33 Ways To Stop Worrying About… Everything

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33 Ways To Stop Worrying About… Everything

Words by Mr Rob Kemp

18 April 2023

It’s natural to worry about some things – a job interview, your performance review, that upcoming fraud trial – but when you worry too frequently, it becomes hard to focus on anything else. You find yourself stressing about stuff you can’t control or wouldn’t normally give a damn about. Here are some simple, evidence-based tips provided by chilled people with a worry-free approach that will help you banish those intrusive thoughts.


Write it down

The simple act of writing down what’s concerning you is a big step to making it go away. Scribbling worries on a bedside notepad helps you identify exactly what’s bugging you and instantly makes it seem smaller. University of Washington research shows that brain dumping in this way will ease your worries.


Hone sleeping habits

“Everything is harder when you’re not sleeping well,” says Mr Nick Wignall, clinical psychologist. “It’s especially harder to manage your emotions well, including anxiety.” Try these five scientifically proven ways to get a good night’s sleep.


Make worries wait

“Set aside a ‘worry time’ and postpone thinking about worries until then,” says Mr Daryl O’Connor, professor of psychology at the University of Leeds. “When you come back to them at the allocated time, some will have resolved. Focus on what’s left, stop at the end of the period and involve yourself in something else.”


Filter out the impossible

“Recognise which of your worries fall into your locus of control,” says O’Connor. “Decide which you can realistically do something about and which are beyond your control.”


Plan your attack

Now that you know what you’re worried about, it’s time to plan. If you’re worried about your finances, can you create a budget plan? If you’re anxious about your workload, can you create a to-do list? Attacking your anxieties in this way can give you the confidence you need stop dwelling on the “What ifs?”


Blow bubbles

“Visualise negative thoughts as bubbles, like the ones you may have blown when you were a child,” says Ms Linda Gillham, director of healthy minds at Peppy Health. “Then watch them float away and pop – while you engage with the more positive thoughts.”


Work backwards

“Catastrophising is when your ‘what if’ thinking leaves you fearing the worst,” says Gillham. “If you find this is something you do, think about your worst fear and think about how you will cope if this does happen, then rate how likely it is to happen and work backwards to a more realistic solution.”


Spot worry traits

Look out for these anxiety traits, too: all-or-nothing thinking (seeing a situation as all good or all bad), rumination (thinking about something distressing over and over again) and mind reading (the belief that you know what others are thinking even though we haven’t asked them).

“Visualise negative thoughts as bubbles, then watch them float away and pop”


Know your triggers

“Look for patterns or triggers that lead to worrying, for example attending a meeting,” says Ms Silvia Miranda, a consultant psychologist with the digital health provider Livi UK. “Identify any patterns as to when worrying is more likely – when you go to bed, when driving. The more you understand and can recognise your worry, the better prepared for it you can be.”


Breathe to ease

“Breathing exercises help us manage our fight and flight response,” says Miranda. “Focus on the rhythm of your breathing. Inhale and exhale gently. While exhaling, say some kind words to yourself.”


Go to ground

“Grounding is a useful tool too when you are feeling anxious,” says Miranda. “Your body is always in the present. It is your mind that wanders into worry. Use your five senses to ground yourself. Notice five things you can see, four sounds you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell and one thing you can eat.”


Use the worry tree (part one)

“A cognitive behavioural therapy strategy for responding to anxieties is the worry tree,” says Miranda. “This is a series of steps and questions to ask yourself, such as: is there anything I can do about what I’m worrying about? If the answer is no, then stop worrying and shift your focus and attention onto another activity. If yes, work out what you can do or how to find out what to do.


Use the worry tree (part two)

Answer the next worry tree question: is there anything I can do right now? If yes, do it and then move on to another activity. If no, plan when you could do it, allocate a time and then move on to another activity.


Switch off the news

“Studies show that those who engaged most with media during the Covid-19 pandemic suffered higher levels of depression and anxiety,” says O’Connor. Limit yourself to checking a trusted news source once or twice a day, then switch off and focus on something else.


Or change channel

A 2022 survey of 2,000 UK adults found that more than half (54 per cent) turn to TV comedies and dramas when bogged down with money concerns or work-related worries.


Talk yourself down

“If you worry habitually, you can use a mantra to help you cope,” says O’Connor. “When you notice a concern dominating your thoughts, telling yourself, ‘Nothing lasts for ever’ or a similar self-affirmation may help.”


Balance things out

“Make some time to yourself to exercise, socialise, read a book,” says Gillham. “Finding balance in life can help you focus on what is important, rather than worrying about things you can’t change.”


Be mindful

Feel the grass beneath your bare feet or listen to the sound of your breathing. “Such mindfulness tools – refocusing via your senses – are particularly good for relaxation and distraction from whatever’s on your mind,” says Mr Luke Doherty, an elite sports mindfulness coach.


Don’t reach for the bottle

“Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine all increase the activation of the fight or flight system and can interfere with sleep,” says Mr Brendan Street, cognitive behavioural psychotherapist at Nuffield Health. Smoking and drinking are not the de-stressors you may think they are.


Run away

“Exercise is as effective as certain medications for treating anxiety,” says Dr John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science Of Exercise And The Brain. “Choose the ‘intervention’ that best suits you and give it a try the next time you feel worry taking over your mind.”


Take a hike

“Exercises that focus on muscle tension and deep breathing, such as walking, activate the parasympathetic system in your body,” says Street. “Take yourself for a 20-minute walk to trigger this ‘rest and digest system’ and lower your anxiety levels in the process.”


Even better, walk in the woods

Take a long walk in the great outdoors to further boost positive feelings and rid yourself of stress. Research into ecotherapy (an outdoor mental health treatment) by the mental health charity Mind suggests that a walk in the woods is a perfect antidote to worry.


Don’t be shy about sharing

A trouble shared is a trouble halved. “When you feel overwhelmed, talking worries through can help you gain perspective,” says Gillham. “If you don’t feel you have anyone close to you with whom you can share your worries, reach out to a professional.”

“When you feel overwhelmed, talking worries through can help you gain perspective”


Get fresh

“Cut down on processed meats and high-sugar foods,” says Miranda. “They lack nutritional value and are associated with increasing levels of cortisol – the primary hormone responsible for stress – in the body.”


Be nice to yourself

“The more self-critical we tend to be, the more stressed we can feel,” says Miranda. “Think about how you would talk to your best mate if they were in the same situation. What would you say to them? How would you help them?”


Question your anxieties

“The brain is always making guesses about what is and isn’t true,” says Wignall. “While the brain is pretty smart, it’s far from infallible. And by always acting in accordance with its initial assessment of things, we can end up reinforcing some pretty big misconceptions.”


Eat mindfully

A UK study found that 69 per cent of adults are guilty of scrolling on their phone while eating. “This combination heightens cortisol levels, which exacerbates any anxieties you may be experiencing,” says Doherty. “Put your phone down when sitting down to eat, savour what you’re eating and you’ll move your mind and body out of worry mode.”


Stick to what you can control

“The best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today,” wrote Mr Dale Carnegie, author of How To Stop Worrying And Start Living. “That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.”


Master meditation

“Meditation switches your focus from worrying about the future or dwelling on the past to what’s happening right now,” says Gillham. Find a quiet, comfortable place and choose a smartphone app to guide you through the meditation process. “If you’re new to meditation, try out a short one, or engage with one of the teaching courses to start out.”


Tense and relax your muscles

When lying in bed at night worrying, try alternately tensing and then releasing different muscle groups in your body. This releases muscle tension in your body. As your body relaxes, your mind will follow.


Learn to live with uncertainty

Uncertainty is a root cause of anxiety. “But this intolerance of uncertainty keeps the worry cycle active,” says Miranda. “Learning to live with and accept the uncertainty is an important step in managing and stopping worrying.”


Make conscious choices

“You need to make a conscious choice to do something that will shift your energy,” says Doherty. Too often when you’re stressed you make panic choices and opt for quick fixes. “Find an activity that acts as a true release and use that to cope with worries in future.”


Reflect on the plusses

“At the end of the day, make a note of one thing that you found hard, but made you feel good,” says Street. “Just thinking about your day’s achievements can make a big difference to your levels of worry and general mental health.”