Breaking the Worry Habit

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  • September 2, 2014

Worrying can take all the joy out of your life. It can destroy your natural energy and effectiveness, it can rob you of your peace of mind, and it can do serious, if not fatal, damage to your physical body.

Chronic worrying is a habit that usually develops over a long period of time. Once you’ve developed the worrying habit, it can become central to your disposition and you will do worry automatically. You will worry whether there is a good reason to or not. You can break the worry habit. Here’s how to do it.

First, see worrying for what it really is. Worrying is a foolish waste of your mental energy. You worry about the past when you can’t do anything about it; you worry about the future when it hasn’t even happened yet; and you worry about the present just to keep yourself busy. For all of the time you’ve spent worrying, I bet you can’t name one positive thing that your worrying has accomplished for you.

Someone with nothing better to do has figured out that 92% of worries never happen. Instead worrying about things that aren’t likely to happen, save your energy for handling the remaining 8%.

Second, learn to forget and to overlook. The past is past so let it go and forget it. Of course you should learn from your mistakes, but then forgive yourself for being human and move on. That’s the very best anyone can do. You cannot worry and forget at the same time; so pick forgetting – it’s better for your health.

It’s been said that the essence of genius is to know what to overlook. When you fuss over every little detail of life, you can become petty, mean spirited, critical, and nervous. This is a miserable way to live. By training yourself to overlook the insignificant aspects of your day, your mind remains calm, you are open to life, and your energy is available to focus on those things that are truly important.

Third, stop looking for dark clouds in the future. Develop an optimistic outlook. Quit worrying about what may happen. Instead, use your imagination to focus on the best possible outcomes. Use your energy to create these outcomes by taking positive action where you can, and then by feeling good about having done everything you possibly can do. Stay positive, no matter what happens. This doesn’t mean that you ignore the troubles of life. It means that you accept life holds both good and bad, and you are determined to take a positive approach to dealing with problems.

Fourth, teach yourself to relax or take a course in meditation or yoga. Develop a calm and peaceful center by remembering to consciously breathe deeply and by reminding yourself to trust in you and in the goodness of life. Practice this at every opportunity and you’ll be able to relax yourself at will. You can’t relax and worry at the same time.

Finally, make an effort to empty your mind of worrying thoughts and fill it with strong, healthy thoughts. Always be aware of what you’re thinking and replace every worry thought with thoughts about the richness of life and your ability to handle the challenges that come your way.

Say to yourself, “I have courage, strength, and peace – I can do this!” Act as if you have these qualities and you will develop them.

Worrying is a waste of time. It’s busy work. It may provide you with a sense of comfort that you’re doing something, but what you’re really doing is hurting yourself. Use these five steps to break the worry habit and you’ll live longer, healthier, and more joyfully.

Shirley Vandersteen, Ph. D., R. Psych.
Consulting Psychologist