Excessive worry about things that we can’t control can have an impact on interpersonal relationships, work, and our relationship with ourselves. In addition, it may cause problematic physical symptoms in the body, such as an upset stomach, headache, insomnia, anxiety, or panic attacks.
If worrisome thoughts have become a constant in your life, you can take steps to stop worrying. Certain techniques may work well some days and not others. Try layering techniques and practice a few at a time. The important thing to remember is to be persistent and consistent.
Here are 25 tips to stop worrying:
1. Schedule Time to Worry
With worry, we often find that our mind is constantly drawn into negative thought patterns throughout the day. This is also known as rumination. One technique to help is allotting a set time each day to worry, sometimes called activity scheduling. Put it in your calendar and make it consistent. For example, “I will worry every day at 8-8:30 pm.”
When you find yourself worrying outside of that time window, gently remind yourself to save it for later. When the time arrives, worry as much as you want. This can be accomplished by sitting and pondering, writing out the worries, or whatever feels best. Once 30 minutes have elapsed, put the worries away and transition back to your daily routine.1
Here are tips to get started:
- Be consistent and schedule 30 minutes at the same time and in the same place each day
- Try not to schedule too close to bedtime
- If you find yourself worrying outside of the scheduled time, stop and remind yourself to save it for the worry time
- You can always write down the worry, if you’re afraid you might forget
- Set a 30-minute timer during your worry time
- Ponder or journal your worries
- Stay consistent and the practice will become more natural
2. Identify the Source of Your Anxiety & Negative Thoughts
“Ask yourself what triggers these emotions and take time to reflect on the causes. A lot of the time, our worrying thoughts come from a place of uncertainty. Therefore, identifying what you’re afraid of can help you by taking away some of that uncertainty.” – Jeanette Lorandini, LCSW
3. Focus on the Present Moment
“Worrying often makes us fixate on a future event or situation, which can make our negative feelings feel even worse. Instead of getting caught up in your worries, focus on what’s happening now and how you feel. If your thoughts start to spiral out of control, try to bring yourself back to the present by focusing on something simple that you are grateful for.” – Candace Kotkin-De Carvalho, LSW, LCADC, CCS, CCTP, Absolute Awakenings
4. Stop Trying to Stop Your Worry
“When you actively try to not to think about something, you’re inadvertently dedicating brain space and energy to not doing that. For example, if I tell you not to think about a blue banana, I would guess that your mind immediately goes to envisioning that thing. The same thing goes for your anxiety – when you tell yourself not to think or feel something, you’re actually expending energy to do so. The reality is that anxiety is a helpful emotion and one that we’ll never be able to rid ourselves of. By encouraging the notion that we can force ourselves not to feel this way, we mistakenly promote controlling tactics to control the uncontrollable: our emotions.
Instead of trying to control your thoughts or replace your thoughts, try to diffuse yourself from the thought. When I say diffuse, I mean try to notice that you’re having the thought, say to yourself ‘I notice I’m having the thought that…,’ and then ask yourself, ‘Is this thought helpful?’ If it’s not helpful, try to relinquish it and let it go. Validate yourself for feeling the way you feel without entangling yourself in debating the content of the thought.
Helpful mantras can be: ‘My thoughts are not facts,’ ‘Who told you that?’ (when you’re having a thought of not being good enough, worthy, etc) or ‘This thought isn’t helping me.’” – Kelly Neupert, LPC
5. Challenge Thinking Errors & Anxious Thoughts
Often, people who worry see the world and their problems as more threatening than they actually are. There’s a tendency to overestimate the likelihood and severity of negative outcomes, and also a prevalence of underestimating the ability to cope in difficult situations. These are known as thinking errors and can trigger anxiety.2 Attempt to counteract the worst-case scenario thinking and negative self-talk by exploring whether the thoughts are necessarily true, if there’s evidence to back them up, and are there other ways to think about the situation. Finally, try imagining the best-case or even the likely outcome.
6. Engage in Mindfulness Practices
“Mindfulness for anxiety involves paying attention to your present moment experience with an open, non-judgmental attitude. This means acknowledging your worries without judgment or trying to push them away, but rather accepting that they are part of your current experience. A really helpful way to do this is by journaling. Writing down your worries and anxieties can help to clarify them, as well as allow you to reflect on potential solutions. This can give you a sense of control over the situation and allow you to move forward in a positive direction.” – Dr. Flora Sadri-Azarbayejani, DO, MPH, FAAFP, FASAM
7. Plan as Much as You Can
“While you can’t predict your future, planning ahead can help to reduce some of the uncertainty that comes with worrying and anxious thoughts. For example, if you’re worried about an upcoming test, make a study plan and break it down into smaller tasks. This will help you to feel more in control of the situation and reduce your anxiety in the long run.” – Dr. Flora Sadri-Azarbayejani, DO, MPH, FAAFP, FASAM
8. Explore What Is & Isn’t In Your Control
When we find ourselves in a state of worry, we are often imagining big-picture problems that are out of our control. Instead, try to hone in on smaller, more actionable items that can be addressed in the short term. This can be done by recognizing and allowing a brief period of worry and then paying attention to the content of your worries.
If you have worries about your long-term finances, rather than fretting, create a plan to invest or talk to a financial advisor. If your worries revolve around losing weight, instead of worrying about the number on the scale, focus on small actionable steps that you can take related to healthy meal planning and implementing more movement in your day. In the beginning, focusing on taking action may feel difficult. Stick with it, and you’ll find that it actually feels good to come up with solutions to your worries.
9. Create a Worry Log
“Keeping a journal or diary where you record your worries can be an effective way of managing them. This helps you acknowledge and confront your fears more objectively. You can also use your journal to explore and understand the triggers behind your worries, which can help you find more effective ways of coping with them in the future.” – Candace Kotkin-De Carvalho, LSW, LCADC, CCS, CCTP, Absolute Awakenings
Often fears, worries and anxiety feel life-threatening. Our brains tend to focus on perceived problems or worries until it feels like the problem is fixed. Breaking out of this loop can be difficult, but utilizing meditation for anxiety is a scientifically-backed way to do so.5 Meditation helps people get grounded and focus on the present moment, rather than getting caught in the hamster wheel of worries.
Through mindfulness meditation, we learn that we may not be able to make fear and worry go away, but we can learn to accept that they are just thoughts, and we don’t have to get caught up in them or overwhelmed by them.6
11. Try Yoga
Similar to meditation, yoga is another form of mindfulness and an effective tool to help manage worry. Through mindfulness practices, we’re taught various techniques to engage with and slow down the breath. The focus on the breath, when paired with movement, helps link the mind and body.
There’s growing research to illustrate that yoga helps control the stress response and reduce symptoms of worry and anxiety.7 Although more research is needed, a recent study showed that initially, certain types of yoga can improve your mental health and be just as effective at reducing symptoms of anxiety as therapy.8
12. Remember Your Ability To Handle Unexpected Issues
“Handling unexpected issues is not about predicting them and compensating for them, it is about knowing that you are capable of handling and resolving issues, even when they are surprising or challenging. A common pitfall for anxious people is that they try to predict and prevent issues that may occur, which only fuels a cycle of anxiety and prevents them from actually learning how to handle challenges. If you shift your focus from trying to predict unexpected issues before they happen to reassuring yourself that if something does happen then you can handle it, then there is no need for overthinking, worrying, or trying to predict the future.” – Gina Marie Guarino, LMHC, PsychPoint
13. Connect With Others
When we get caught in a cycle of worry, it may feel scary and isolating, but the fact is, you are not alone. Talking to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about what’s troubling you may help to alleviate some of the anxiety. These connections may be able to offer a fresh perspective, different solutions, empathy, and understanding.
14. Practice Self-Compassion
With worry and rumination, our minds tend to focus on a negative thought. Rather than getting frustrated with ourselves when we notice the ruminations, it is important to attempt to practice self-compassion and acknowledge what is happening.
These thoughts are an attempt by our brain to keep us safe. Rumination often comes from feelings of inadequacy, but the goal of self-compassion is offering a loving, connected presence. When we approach worry with self-compassion, we aren’t as emotionally reactive and feel more stable.9
15. Practice Positive Self-Talk
“One of the best ways to stop worrying is by creating an inner dialogue that helps keep your mood and emotions in check. Think about the types of thoughts you repeat to yourself regularly. Do they tend to be positive and constructive, or do they tend to be negative and self-critical? If you struggle with lots of negative thoughts and feelings, start practicing replacing those thoughts with more positive ones. For example, instead of thinking, ‘I’m never going to get the promotion I want,’ try repeating to yourself, ‘I am capable and competent, and I will get there.’” – Candace Kotkin-De Carvalho, LSW, LCADC, CCS, CCTP, Absolute Awakenings
16. Start a Simple Gratitude Practice
Our brain is constantly looking for danger. It wants to keep us safe, and when overstimulated, it will ruminate and focus on perceived fears. Research has demonstrated that gratitude is an excellent tool to help overcome anxiety and worry. It helps solidify relationships, decrease stress, and improve mental health. Studies show that having a gratitude practice can disrupt repetitive negative thinking (RNT), focus on solutions, and appreciate relationships.10
To start a gratitude practice, create a daily note in your phone or a notebook and list three things that you are grateful for each day. There are also gratitude journaling apps and mindfulness apps that can utilize pictures from your camera roll to supplement the written diary.
It’s important to write each day, and know that if you’re struggling to think of something to write down, you can always address your basic human needs. “I had fresh water to drink today or I had a filling meal for dinner.” Finally, being able to look back on your days of gratitude is a nice way to reminisce and find joy.
17. Exercise on a Regular Basis
Scientists have found that taking part in exercise decreases levels of tension, elevates and stabilizes mood, improves sleep, and improves self-esteem. In as few as five minutes of exercising, endorphins are released in the body that start to relieve stress. Experts even say that a quick walk or burst of physical activity may boost mental health quickly and efficiently.3
18. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
When we have a brain full of worry, it can be a challenge to get a good night’s sleep. This can cause a vicious cycle of feeling sleep-deprived, leading to poor emotional health, and more worry.12
If you’re struggling, here are tips to get better sleep:
- Get regular exercise during the day
- Be mindful of the environment (room temperature, lighting, and sound)>
- Be aware of the timing and amount of caffeine and alcohol consumed
- Practice relaxation
- Limit screen time 1-2 hours before bed
19. Practice Slow Breathing
When we feel worried and stressed, we may notice that our breath is shallow, quick, and short. Breathing in this manner only tends to increase anxiety. Slowing down the breath and using breathwork can calm the nervous system and help us put worries on the back burner.
Here’s a way to practice “box breathing:”
- Inhale slowly to the count of 4; hold the breath for 4 counts
- Exhale for the count of 4; hold for 4 counts
- Do this four times
As you become more comfortable with the technique, you can slow it down even further and increase the amount of time you inhale, hold, and exhale.
20. Limit Social Media & the News
Imposter syndrome and all of the depressing stories in the news can lead to a host of negative thoughts and feelings. Rather than cutting them out cold turkey, experiment with limiting your intake of news and use of social media to boost mental health. You can do this formally by setting limits on screen time in the “Settings” section of your phone. After a couple of weeks, see if you notice a difference in how you feel. Challenge yourself to adopt new habits around your phone and pay attention to how you feel.
21. Create a “Pocket of Positivity” in Your Day
Doom scrolling can bring up powerful emotions, including depression, fear, anxiety, and worry. These feelings are exacerbated when we look on news sites or even on social media. Try challenging those negative feelings and inject a dose of positivity in your day. Create folders on your phone of pictures, quotes, and/or videos that bring you joy. Try scrolling through those when you’re feeling overwhelmed by worry.
It also might be nice to create a playlist of music that helps ease anxiety or puts you in a good mood. Try positively changing the information you’re viewing and see if it has an impact on your mood.
22. Practice Relaxation & Self-care
Learning to take care of yourself emotionally and practice self-care is another way to overcome feelings of worry. Learning how to relax and self-soothe helps target the stress response and minimize feelings of anxiety.
Tips to practice self-care and relaxation are:
- Body scan meditation
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Creative outlets (drawing, painting, pottery, writing, etc.)
- Taking a bath/ shower
- Connect with nature
- Eat nutrient-dense food
- Take a nap
23. Distract Yourself
Sometimes when we’re caught up in worry, the best course of action is to do something that feels good to distract from the difficult feelings. It’s important to note that healthy distractions are meant to be temporary and may not remove the feelings of worry completely; however, they do help take the edge off.
Reading a book, painting your nails, stretching, going for a bike ride, having a dance party, and weeding the garden are all great ways to distract yourself and stay mindful of the present moment.
24. Stay Present by Engaging Your Senses
Therapists often teach grounding techniques for anxiety. These techniques provide physical ways to stay focused on the present moment. When you find yourself caught in a worry spiral, try to engage all five of your senses to get in tune with your environment and step away from the worries.
Ways to engage with your senses:
- First, look around, does anything catch your eye?
- Can you see anything in your favorite color?
- Are there any unique aromas or sounds?
- Do you hear children playing or birds chirping?
- What about taste?
- Is there anything that you can touch that would help refocus your thoughts
- Finally, pay attention to your feet and feel how they are grounded in your shoes/socks and on the floor
25. Remember That It’s Okay if Things Take Time
“Anxiety is normal, but it doesn’t have to control you. Be gentle with yourself and continue working towards being able to cope with anxious thoughts in a healthier way. You can manage your negative thoughts and anxiety with patience, determination, and self-care.” – Jeanette Lorandini, LCSW
When to Seek Professional Help
Occasional worry is natural. If you find yourself worrying excessively about everyday matters, have trouble controlling worries, know you worry more than most people, or find that you’re excessively restless or unable to relax, it may be time to talk to a health professional.11
A medical provider will help you determine the best course of action and whether you might benefit from therapy. An online therapist directory offers a list of providers in your area who specialize in the treatment and management of anxiety and worry.
Treatment for anxiety typically involves talk therapy and/ or medication. In addition, there are other daily behavioral changes that can also help lessen the recurrent feelings of anxiety and worry.
If you’re wondering how to not worry, just remember that worry can be a normal part of life. Try these tips to feel better and manage it on your own. If the worry starts to get out of hand, or if you have concerns that it may be more than “just worry,” please seek help from a medical professional.