the stress response to your body.
6. Set Aside Time to Worry
Whether you’re waiting on test results from the doctor, or you can’t stop worrying about your financial future, create a specific time to worry. A 2011 study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that setting aside time to worry actually reduced intrusive thoughts throughout the day.
Schedule a 30-minute time slot to worry. When anxious thoughts enter your mind at other times, remind yourself, “It’s not time to worry about that yet.” When you reach your scheduled time to worry, go ahead and worry—until time is up. It can help contain your anxiety to a specific time period and prevent uneasy thoughts from consuming your day.
7. Do Something Different
When you struggle to get your mind off your worries, and you can’t take steps to solve the problem, get your body up and moving: Go for a walk, knit a scarf, clean a closet—do whatever it takes to stay busy. Getting your mind off your problems for a few minutes can reduce your stress and give your mind a much-needed break.
When you’re plagued with worry and you can’t engage in a physical activity—like when you’re stuck in a boring meeting or when you’re trying to fall asleep at night—give your mind a job to do. Begin with 100 and count backward by 7, or try to list the states in alphabetical order—something that requires enough concentration that you won’t have brainpower left over to worry.
Struggling with anxious thoughts doesn't mean you're weak. In fact, people with incredible mental strength experience self-doubt, fear, and worry just like everyone else.
Whether you're struggling with anxiety or depression, or you feel mentally healthy, you can always take steps to build your mental muscle.
What bad habits are holding you back in life? Learn how to stop doing the 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do so you can move forward and reach your greatest potential.
Want to learn more about how to build mental strength? Check out my new eCourse Mental Strength: Mastering the 3 Core Factors.