Psychological Tricks That Will Help You Stop Worrying About Things You Cant Control
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Worrying stems from a desire to be in control. We often want to control our environment. Or we may want control over the outcome of every situation.
But the more you try to control everything around you, the more anxious youll feel.
Its a vicious cycle to break worry, try to gain control, fail, and worry again. Repeat.
Worrying about things you cant control like the state of the economy or someone elses behavior will drain you of the mental strength you need to be your best.
It can also lead to other toxic habits, like blaming yourself too much or micromanaging other people.
Fortunately, you don’t have to resign yourself to being a lifelong “worry-wart.” You can take control of your mind and train your brain to think differently.
Here are two things you can do the next time you catch yourself worrying about things you can’t control:
1. Develop a realistic sense of control.
Identify what is within your control and what isn’t. For example, you can control how eye-catching your marketing ads are, but you cant control whether people buy your product.
Additionally, you can give your employees the tools they need to succeed, but you cant force them to be productive.
What Are Fear And Anxiety
Back when we lived in caves, we needed to constantly assess whether we were safe. A highly-tuned sensitivity to potential threats was necessary for survival. We dont experience the same kinds of stressors as we did thousands of years ago, but the response is pretty much the same.
Our bodies and brains react to both kinds of threats in the same way. In other words, it makes no difference whether the threat is a physical, emotional, or social one. The alarm bells of the autonomic nervous system dont distinguish between public speaking and a saber-toothed tiger. In fact, many of us would prefer the latter.
Although unpleasant, fear is a healthy response. Our fight-or-flight response keeps us alive, safe, and thriving. When constant fear prevents you from living life to the fullest, though, it becomes anxiety.
On the surface, anxiety looks very much like fear. And they’re rooted in the same emotion. But anxiety occurs when fear becomes maladaptive .
Anxiety is when the fear response goes haywire. You may feel afraid all the time, overreact, or respond to triggers that dont actually pose a threat.
While fear is something that people experience regularly, anxiety should not be a part of your day-to-day life . Fear is an emotion, and anxiety is a mental health disorder.
Do I Need Treatment For Anxiety
Thereâs a lot you can do on your own to relieve anxiety, but sometimes you need help. Psychotherapy and medication are the two main treatments for anxiety disorders.
Signs that itâs time to talk to a mental health professional include:
- Constant or nearly constant anxiety
- Anxiety that gets in the way of your daily activities, like work or social life
- Anxiety about things that donât actually threaten you
- Panic attacks
Check your health insurance policy to see what mental health services your plan covers. Then, review a list of your in-network providers to find one to connect with.
âYou donât want to add to your anxiety by paying big out-of-pocket fees,â Kissen says.
Your primary care doctor may also be able to recommend a mental health professional with experience treating anxiety and anxiety disorders.
Rosmarin notes that itâs important to find a provider you click with and trust. He also says therapy doesnât need to go on indefinitely to be effective.
âA course of cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety may be eight to 10 sessions,â he says. âThereâs also data to suggest that people feel substantially better after just one therapy session for panic disorder.â
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Focus On What You Can Control
While there’s a lot we can’t change in life, there are some things that we can influence. For instance, while we can’t control the actions of others, we do have control over how we behave in response to them. You may not know how you’re perceived by someone, but you can choose to show kindness towards them. Similarly, we may not know what’s around the corner, but we can make sure we’re looking after ourselves and following a healthy lifestyle so we’re in the best position to help others if a challenging situation does occur.
“When people feel overwhelmed by the lack of control, you have a choice in how you behave,” explains Crowe. “So you can either go towards the anxiety and the fear and get completely caught up in it or you can choose to be more mindful about your reactions to things.”
Watch The Noting Technique
3. Learn to distinguish between solvable and unsolvable worries.
Productive, solvable worries are those you can act on right away. For instance, if youâre concerned about your finances, you can draw up a spreadsheet and a monthly budget to rein in your spending. If itâs high cholesterol and your health, you can lay off the fast food, make better choices at the grocery store, and start exercising.
If a worry is solvable, chart a plan of action that starts small. Focusing on things within our reach takes us away from creating a disaster scenario in the mind. Try a prompt like, Whatâs one part of one step I can take to get started?
Unproductive, unsolvable worries are those for which thereâs no corresponding action: You canât control the weather for your vacation, or prevent your companyâs round of layoffs , nor can you force someone to ask you out on a date.
Uncertainty is one of the hardest things to feel comfortable with, especially for those with anxiety. But life is unpredictable, and learning to accept, and even lean in to our fear of the unknown, can make a difference on our emotional well-being.
So, if youâre focusing on a situation thatâs out of your hands, thatâs always going to be tough.Whatâs tougher? Resisting it or trying to control it.
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Explaining Concepts Around Fear And Anxiety
When people talk about fear and anxiety, they often use the words interchangeably. But theres a whole range of experiences on the anxiety spectrum. In fact, the DSM-5 actually classifies anxiety as a subset of mood disorders, and there are several different kinds. Learning to label the experience may help you feel better able to control it.
Here are some common terms used to describe fear and anxiety:
The term anxiety disorder refers to a classification of mental health diagnoses that result in anxiety symptoms. These include phobias and panic attacks. They also include obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder . Anxiety disorders have basic symptoms in common but can differ in severity.
A panic attack usually happens suddenly and without a specific trigger. Whereas many symptoms of anxiety are mental, panic attacks are notable for strong physical sensations. In fact, many people having panic attacks believe that they are experiencing a heart attack.
During a panic attack, people often feel an overwhelming sense of dread and as if they’re about to die. It is difficult to function through a panic attack. Despite the severity of panic symptoms, it is not always possible to tell that someone is having a panic attack by looking at them.
In order to classify as a true phobia, the aversion has to result in impairment to their daily life. People with phobias sometimes go to great lengths to avoid the trigger.
Give Yourself Permission To Take Time Away
While its great to take time away from decision-making, you have to hold yourself accountable to that decision so that you can come back to it with a fresh mind. You can accomplish this by giving yourself permission to take time away from your decision-making.
Giving yourself permission is saying, Its good to stop thinking about this so that I can revisit it with a fresh perspective. Therefore, Im giving myself permission to ignore it for now knowing I will revisit it later.
Then, whenever your mind cycles back to the problem during that away time, you can say, No, Im not focusing on that now. Ive given myself permission to ignore it until later. I will revisit it at the specified time. Im not being irresponsible.
Giving yourself permission can make it easier to ignore the problem for the short-term, especially when you know you will revisit it at a predetermined time in the future.
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Tend To Your Emotions
Emotions dissipate with time. They never feel like they will but they always do. In many ways its analogous to healing: unless theres something truly serious, it eventually takes care of itself as long as we stop messing with it. But we love to mess with it.
We struggle, avoid, suppress and deny. And thats like emotionally picking at the wound, preventing it from scabbing over.
When you tend to your emotions you dont want to redirect your attention but you still want to accept and label. You dont want to identify with them but you do want to feel them. Label them to get distance and investigate them nonjudgmentally. Ask yourself, What is my brain doing? What is my body doing? The distance is built into the question. Youre not anxious but there is anxiety.
Investigate, accept and label. The feelings will dissipate. Its a skill. It takes time. But it works. And once you get good at it, its like a superpower.
So you know how to cope with worries. But how do we prevent them from ever happening again?
Some Worrying Is A Good Thing
Dr. Gambino reminds her clients that worrying about the future can be a good thingin moderation. A little bit of worry is good and can mobilize you to take action, she says. It allows us to be aware of what is happening and brainstorm how to be prepared or possible courses of action. This is known as productive worrying.
But if worrying about the future becomes overwhelmingly intense or leaves you in what Dr. Gambino calls a chronic state of stress and fear, youre probably experiencing unproductive worrying.
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How To Deal With Fear And Anxiety
More info on this topic
In this section we address things you can do on your own to work with fear and anxiety. We do not cover the many valuable techniques and therapies available when working with professional psychologists or other providers. These are essential for those who have experienced trauma or are suffering from intense fear or anxiety.
Overcoming Fear Worry And Anxiety
If you want to stop living in fear, then its important to work on your thoughts. Because your fears are a result of your thoughts. Those are what create the negative feelings and emotions that hold you back and keep you stuck.
The point of thought work is to get you to act despite your fears. Thats what living with fear is all about. And thats really what courage is.
And heres the thing: you dont have to take big leaps. All you need is to be able to take a first, small step that creates momentum to keep you going. Doing that creates self-confidence .
The effect of taking that first step is this: it gives you faith in yourself and your decisions. Youll know that youre okay despite the negative thoughts and emotions swirling within your head. And youll also know that you CAN act courageously.
What Im describing is the process that takes you from living in fear to living with fear. And it all starts with specific exercises designed to help you face your fears and worries head-on, challenge them when appropriate and act despite them.
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How Worrying Affects Your Body
One of the most insidious parts about worrying is the effect it has on our physical, mental, and emotional health. In fact, over a third of Americans visited a doctor over a stress-related illness in 2018, and many illnesses may be perpetuated by stress. If this sounds like you, its time to learn how to stop worrying.
Along with causing physical symptoms, worry and stress can also make it harder to recover from illness. Here are a few ways worry may be impacting your overall well-being.
Techniques To Reduce Unwanted Thoughts
Remember, all anxiety disorders can have unwanted thoughts. Those with social phobia often imagine disasters before and during social events. Those with PTSD often flashback to the event that caused them stress. Those with panic disorder are constantly thinking about their health, etc. All of these are types of unwanted thoughts, and affect those with all types of anxiety.
There are interesting and effective strategies that can reduce the frequency of your unwanted thoughts. They include:
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How Can You Stop Worrying
Chronic worry can quickly start to negatively impact your day-to-day life and overall mental health. Thankfully, with a little practice, you can make excessive worry a thing of the past.
Here are our best strategies for how to stop worrying and finally start living:
This list could go on forever, but lets take a deeper dive into our favorite methods for how to stop worrying, manage stress, and take back your life.
Whats The Difference Between Fear And Anxiety
Fear symptoms and anxiety symptoms overlap in many ways, but the reasons they occur are different. Both fear and anxiety trigger the bodys stress response. However, fear usually occurs in the face of a real or immediate, tangible threat, while anxiety occurs in response to imagined danger.
Fear is a short-lived reaction, while anxiety can be ever-present. Both share physical sensations, like racing heart, muscle tension, a tingle or a cold chill, and increased breathing rate.
These physical sensations are part of the bodys fight-or-flight response. They prepare you to take quick action by diverting your resources to necessary functions.
Symptoms of fear include:
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Look After Your Sleep
Good-quality sleep makes a big difference to how we feel mentally and physically, so it’s important to get enough.
Try to maintain regular sleeping patterns and keep up good sleep hygiene practices like avoiding screens before bed, cutting back on caffeine and creating a restful environment. See our sleep page for more advice.