Web Analytics

How to stop worrying



Are you a worrywart?

Did you know that the word worry comes from the Old English wyrgan which meant “to strangle”?

If you’re feeling strangled by worry, read on to find out why we fret and how to loosen that tight knot of worry that’s choking you.


Why do we worry?

Worry is a common experience for people in general, but there are times when it becomes such a big deal that it takes over our lives, eclipsing any experience of joy or contentment.

And there are some people who admit to being constant worrywarts even though they would really like to be more relaxed about life.

So, if worry is so unpleasant, why do we do it?

Researchers have found six “benefits” that people cite for worrying:

1. If I worry about something, I am more likely to actually figure out how to avoid or prevent something bad from happening.


2. Although it may not actually be true, it feels like if I worry about something, the worrying makes it less likely that something bad will happen.


3. Worrying about most of the things I worry about is a way to distract myself from worrying about even more emotional things, things that I don’t want to think about.


4. If I worry about something, when something bad does happen, I’ll be better prepared for it.


5. Worry helps to motivate me to get things done that I need to get done.


6. Worrying is an effective way to problem-solve.


So, does worrying really help?

Do any of the six “benefits” above ring true for you?

Let’s look at each of them to see if they really accomplish what they are meant to.


1. If I worry about something, I am more likely to actually figure out how to avoid or prevent something bad from happening.

– and –

2. Although it may not actually be true, it feels like if I worry about something, the worrying makes it less likely that something bad will happen.


I placed the first two together because they are quite similar – they both hope that worry will prevent something bad from happening.

Note how this is different from benefit #6 which deals with problem-solving. These two are more about the worry itself helping you avoid or prevent something bad.

The tricky part of these particular ideas is that they create a self-reinforcing belief – something researchers call the “superstitious reinforcement paradigm.”

This means that you get negatively reinforced for your worry because the things you worry about usually don’t come to pass. So you conclude that worry = bad things not happening.

The problem with your conclusion is that the bad things probably wouldn’t happen if you didn’t worry.

Author Earl Conant says that only 8% of the things we worry about are legitimate, so it’s likely that you really don’t need to worry about 92% of the time.

We chuckle at baseball players who wear the same pair of lucky socks or eat the same meal before every game out of superstition.

But what about you? Are you continuing to worry because of a magical belief that you are preventing something bad from happening?

Maybe you should try lucky socks instead . . .


3. Worrying about most of the things I worry about is a way to distract myself from worrying about even more emotional things, things that I don’t want to think about.


Usually, when presented with something that makes us anxious, our heart rate increases. Worriers, though, when presented with a picture of something they worry about, have no change in cardiovascular response.

So, if you’re a worrier, you may feel reinforced by thinking your worrying must have “prepared” you to not respond physically to something anxiety-inducing.

However, what this really indicates is that you aren’t allowing the whole emotional picture to emerge around whatever it is you’re worried about.

You’re suppressing your fear.

Researchers found that people who worry and avoid their deeper fears are not able to learn from their fears as well as non-worriers.

For example, people who were afraid of public speaking were shown pictures of public speaking events. Non-worriers showed an elevated heart rate when shown the pictures while worriers did not (although they still worried about public speaking.)

However, when compelled to do several public speeches in a row, non-worriers learned that public speaking really wasn’t so scary while worriers still had the same level of anxiety as when they started.

So constantly worrying about something, although it might feel as though you’re controlling something you’re afraid of, really only prevents you from adding “corrective information” to your experience – that is, it doesn’t allow you to learn new information to overcome your fear.


4. If I worry about something, when something bad does happen, I’ll be better prepared for it.


Um, not so much.

As explained above, worry doesn’t allow you to learn how to overcome your fear, a key to being able to bounce back in life.

So, if the thing that you’re worrying about actually happens, you’ll still be anxious and not able to respond as well as possible.

Also, let’s think about this: What kind of life are you experiencing if you are constantly in a state of worry about things that happened in the past (which you have no control over) and things that might (but probably won’t) happen in the future?

What happened to the life that you are living right now? This present moment?

It’s gone in a cloud of worry.


5. Worry helps to motivate me to get things done that I need to get done.


Yes, it does.

Because you want to get rid of the terrible feeling of worry, you finally knuckle down and get the job done.

But why choose to be miserable to accomplish things rather than use any of the numerous positive motivators available to you?

Why not set up a reward system for yourself? When you get a task done, let yourself have that piece of chocolate or the walk with the dog or an hour of reading.

Go for positive reinforcement (receiving something good) rather than negative reinforcement (having something bad stop.)


6. Worrying is an effective way to problem-solve.

Again, not so much.

Here’s what worrying does: It brings up a lot of “what if . . .” questions. This is a good start to problem-solving but then, well, as Borkovec, et. al (1999) put it:

“Beyond this, worry itself does not contribute further to solving problems. One is either worrying, or one is problem solving. These two distinctive processes may alternate sequentially during a worrisome episode but never occur, by definition, at the same time.”

So worrying gets in the way of problem-solving because 1.) You can’t worry and problem-solve at the same time and, 2.) Worrying causes anxiety which interferes with your ability to concentrate and think rationally in order to problem-solve effectively.


How to stop worrying

There will always be times we’ll have a little bit of worry. We’re only human, after all.

But if you want to stop the chronic worrying that is making life miserable for you, try one – or all – of these research-based ideas.


1. Keep a Worry Outcome Diary

How realistic is your worry?

That’s really the bottom-line question that you need to answer.

This tool assists you in keeping track of what you worry about so that you can see if your worries are realistic or not.

Specifically, it looks like this:

1.) My worry:

2.) What outcome (end result) do I fear:

3.) How bad this outcome would be on a scale of 0-10 (0 = not bad at all, 10 = the worst thing that could happen):

4.) What really happened:

5.) How bad was the real outcome (same 0-10 scale as above):

Find a notebook and jot down these entries or copy and paste the above several times onto several pages on your word processor.

Then, throughout the day, 1.) note each thing that you are worried about.

2.) Write down what you think will happen that is so bad or scary about each worry.

3.) Rate on a scale from 0-10 how bad this feared outcome would be.

At the end of each day, review your diary for current and past entries and see if any of the outcomes have occurred for the things you were worried about.

Write down 4.) what really happened to the thing you worried about.

Then 5.) rate the real outcome on the same scale of 0-10 from step 3.).

Now compare numbers 3.) and 5.). Was the outcome as bad as you feared?

Most likely not.

Even if you do this Worry Outcome Diary for a week or two, you will soon find out that you can stop worrying about most of the things on your worry list because they’re not true!

Or at least the outcome – the very thing that you spent so much time and energy worrying about – wasn’t anywhere near as bad as you thought it would be.


2. Set aside a specific time to worry

One of the things that can happen if you are a constant worrier is that, because you worry throughout the day, you start to associate normal things in your life with worry.

If you’re worrying when you stop at Starbucks for your morning coffee, after awhile going into Starbucks might trigger worry.

If you’re worrying when you are cooking dinner, you might start to associate cooking with worrying.

Setting aside a 20-30 minute time for worrying during your day will do a couple of things for you.

• It will help break the associations between worrying and your normal daily routine.

• It stops the energy drain that occurs when you are worrying constantly throughout your day.

When you feel yourself start to worry, let it go and remember that you can worry all you want in your specified time period.

Alternatively, practice worrying on one day and choose not to worry the next. Then note whether there was any difference between the days in terms of outcomes or how you are feeling.

Did the worrying make your life better on that day?


3. Practice relaxation exercises and letting go

As you know, your body tenses up when you worry.

Conversely, if your muscles are completely relaxed, it’s very hard to think worrisome thoughts.

There are many relaxation videos and audio recordings online. Find one that works for you and take time to learn to relax.

As you are relaxing, if a worry starts creeping into your mind, practice letting it go. At least for the time that you are relaxing. It will be there again if you really need it!


4. Be mindful

Worrying, of course, is usually about things that have occurred in the past or what we fear will happen in the future.

You can’t worry about what is happening right now, in this moment.

And this moment is where life is happening for you.

Mindfulness is about being in the present moment and noticing your experience without judgment.

When you find yourself starting to worry, bring yourself back to the current moment and just notice how you are feeling and what you are thinking.

Have no judgment about either your emotions or your thoughts. Just notice them and be kind to yourself rather than beating yourself up for worrying again.

If you find it hard to stay in the moment, try using some grounding techniques that use your senses.

Notice how the countertop or desk feels under your fingers. Smell the aroma of coffee or the fresh air outside. Become aware of the different sounds around you.


5. Feel the fear and do it anyway

Remember that your worrying may be a way to feel in control of something that is frightening for you, something a bit deeper than the worry itself.

Keep asking yourself “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” until you discover what is so fearful to you.

Then, perhaps with the help of a trusted friend or a therapist, face your fear.

It’s the only way to overcome it.

Try out the scary thing – whether it’s public speaking, having a hard conversation with your partner, or looking at a snake at a zoo – and notice what happens.

Did the worst thing happen? Did you die from it?



6. How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?

You know the answer.

“Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.

No one is going to stop worrying for you. You might just have to take yourself by the scruff of the neck, give a little shake,  and say, “It’s time – let’s do this!”

Do you really want to change?


You have the tools now so the rest is up to you.

Don’t let worry strangle you.

Use one or more of the above strategies – or mix and match! – and discover how to stop worrying.

For good.


How do you deal with your worries?



Borkovec, T.D., Hazlett-Stevens, H., & Diaz, M.L. (1999). The Role of Positive Beliefs about Worry in Generalized Anxiety Disorder ad its Treatment. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, 6, 126-138.

Gladstone, G. & Parker, G. (2003). What’s the use of worrying? Its function and its dysfunction. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 37, 347-354.

Nightingale, Earl. The Essence of Success. Retrieved from http://www.nightingale.com/AE_Article~i~210~article~TheFogofWorryOnly8WorthIt.aspx, September 29, 2012.



Choosing to bounce back


Note: This is a guest post by Jodi Chapman of Soul Speak

Have you ever been beaten down by life and felt so low to the ground that you worried that you may never bounce back? I’m going to take a guess and say that we all have felt this way at some point in our lives.


Life can be hard. It’s true. And sometimes the pain that we feel begins to pile up. And all of the disappointment that we’ve suffered throughout our life starts to pile on top of that pain. And then all of the struggles that we’ve faced pile up on top of the pain and disappointment until pretty soon we feel like we can’t even breathe because all of this gunk is on top of our spirit. Our light that once shone so brightly seems so much dimmer.


By the time we realize just how far down we’ve gotten – how far up it is to the light – we are far too tired to do anything about it. We crawl into bed, pull the covers up, and plan to sleep until everything is okay again.


If this sounds familiar, I have two things to say to you: I’m sorry, and I get it. I’ve been there. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was in that bed with the covers pulled up. It wasn’t that long ago that I was waiting for life to get better – waiting for all of this pain to go away – waiting for my chance to bounce back.

 Your choice: Live in pain or in the light

And two years ago I got that chance in the form of a spiritual awakening – an experience that I wasn’t open to and didn’t even believe in. But after a year of hearing a voice from the other side, asking for proof and receiving it, and hearing the helpful words of love that helped get me out of the bed and back into the world, I started paying attention. And what this experience taught me was that I could choose to continue living the way I was living or I could choose to bounce back – to come back to life. The choice had been within me all along, I just couldn’t see it. I needed that helping hand to reach in and pull me out of myself – out of my own pain and into the light.


And now I want to be that helping hand for you. You don’t have to hear a voice – you don’t even have to believe me when I say that I did. That’s not what’s important. What is important is that you recognize that you don’t have to sleepwalk through your own life. You don’t have to just go through the motions and get through the day. There is so much more to life that is just outside of your tunnel vision – just waiting for you to open up to. You can choose to come back to life. And you can choose this right now.

 Saying yes to life

When I realized this, I began to make drastic changes in how I was living my life. And no, they weren’t always easy, but they were life-altering. I realized that I had been living in fear for so long that I was no longer saying yes to life. I also was completely closed off to offers of help. I wanted to do everything on my own. So my coming back to life story included taking one leap of faith after another and building my bravery muscle. It also included opening up and allowing others in. Your story may include something else. Once you decide to wake up and start living fully, you begin to examine why you stopped living and then you get to figure out how to heal from that, forgive yourself and anyone else that needs to be forgiven, open up to the universe, and begin embracing your life again.


And no, it’s not always as easy as this makes it sound. But once you begin and once you feel that glimmer of hope again – that feeling that you probably haven’t felt in a really long time – you won’t want to turn around. You’ll want to keep moving toward the light. I guarantee it.


And if you want some support along the way, I would love for you to join us in the Coming Back to Life Ecourse. It’s a 6-week course that begins on 10/1. It is a helping hand, a loving community, and concrete tools and techniques to help you come back to life all wrapped up into one loving course. And when you sign up, you’ll receive over $150 in bonus gifts immediately!


Whether you join us or not though, please remember that the choice to live fully and embrace life is always within you. I truly hope that you choose to wake up. It’s the best choice that I ever made!



Guest author Jodi Chapman is the author of the inspirational blog, Soul Speak; the upcoming book, Coming Back to Life: How an Unlikely Friend Helped Me Reclaim My True Spirit; and the bestselling Soulful Journals series, co-authored with her husband, Dan Teck. Her new Coming Back to Life Ecourse begins on 10/1. Register now and receive over $150 in bonus gifts!


Note: I’m an affiliate for Jodi’s e-course, Coming Back to Life, and I want to emphasize that I would not sponsor or partner with any coursework or product I did not believe in 100%. Jodi is a woman of her word and her course might change your life!


Like this article? Please click on the Facebook ‘like’ button below!

Coming Back to Life Ecourse

Choosing to Expand

(Leave a Comment)

The other day, I was interviewing Sharon for a book I’m writing on handling grief related to financial loss. She lost her job earlier this year in an ugly fashion: she had been led to believe she would be receiving a promotion, but when she walked into her boss’s office, she learned she would be laid off.

“Of course I was shocked,” Sharon recalled. “But then I found out that 10% of our company’s workforce was being laid off at that time due to the economy.”

I asked Sharon how she reacted to losing her job. Being practical, she immediately moved to less expensive housing and trimmed her budget as much as she could.

But I was curious about the emotional aspects of Sharon’s job loss―how was she handling that? What she said took me by surprise and inspired me at the same time.

“You know, Bobbi,” she said, “I chose to expand rather than contract. I saw this as an opportunity to step out of my normal way of being.”

With this outlook, Sharon took a trip to Burning Man, read self-help books, attended some classes, and even landed a role in a community theatre play. All of these activities helped her cope: “I realize that I don’t have to pull inward and be depressed.”

Sharon is a resilient person. She made a conscious decision to learn from her situation. Not only did she bounce back, she bounced forward emotionally and spiritually.

The word “inspire” comes from the Latin spirare, literally “to breathe.” Listening to Sharon’s story was truly like taking a big breath of fresh air.

Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.