How to Train Your Brain to Stop Worrying

Insaf Ali

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Worry, doubt, and anxiety — these are all a normal part of life. It’s natural to worry about an unpaid bill, an upcoming job interview, or a first date. But ‘normal’ worry becomes excessive when it’s persistent and uncontrollable. Unrelenting thoughts and fears can be paralyzing.

They can sap your emotional energy, send your anxiety levels soaring, and interfere with your daily life. But chronic worrying is a mental habit that can be broken.

You CAN train your brain to stay calm and look at life from a more balanced, less fearful perspective. If you think you need to work on worrying less — keep reading. Here’s how to train your brain to stop worrying!

Number 1 — Determine What You Can Control

When you find yourself worrying, take a minute to examine the things you have control over. For example, you cannot control how someone else behaves, but you can control how you react.

Recognize that sometimes, all you can control is your effort and your attitude. When you put your energy into the things you can control, you’ll be much more effective.

Number 2 — Accept The Things You Cannot Change

One of the reasons we worry too much is because we tend to focus on problems that are beyond our ability to solve, or things we cannot control. For example, you may be planning a birthday celebration during the weekend, and you worry about whether it will rain or not. Of course, there’s a possibility that it will rain.

So, instead of worrying about it, why not be flexible and have an alternative plan?

This will ease your worries. Accepting the fact that you cannot control everything will lift a lot of burden from your shoulders and will eventually end your worry.

Number 3 — Focus On Your Influence

As the saying goes “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” You can influence people and circumstances, but you can’t force things to go your way.

To have the most influence on others, focus on changing your behavior. Be a good role model, and set healthy boundaries for yourself.

When you have concerns about someone else’s choices, share your opinion, but only share it once, and don’t try to fix people who don’t want to be fixed.

Number 4 — Avoid Getting Lost In Vague Fears

When you have vague fears in your mind and you lack clarity, it’s very easy to get lost in exaggerated worries and disaster scenarios. Find clarity in a worry-inducing situation by asking yourself: “What is the worst thing, realistically, that could happen?”

After you answer that question, spend a bit of time figuring out what you can do about it — if that thing were to actually happen. The worst that could realistically happen is usually not as scary as what your mind makes up when it’s running wild with vague fears. Spending a few minutes finding clarity can save you a whole lot of time, energy, and suffering.

Number 5 — Don’t Try To Guess What Someone Thinks

Sometimes, we try to create our own story about what’s going on in a person’s mind — even if in actuality, we don’t have any idea. Most of the time, trying to assume what’s on someone’s mind is useless, and a waste of energy.

Our mind is capable of creating scenarios that are both exaggerated and sometimes, even dangerous.

If we let our minds dwell and obsess on these mental pictures, our worries will never end. So choose a way that is less likely to lead to worries and misunderstandings. Communicate and ask what you want to ask.

By doing so, you’ll promote openness in your relationships, and they will likely be happier, as you will avoid many unnecessary conflicts and negativity.

Number 6 — Put It Into Words

In the process of training your brain to stop worrying, this technique probably has the highest value. In particular, if you can’t sleep at night, it can really help to write down whatever is on your mind and keeping you awake.

This allows your brain to release some of the focus which is being placed on these things, and this mental relief is often what is needed to fall asleep. Writing these types of things down is like a signal to your brain that it should quietly contemplate solutions to the problems over the long term.

Number 7 — Set Aside A Designated ‘Worry Time’

Instead of worrying all day, every day, designate a 30-minute period of time where you can think about your problems. Setting aside a time frame like this can help you delay your worries to a later period, freeing up your plagued mind for more productive activity in the present moment.

You can use the designated ‘worry time’ to find solutions for your problems — rather than just focusing on the problems themselves.

Number 8 — Differentiate Between Ruminating And Problem-Solving

Replaying conversations in your head, or imagining catastrophic outcomes over and over, isn’t helpful. But solving a problem is! Ask yourself if your thinking is productive.

If you are actively solving a problem, such as trying to find ways to increase your chances of success, keep working on solutions. If, however, you’re wasting your time ruminating, change the channel in your brain.

Acknowledge that your thoughts aren’t helpful, and get up and go do something else for a few minutes — to get your brain focused on something more productive.

Number 9 — Find The Correct Facts

Sometimes, we spend days worrying, and then, in the end, realize that the thing we are worrying about is actually not true! This is something that probably a lot of us have experienced.

People worry when they have incorrect information, or when they don’t have enough information.

Let’s suppose you have a fear that a certain stomach ache means that you have a dangerous disease. In such a case, talking to an expert can end your worries right away, as you may discover that you have been misinformed.

Most of the time, as you are presented with the whole picture, you will realize that there is really no reason to worry.

Number 10 — Keep Yourself Busy

This may seem like an obvious bit of advice, but forcing yourself to work on something while you’re worried, can really help make your worried thoughts go away.

The key here is to occupy your hands or your mind — preferably both — in some task that requires a level of focus. For example, you can occupy yourself with a task that requires your concentration or pulls up a mobile game on your phone and lose yourself in it.

With the right task, you’ll surrender your mind in a matter of moments, and your worries will slip away.

Number 11 — Talk To Someone About Something Else

In a similar strategy of distraction, occupy yourself by talking to someone — it can be anybody, as long as the topic is something other than your worries.

Doing so engages the language and emotional components of your brain, forcing you to invest in the conversation, rather than the internal conversation that’s causing your worries.

As long as you can keep this up and keep it interesting for a few minutes, your attention will likely shift to the topic of conversation — and away from your worries.

Number 12 — Create A Plan To Manage Your Stress

Exercising, eating healthy, and getting plenty of sleep are just a few key things you need to do to take care of yourself. You also have to make time to manage your stress so you can operate more efficiently.

Pay attention to your stress level, and notice how you cope with distress. Eliminate unhealthy coping skills, such as complaining to others, or drinking too much. Find healthy stress relievers instead — like an engaging hobby, or spending time with friends.

Number 13 — Change Your Bedtime

If you like to stay up late at night, you might be feeding your inner worries. Researchers found that people who go to bed very late and sleep for short amounts of time are more overwhelmed with negative thoughts, as opposed to those who keep more regular sleeping hours.

They tend to worry about the future and dwell over past events, and they have a higher risk of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

By making sure that you go to bed at a reasonable time, you can significantly reduce worrying and intrusive thoughts.

Number 14 — Meditate Your Worries Away

Meditation is excellent at limiting cognitive anxiety and worrying. Spend a few minutes consciously choosing to avoid non-natural noise, and to become centered around your present and future desires.

Even if worrisome thoughts materialize during meditation or mindfulness, it won’t be long before you’re able to train your brain to focus on more positive and beneficial thoughts.

Number 15 — Let Go Of Control

Trying to overpower worry, only ignites anxiety and worrying thoughts. When you have a thought you don’t like, your body responds by struggling physically to control it — and this intensifies the thought. What you need to do is actually the opposite — interrupt the urge to stronghold your anxiety, and allow acceptance and mindfulness to enter.

Life has its own way of twisting things — often to the point that we are left startled, if unprepared. Once you learn how to adapt, you will have
less reason to worry.

There are some who advocate that a little worry is a good thing. But everyone’s threshold is different, and you need to pay attention when things start getting out of control.

Thankfully, reversing or completely avoiding excessive worry is totally up to you and in your hands. Your brain adapts easily, and you can train it to worry less, by introducing these changes in your behavior and everyday activities.

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