Everyone worries at some time. Whether it is out of love for someone else, fear of being criticised and how people perceive you, or your health or health issue. Occasionally, worry is absolutely fine, and is perfectly normal. In some circumstances, worrying can prompt you to act and step out of your comfort zone. However, if you are worried constantly, finding yourself preoccupied and consumed by worry on a daily basis, that is not good for you.

Worrying can affect your:

  • State of mind
  • Weight
  • Sleep
  • Relationships
  • Confidence
  • Self-esteem

Of course, worry can also greatly increase your anxiety.

There are many techniques which will help you worry less and even possibly target and then remove the origin of your worrying behaviour. It is really important to consider the origins of why you worry. A great question to ask is, “is it real in the world, or is it just real to me?” What we mean by that is, have you actually got lots of life challenges going on right now that the majority of people would worry about, or are you over-worrying in a situation that there isn’t really anything to get upset about. Therefore, if you are over-worrying, the question is, why?

Worry – just like anxiety – is like having a phobia, or OCD. It is a symptom and there is a learning behind that which is medically known as a schema, or a cognitive thought process. It is that which creates the reference that drives your behaviour. If you are an over-worrier, there is an important question to ask yourself and that is, why? Consider, why do you worry excessively?

What are the origins of worrying so much?

  1. Firstly, the most common origin is learned behaviour, probably from copying a parent. If you have a parent who is an over-worrier, the likelihood is, you will be too. For example, we all have different accents because we copy the people in our environments. Therefore, if it is because of your parents, then you have to question it and ask yourself “did it enhance my parent’s life by over-worrying?” and remind yourself when you catch yourself worrying “I am fine, this isn’t my worry, it’s my mum’s or my dad’s worry”.
  2. Another possible origin is the fear of criticism. It is okay in a work scenario. Although, it’s not if it stems from low self-esteem, due to having been criticised in the past from a schoolteacher, a bullying ex-boss or an ex-partner. If this is the case then challenge your belief and ask yourself, “do I still want to be listening to those people, and what skills did they ever have to be able to judge me in the first place?” Further, if they were good people, then they shouldn’t have judged me in the first place. So, stop listening to that younger you who had that experience, and start bringing yourself up to date and look at situations as they are now.
  3. Another reason behind worrying is having had volatile previous circumstances, and those probably don’t even apply any longer. For example, during your childhood, there was a catalogue of disasters that you generally had purpose to worry about. As a result, worrying has now become habitual but because things went wrong in the past, you have kind of created an expectation that things will go wrong in the future. Therefore, look at the evidence and then put it all into perspective.
  4. A further possibility is having low self-esteem, which a lot of people suffer with. As you fear criticism, search again for the origin of why you fear criticism: who criticised you in the first place? And then challenge it.
  5. Furthermore – a reason which we have all been a victim of – is when we have too much time on our hands. When we have too much time that isn’t used constructively, it can encourage negative thoughts and behaviours, which can all spiral. Our brain is the most incredible organ, that even today, psychiatrists and psychologists still don’t fully understand. What we do know is that our brain likes to be occupied and if you don’t give it something constructive or positive to occupy it, it will invariably find something – a worry, anxiety, pain, or an ailment, which then grows. This is because the brain is like a muscle that you exercise. The more you exercise it, the bigger it gets. Therefore, don’t cultivate your worries and negatives, and then they won’t grow.

What can I do to overcome my worry?

  1. You create a ‘worry period’. Decide on a specific time every single day that will be your ‘worry’ time. For example, you may decide it is going to be 3 o’clock every day and you are going to allocate yourself 20 minutes and in that space of time that will become your worry time.
  2. If you have a few worries, make a list. Once you make a list, it takes it out of your mind and sort of gives you a third-party perspective when you see it written. Keep the list so that then when you look back at the list, you will come to realise that a lot of those things you were worrying about never actually happened. This then gives you some great evidence, which in turn will help you stop worrying in the future.
  3. Ask yourself, “is this problem solvable?” If it is, decide on a strategy to be able to solve it, and keep to that strategy.
  4. Consider your environment and the company you keep. The people around you can really affect how you feel. If you have a friend who is always anxious or negative, then they will actually make your worrying worse. They may offer suggestions as to other things that could happen or go wrong which would make your worry far worse, and therefore we would suggest, where possible, avoid them.
  5. If you are going to discuss anything that you are worried about with somebody, only discuss it with those who has got a positive outlook and who will give you positive and constructive advice. Don’t discuss your worries with someone you know already is a worrier because all they will do is enflame your worries and that will not make it any better.
  6. Find a positive distraction or hobby, whatever that might be to use your time positively. Maybe that could be voluntary work, a hobby you have always wanted to do, joining a group or doing an online course, just use your time well.
  7. Consider giving yourself some daily tasks, maybe 3 or 5, or even small things to do that will give you a sense of achievement at the end of them. Even if that is clearing a cupboard out or calling a friend who you haven’t spoken to in ages who always makes you feel good, just consider those tasks.
  8. Finally, consider if what you are worrying about is real, or is it just the ‘what if’. If there is no solution to a problem then what you are actually going to be doing is creating fear, anger and frustration and this is actually harming you. These pessimistic thoughts and attitudes, they actually harm you and make things worse. They are known as cognitive distinctions, and they can be challenged. You can do this by asking yourself things such as, ‘is there a more positive and realistic way that I can look at this situation?’ You could also ask yourself, ‘what is the probability of what I am worried about and will really happen?’ If it is a low probability, then also consider what other outcomes could happen, that could be better. Another thing you could ask is, ‘is the thought helpful?’ How will worrying about a certain thing help me and conversely how will it hurt me and make my life sadder, more worrying and give me more anxiety? Lastly, just consider, if a friend came to you with the same worry, what advice would you give them?

For more information on how to stop worry in its tracks, please watch our YouTube video that includes more simple tips to help relieve anxiety:

For more tips and advice, head to our TikTok channel and listen to our podcast Making The Change.