Ever feel like you’re holding your breath constantly waiting for something ELSE bad to happen? Do you seem to be worrying even when you’re not sure what you’re worried about? Do you worry about worrying?
If you answered yes, you’re not alone.
Many people experience worrying and some experience chronic worrying, when a person repeatedly worries even when there’s no direct reason. Chronic worry causes you to feel a sense of impending doom like a tiger is lurking and waiting to attack. On the flip side, it may also feel like your worrying serves a purpose — that you’re thinking ahead and being proactive.
Although worry is normal at times, if it is controlling your life by getting in the way of being productive and present, you may want to learn strategies to better cope.
There are steps you can take or help a loved one take to break the cycle of chronic worrying and let that breath out.
What follows is a list of proactive methods to reduce worry and the anxiety that it can produce. Keep in mind that the tips included here are not a substitute for therapy or medication should those be needed.
- Mindfulness meditation: Many people who excessively worry struggle to stay in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation can help you learn to listen to your thoughts, without being distracted by them, and focus on the now. You might start with sitting quietly for 2 minutes at a time at a scheduled time during your day when you know you will not be interrupted.
- Deep breathing exercises: Awareness of the breath is a great way to calm your mind and body during periods of stress. There are many different deep breathing techniques. You can experiment with to find which one feels best for you. One I use regularly is box breathing. To do this, inhale for the count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4 and the hold for 4 before your next inhale. Repeat 7-10 “rounds.”
- Exercise: Moving your body and elevating your heart rate can also be an effective way to manage stress and anxiety. Find something that feels good for you and that you will want to continue.
- Yoga: Similar to mindfulness meditation, yoga is a common way to practice quieting your mind and calming your nervous system. In fact, specific yoga poses such as those that put the body into flexion (forward folding) can help to reduce anxiety.
- Cut back on caffeine: Research shows that caffeine can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. A 2022 study found that caffeine can worsen anxiety and panic attacks in those diagnosed with panic attack disorder. If you worry excessively and live with anxiety, you may want to reduce your intake of caffeine and determine if it makes a difference.
- Prioritize sleep: Worrying can make it much more difficult to fall asleep. You can practice optimal sleep hygiene by doing things such as setting regular bed and wake times, reducing strong emotions before bed and reducing the use of blue-light generating technology at least an hour before bed.
- Distract Yourself. A final recommendation is to develop several healthy distractions to interrupt your worry cycle. This is something that you enjoy, is easy to do, and reduces the intensity of your worry. It may as simple as taking your dog for a walk, doing a crossword puzzle, going for a drive, or making a list of what you are grateful for.
Are you interested in other topics? I’d love to hear what you would like covered here. Hit reply to let me know.