How to Stop Obsessive Worrying

Worrying Has Become A National Pastime


Worrying has become a national pastime. Whether you’re worrying about the upcoming election, your health, having job stability, getting a job, or making sure your kids are taken care of and getting everything they need, there’s no shortage of material for anxiety and worry.

The Anxiety And Depression Association Of America, states that anxiety disorders are the most common mental diagnosis in the United States. They cost the country $42 billion a year, and usually when you find anxiety you find depression. People with an anxiety disorder are also three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric illness.

For those stuck in anxiety and worry, it can almost feel tiring to be told the importance of “letting go,” “relaxing” and “unwinding.” While this advice is ultimately right, we struggle to “get there.”   Here are some ways to help:

1. Give It A Name.

To understand something you first have to recognize it and give it a name.  Your must first recognize when you’re feeling anxiety and worry.  Anxiety and worry feels automatic, when you become more aware by giving it a name you can begin to redirect it.  In the study Putting Feelings Into Words, when participants simply labeled an emotion, their brains calmed down.

2. Just Breath.

This advice is not the most original, but it is still effective. In a relaxed state you are taking 6 to 10 breaths a minute.  When you are anxious or stressed your breathing is faster and more shallow.  Become more aware and take slow, deep breaths through your nose into your diaphragm with slow exhales.  This will turn down your nervous system and reduce your body’s stress response. Think of it this way: if your breathing and heart rate naturally speed up when you are under stress, you can choose to reverse your response — by breathing slowly. This will send your body the message “I am relaxed,” and you will become more relaxed as a result. It’s like magic, with science.

  • “We can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”
    —Hebrews 13:6

3. Focus On The Here And Now.

When you find your mind drifting into the past or future, come back to the present moment, right here right now, this is usually called mindfulness. The only thing you have is the present.  The way we lose experiences and joy in the present is to over focus on the anxiety and worry of the future and the shame of the past. When you bring your awareness back into the present it calms your body and makes it easier to redirect anxiety and worry.

  • “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.”
    —Matthew 6:34

4. You Can Only Control Yourself

You feel happier and calmer when you feel more in control — even if it’s just an illusion. Feeling in control can reduce anxiety, worrying, and even pain. So, avoid imagining the worst possible scenarios, and instead pay more attention to what is in your control, this can reduce anxiety.  Focus on what you can control – Yourself.

5. Make a decision, even if you don’t really want to.

Decisions can immobilize people that struggle with anxiety and worry.  Simply making a decision about whatever it is that you’re worrying can change the way you feel and stop the cycle of panic.  Making a decision, any decision, also helps you to feel in control, giving you confidence and will boost your mood.  Making a decision will help you to take positive action.

6. Good Enough Really Is Good Enough

Anxiety and worry is often triggered by creating unrealistic or perfectionist expectations on yourself and others. Don’t aim for being the perfect parent, spouse, friend or employee; just be a good one. Your children don’t have to get into the perfect school or team. They just need to be active. You don’t have to look perfect. You just want to be healthy.

The problem is that when anxiety and worry arises it activates the brain’s anxiety-circuits, if this happens too often it can get stuck in the “on” position continually triggering the body’s natural fear response. This cycle can then activate the stress response,  which can start a downward spiral.  This can make you miserable. So rather than make yourself more stressed out by worrying-about-worrying focus on:

  • God Really Does Care About You – “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” – 1 Peter 5:7 ESV. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” – Matthew 6:25-34 ESV

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