Living in such a fast-paced society that demands so much of us every day, it is tough for us not to worry. We find ourselves worrying about our future, about the present, and even about certain decisions we made in the past. When that happens, people tend to tell us to just “get over it” or “live in the moment”. Luckily, this article aims to teach you detailed and constructive ways to cope with your worries!
1. Planning a “worry time”
Researchers in the Netherlands have found a way to help reduce stress in individuals prone to worrying. Their study made use of a technique called “stimulus control” that takes place in 4 steps.
Essentially, the plan is to set aside a specific time period every day to think about your worries and plan what to do. Then, for the rest of the day, you have to deliberately not think about those issues. Doing so will help reduce your worries.
Here’s the entire 4-step process:
- Identify and realise when you are worrying.
- Set aside a time and place to worry.
- Use your “worry time” to try and solve the problems.
- When you catch yourself worrying outside of your “worry time”, postpone your worrying.
Personally, this technique has worked really well for me. I used to worry about my schoolwork and personal problems at night when I was trying to sleep which made me suffer from sleep deprivation at times.
However, ever since I started setting a time to worry in the afternoon, I was able to focus better on my tasks in the daytime because I knew I had already tried my best to solve my problems during the “worry time”. I also knew there would be another “worry time” the next day even if I hadn’t managed to solve the problem. Thus, being productive during the “worry time” made me feel assured, lessening my anxiety because I knew I was doing something about my worries.
2. Getting physical
The New York Times reported that exercising can boost serotonin in the brain, producing those feel-good chemicals faster. It can also reduce the effects of stress on the body. While a predictive way to beat stress, having a good workout is definitely one of the most effective ways to stop yourself from worrying.
When your body is moving, you are unlikely to think about your worries. I recommend exercising with some music on. You can hop on a treadmill and put on some music or attend a zumba dance workout class! Attending workout classes like zumba dance or spin class also has the added benefit of meeting new people. You’ll soon forget about your worries when you’re eating lunch with them!
The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Bob Hirshon also pointed out that “keeping your hands and mind busy interferes with storing and encoding visual images.” so exercising is definitely a good way to keep yourself from worrying.
Working out also leaves you tired afterwards (in a good way) so you won’t have the mental capacity to keep worrying. You can then spend your time doing more relaxing and less intensive activities such as listening to music for the rest of the day as you recover physically.
3. Differentiating between solvable and unsolvable worries
It is important to know what you can control and what you can’t control. A solvable worry would be something that is largely in your control. It could perhaps be worrying that you’re drifting away from your close friends in this pandemic. The way to deal with a solvable worry would be to consider possible solutions. This works well with the first method of setting aside a “worry time” where you can figure out how to solve the problem.
On the other hand, an unsolvable worry would be a worry that is out of your control. It could perhaps be worrying about the past and being fixated on certain decisions you made that you may not be proud of now. The only way to deal with an unsolvable worry would be to process it and accept it.
A 2005 study in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy showed that people who try to suppress their unwanted thoughts end up being more distressed by said thoughts. Thus, it’s important to work through your worries, whether or not they have a clear-cut solution or not. It can be useful to record down your worries in a notebook where you can vent and write down your solutions there.
Worrying is human nature as we all want the best that this life has to offer and we all want to be in control of our lives. While being aware of potential problems we may face or are facing right now is good, too much worrying prevents us from taking action to solve the problems. Thus, let’s learn to worry less and cope better with our struggles!