Anxiety. Every once in a while, I enter this mindset. My head suddenly worries about everything that is about to happen in the next five years. Or even with things that will probably never become a reality. One bothersome thought is followed by the other, and the stop button of all those thoughts are entirely lost somewhere. Worry less, how do you do that? Recently I have gained some useful tips. I’m sharing five tips to consider, which I have found very useful myself.
1. Focus on today
The annoying thing about anxiety is that your thoughts can often race from today to next week to half a year to five years from now. Instead of looking at how things are today, you start speculating about things that are unlikely to matter at the moment. Recently someone gave me a helping tip to stop that unnecessary leap forward.
It all starts with looking at your current situation. Now. At this time. Imagine: you wonder if you should stop or continue with something. Instead of worrying about the impact of that choice in five years, you should properly look at how you are feeling about it today. Is it going well today? Are you happy with how today is going? Do you have to make a decision today, or can that wait?
Who knows, some things will be completely different in five years. But it makes little sense to fret about that now. Focus on the now. Everything that plays out in five years will come again at that time.
2. Talk, but do it in moderation!
Previously I often thought that talking is the best remedy for anxiety. Then I just kept talking to people about the things I was struggling with. In general, I am a big advocate of speaking up about what is bothering you. But I noticed that it could also have a downside to talk about it with many people. The more often I talk about difficult things, the bigger those things get in my head. I also sometimes receive five or ten additional bits of advice that I have to give a place somewhere in my head. Et voilà, the “I want to do it for everyone” voice also comes into play. Not helpful!
This is why I prefer to talk to only one or two people who are close to me or who know me very well. This way, I protect myself from having multiple voices in my head, but I still have lost my train of thoughts and have a piece of good advice as well.
3. Do something relaxing
Prior I would have given a tip against worrying about looking for a distraction. Just work hard and plan a number of things, so that there is no more room in your head for depressing thoughts. Seems ideal, but in fact, is not a solution! As soon as you spend an evening alone with an empty agenda in front of you, those disturbances will come back just as loudly.
It is much more convenient to take regular rest. Provide at least one or two evenings of rest per week (more is also allowed, just do what feels good for you!). And also look for things that help you to relax. A few of my relaxing pastimes are reading a book, taking photos and drawing.
Do you now think “Yes, then I will get troubled!”? Well, that can be true. But practice makes perfect. Take it from me that being busy all the time does not solve your worrying thoughts in the long run. You end up getting irritated faster. That is certainly not going to help worry less.
4. Ask yourself “And what else?”
Your worrying thoughts are like irritating sellers: they cannot simply be dismissed. And so you will have to put a stop to them. To put things into perspective and not take your thoughts too seriously is the method for this. Let’s challenge your anxious ideas. “And then what?”, is a perfect question for that.
Another example: imagine you need to have an uncomfortable conversation at work. You can do this as follows:
“If I ask my manager, he might get angry.”
“Then I have a hard time with that, or I get emotional.”
“Then maybe I will hear that at the next meeting.”
“Then that is difficult at that meeting.”
“Um, after a few days we may both have forgotten that again.”
Maybe there are more “And what else?” – questions to go over in this example. But in the end, almost all anxious thoughts can be battled this way. Doom scenarios that you already have thoroughly thought out in your head, quite a lot are often wrong.
Are you unable to put your thoughts into perspective? Then go to your most calm friend who doesn’t make a thing of anything and explain your situation. There is a good chance that those people will be happy to talk it out of your head.
5. Worry less? Limit your peak time!
Whether you fret for fifteen minutes or three hours, there’s a good chance it won’t help at all. Therefore, put yourself on an anxiety stop and thereby limit your distress time. For example, determine for yourself that you can break your head over something for a maximum of fifteen minutes. Then it’s time to throw yourself into something else again.
Write down everything that you encounter in that quarter of an hour. You can write as passionately as you like, as long as you immediately put down your pen after that. Then consciously focus on something else again. Do something relaxing, continue with your work or pick up your to-do list.
Okay, it’s not that simple of course. For me, I have my ups and downs. I do notice that I have more influence on my anxious thoughts than I imagined. By sometimes being strict with yourself and consciously contradicting your opinions, you get a long way.
Do you notice that you have a lot of trouble worrying? Then it can help to get professional help.
Do you ever suffer from anxiety? What helps you with that?