Worries can be paralyzing. They can consume our thoughts, distract us from things we’re trying to do in the day, soil our mood, and feel like it’s sucking our energy. It can leave us wanting nothing more than trying to figure out how to worry less.
However, some worries are deserving of our mental energy. But, many start in our heads, manifest there, and never become a reality, or ever live up to our worst expectations.
This is why it’s so important to learn how to worry less and get out of the routine of living with regular mental anguish. The following are 11 different ways to rid yourself of mental anguish and worry less.
11 Ways to Worry Less
Whether you’ve been actively working to extinguish your worries, or you’ve never really tried, there will be something in this list for you. The best suggestion to start with is the one your intuition says makes the most sense for your situation and your fears.
1. Learn the dichotomy of control
The ancient Greek and Roman Stoics understood well the dichotomy of control. In its simplest sense, the dichotomy of control is knowing that there are things that you can control and things that are beyond your control.
Things you can’t control are things such as other people, what people say or think about you, what will happen to you or your family tomorrow, how long you’ll live, or whether or not your boss will promote you.
What we can control however is our behavior, what we think about, how hard we try, and how we respond and react to things.
Learn to separate what you can control from what you can’t control and you’ll be a lot happier and a lot less worried.
Can you do something about it? Yes? Then do something about it and stop worrying. No? Then stop worrying, you can’t do anything about it. The dichotomy of control can be liberating and simplify your life. It allows you to pour your energy and worries into more productive problems and fears.
2. Look for the silver lining
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
We’ve all heard this adage over and over, but there is wisdom in there. Life happens to everyone. How we respond to it or take learnings lessons from it, can determine how we come out on the other side.
When life gives you a tough situation, you can either sit there and spend your energy worrying about it, or you can look for the silver lining.
How can you benefit from this situation? How can you leverage it? What can you learn from it? Could it be worse?
Treat every problem and fear as an opportunity to grow or learn. This will allow you to take things a little less seriously and tackle every problem you encounter with some positivity.
3. Be realistic
Worrying comes from a place in the mind that is emotional and not rational.
Often times, it can send us down a rabbit hole, of constantly coming up with worse and worse outcomes from the thing we’re worrying about.
It can lead us to exaggerate or over react to what we’re worrying about.
Is it actually as bad as you imagine it? Is it something you might come out on the other side fine? Will this too pass?
Attempt to take a step back from the thing you’re worrying about and try to look at it objectively. If you’re struggling to, talk about your situation or the thing you’re worried about to someone you trust and hear from them how they perceive it. Worse than you do? Better than you do?
When worries enter your mind, be sure to remind yourself to be realistic. Also, don’t make assumptions. When you’re lost in worries, you may have a tendency to make assumptions about the thing you’re worried about. We’ll talk more about assumptions later.
4. Get physically active
There’s plenty of studies that show how physical exercise can help improve your mood and help with worrying.
If you find yourself caught in a web of uncertainty and it’s keeping you up at night, try being more physically active every day. Try going out for runs, lift some weights, do some yoga, and learn a martial art.
Take time to clear your mind with some physical activity. It won’t just improve your mood and clear your worries, it can make you physically healthier!
5. Vent and express yourself to someone
When you’re caught up in your worries, it can feel pretty lonely. You may even feel vulnerable or embarrassed to open up to someone about it.
But it’s worth it!
It can sometimes feel like getting a weight lifted off of you, or at the very least, make you reevaluate your worries, and maybe even brainstorm a solution in the process.
Talk to someone you trust like a friend or family member about your worries. It can be as simple as venting your concerns to this person, or expressing the thing you’re worried about to them and getting their opinion on it.
If there’s no one you feel like you can talk to, or it’s a private situation, you may want to seek the help of a professional. A therapist can help workout your worries with you or just give you an ear while you express yourself. It can become very cathartic for someone who lives with many worries and has to keep them down.
6. Write it out
Writing down your thoughts is another cathartic way to express yourself and help yourself worry less. It’s also a private way to organize your thoughts.
If you’re encountering a situation or event that’s making you worry, write about it. Write about what is worrying you, what the worst case scenario is, what is the silver lining, how it could be worse, and if you’re looking at the situation realistically.
It can also be a way to create a plan of action for yourself in terms of how you can fix or remedy the thing you’re worried about. It can make you feel like you’re more in control and help relieve worries.
If you’re not sure what kind of journal to keep, try keeping a mindfulness journal. It can help give you a structure to follow with your daily writing as well provide some clarity on what’s actually bugging you.
7. Be present
Worries manifest in our heads.
They often have us thinking about something that we think might happen in the future or dwell on something in the past.
Being present and in the moment, keeps the mind on what matters: the now.
What you’re worrying about isn’t happening now or hasn’t happened yet. That’s where your mind is when you worry, it’s in the future.
Being present will immediately clear the mind since it can’t be there or be in two places at one time. If you want to feel less anxious, be in the present more.
Give the thing you’re doing now your full attention, don’t let the mind wander.
Meditation is a way to practice mindfulness and being in the present moment. There are mindfulness practices you can do every day or even when you’re caught up in worries, that can help bring your attention and your mind back to the present and out of the rabbit hole of thinking and worries.
You don’t need to follow any fancy meditative practice, either. Start with a simple practice where you sit and mindfully place your attention over the breath for 10 minutes. Every time your mind becomes distracted by thoughts, notice it without any judgements, and gently return your attention back to the breath.
9. Indulge yourself and do the things that make you happy
Sometimes, you just need to practice some self care. It’s okay to be a little selfish at times and do some indulging.
Life is too short for your worries, problems, and fears. It really is.
Don’t allow the things that are bothering you to forget about that. You’re still a living, sentient being with goals, desires, dreams, and preferences.
Take some time out for yourself regularly. Whether that’s something as extravagant as a monthly spa day or as small as enjoying your first cup of coffee in the morning by the window. Indulge a little. Give yourself some peace of mind, even for a few minutes.
This isn’t about using your worries and anxiety as an excuse to fall into bad habits. It’s about reminding yourself that there’s still good and pleasure you can enjoy in this life, despite how crazy, chaotic, hectic, and torturous life can get.
10. Don’t make assumptions
How do most fears manifest in our brains? Usually they are a conglomeration of different assumptions we make of something we think may happen. We created “educated” guesses. We come up with different theories.
While I don’t want you to underestimate yourself, most people are really bad at predicting the future. I mean really bad. Most things we worry about never happen, and when they do, they’re not as bad as we thought they’d be.
This is because our assumptions of things and people rule over us. They encourage us to make irrational leaps. They make us think we’re mind readers and that we really know what the other side is saying or thinking.
The next time you’re worrying about something, such as an upcoming dentist appointment or what your boss thinks of you, stop and look if you’ve made any assumptions. It’s likely you have. Stick to the facts and look for evidence first. Never let your worries get away from you because of assumptions.
11. Don’t take things personally
While this might not apply to most worries, many of the fears and problems in our lives come from us taking things personally. This is especially true when our worries are regarding relationships and dealing with people in our lives.
When you stop taking things personally, you’re not at the mercy of what other people may think or say about you, and you’re not as likely to get upset when things happen to you. It’s not always about you.
Taking everything personally is a form of self-sabotage that is completely avoidable.
That person didn’t cut you off in traffic because they didn’t like you. They don’t even know you. Likewise, worrying about what other people may think about you or say about you isn’t really about you. It’s about them. It’s their biases, experiences, and perspective that creates their opinions of other people. It’s not an actual reflection of you.
Take back control over your fears and worries
Ultimately, when it comes to understanding how to worry less, the bottom line is you need to take action. There are psychological concepts and philosophies you can apply, but there’s also a part of it where you need to recognize these worries and work to solve what you can control.
Your fears and problems in life no longer become fears and problems you worry about when you overcome them or solve them. You can’t worry when there’s nothing to worry about.