The more conversations I have with my girlfriends, the more I realize: women are natural worriers. We worry about little things (I woke up at 2am last night with my mind racing about the wood floors we’re getting installed!) and the big things (families, health, job security… the list goes on.) However unpleasant it might feel at the time, worry’s not all bad. At its best, worry can be the impetus we need to take positive actions and ensure we’re doing what needs to be done. For example, if we’re worried about our financial future, it can inspire us to focus on putting aside a little savings each month. Since worry is something none of us will ever fully escape, I thought it was worth consulting the experts to find out how we can use it to our advantage: by letting it spur us on to become our best selves, rather than allowing it to paralyze us. Click through the slides for 8 solid strategies to keep worry in check.


Worry constructively.

Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, a family physician and coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Losing Weight and Feeling Great, says that we can use worry to benefit us:

The first rule of constructive worrying is to refuse to allow yourself to worry about things that are completely out of your control. If you’re worried that it might rain on your daughter’s wedding day, you can take steps to make sure that the wedding will go off without a hitch, rain or shine, but no amount of worrying on your part is going to change the weather on your daughter’s big day. Worrying about things that you cannot control or change is completely fruitless. It’s also exhausting and detrimental to your emotional and physical health.

image via madewell musings

 


Find an Outlet

Ferny Barcelo, an LPC-I at Austin Mindfulness Center in Austin, focuses on using mindfulness-based therapy to help her clients through depression, anxiety, relationship problems, and a larger array of issues (as well as being a Registered Yoga Instructor!) She advises:

Stop repressing the worry – it will only come out in some other way (cue a panic attack, no sleep, or even physical pain like head and stomach aches). Instead, create a release for the pressure cooker in your head: journal about what is making you stress, go talk to your therapist, or even just vent to a friend over coffee. Simply acknowledging that the stress exists is a great way to help diffuse it.

image via madewell musings


Put it on paper.

Barcelo recommends combatting the daily stresses of life by writing or typing things down. “Oftentimes, our stress stems from feeling like we have an overwhelming amount of things to take care of. Our brains aren’t the best at keeping thoughts organized, and sometimes end up making it all feel like one giant mess. Make numbered lists of your daily tasks, keep notes on your phone, or download a task management app to help keep track of your life. It will make the actual day’s activities look much more manageable, and less like a tangled muddle of worry.”

Dr. McAllister says that in every situation, it’s helpful to identify and clarify exactly what is worrying us. “Recently I was asked to give a lecture to a group of medical students, and I found that after I agreed to do the talk, I had a vague sense of uneasiness about it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was bothering me, so I sat down with a pen and paper, gave it some thought, and came up with a list. I discovered that I was worried about everything from not wearing the right outfit to tripping and falling on my way to the podium. Some of my worries were justifiable, and others were completely ridiculous. I crossed off the ridiculous worries, laughed at myself, and focused on addressing the worries that had merit. By the time I was finished with this exercise, I felt far more relaxed and confident that things would go well.”

image via madewell musings


Determine what you really want.

“Worry focuses on the unwanted situation or outcome. Instead of concentrating on what you don’t want, ask yourself what it is that you really do want. In discussing anxiety and worry with hundreds of my patients over the years, I’ve found that many of them have trouble putting into words exactly what they want. It’s far easier for them to describe their fears and concerns. It’s helpful to take the time to state exactly what you want, and then repeat that statement to yourself whenever you find yourself worrying about the outcome,” says Dr. McAllister.

image via buddyoptical


Engage in positive visualization rather than negative visualization.

Dr. McAllister says, “When we worry, what we’re really doing is engaging in negative visualization. We imagine all the things that can go wrong and we envision bad outcomes. It’s far more productive and beneficial to engage in positive visualization. If you’re worried about making a good impression on a first date or during your upcoming job interview, don’t waste a single second of your time envisioning all the things that can go wrong. Instead, invest your time and energy in visualizing all the things that will go right, and how happy and satisfied you’ll be with the successful outcome.”

image by paula ohara via style me pretty


Ask: What (If Anything) Is Under My Control?

Barcelo says, “If we were to graph out what people worry about, a huge chunk of it would be things that have already happened and are unchangeable, things in the future that haven’t happened yet, and things that they have no control over at all. So all worrying is doing in these instances is making you miserable, for absolutely no reason. We have to create acceptance that some things in our life will be completely out of our hands. And that can be okay! Life can be an enjoyable ride, even if you’re not holding the steering wheel all of the time. The more acceptance you create around the fact some things are simply a matter of fate, coincidence, or luck, the better the ride will be for you. All worry does is make the journey less enjoyable.”

image via madewell


Do What You Can. Then Move On! 

Barcelo also advises us to analyze the situation. Ask what you can do to make it more manageable. If there is something to be done to alleviate some of the worry, do it. Then (and this step is key!) move on to the next thing. Don’t spend anymore of your mental energy on something that can no longer be helped. Instead, try spending time enjoying the things you already have. Practicing gratitude can be a great counter-action towards worrying. Take a look at your life, and then take a second to acknowledge what is already good about it. This will usually make all those things that make us stress seem much less important. Remember, be present and be grateful!

image via toast october lookbook


Break the habit. 

McAllister points out, “Worrying is a habit, and like all habits, it can be changed.  That’s not to say that you can completely banish worry from your life, and you probably shouldn’t even if you could. Small doses of worry make us better parents, friends, and partners. But after you’ve identified and addressed what’s worrying you in a productive manner, and you’ve taken steps to ensure a positive outcome, it’s time to let it go, at least until you decide to address it again. How do you let it go? Give yourself a specific time to think about it and a time limit, and then change the subject in your mind. If I’ve got something worrying me, I might decide to wait to think about it till I’m driving home from work. That way, I don’t let it ruin my day or anyone else’s. I make up my mind to focus completely on my work while I’m in my office, and once I’m in my car, I can turn my thoughts to the issue that’s worrying me. I usually give myself a time limit of 15 or 20 minutes to go through the cycle of worrying constructively—identifying and clarifying my concerns, determining what it is I really want and how I can achieve that outcome, and then engaging in positive visualization. Then I change the channel in my head. I make myself think about something else—what’s going right in my life, what I’m grateful for, and what I have to look forward to. If I find my mind drifting back to the topic of worry, I redirect my thoughts to other topics. Sometimes I have to do this over and over again. Learning to limit and control worrying often takes practice and a lot of hard work, but it can be done.”

image by paula ohara via style me pretty


When is worrying bad?

McAllister: “Worrying is detrimental to your emotional and physical wellbeing when it is constant and unrelenting, when you feel that you can’t control it, and when it interferes with your daily life. If this is the case, it’s time to seek professional help. Making an appointment with your physician or a counselor is a good place to start. Constant worrying could be a sign of a condition that often responds well to treatment, such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

Barcelo: “The most obvious pitfalls of worry are the affects to our physical health. Heart problems, breathing issues, headaches, and tense muscles are just a few of the physical symptoms that can manifest in our bodies due to too much stress. Aside from the damage we may do to our bodies, our minds suffer as well. When we are under too much stress, we think less clearly, can be more temperamental, and be less able to manage our daily tasks properly. We become run-down, unhappy, and generally less efficient. Cultivating a less stressful life will lead to a healthier one, both mentally and physically.”

Big thanks to Dr. Rallie McAllister and Ferny Barcelo for sharing their insights today! We’ll wrap up with this encouragement from Ferny: “Remember that you deserve as much love as those around you. The more you take care of yourself, the better you will be able to care for others.” 

image by trinette and chris photography

21 comments
  1. 1
    The Office Stylist | February 26, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    What great tips! Everyone can use a little relaxation! Thanks for sharing!

    The Office Stylist
    http://www.theofficestylist.com

    Reply
  2. 2
    Kristin | February 26, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    i really enjoyed reading through the slideshow. i love the concept of not trying to repress worry, but acknowledging it, doing what you can to address things under your control, and then mentally moving on.

    Reply
  3. 3
    Molly Bridget | February 26, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    Faves:

    -Worrying about things that you cannot control or change is completely fruitless.
    -Remember, be present and be grateful!

    Gratitude is the ingredient to a glass-half-full perspective on life.

    Reply
  4. 4
    Vanessa @ Living in Steil | February 26, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Great tips! I find myself worrying about things far in the future, things I can’t control, or things that may never even happen. I’m trying to work on being more engaged in the present and will keep these tips in mind.

    http://www.livinginsteil.com

    Reply
  5. 5
    Clever Girl Reviews | February 26, 2015 at 1:25 pm

    Very helpful! As an anxious person, in general, I often tend to forget these ideas, always nice to be reminded!

    Reply
  6. 6
    arin | February 26, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    what a great post! everyone can surely relate to this! we’re all in this together, right? x HeartofChic.com

    Reply
  7. 7
    aspoonfulofnature | February 27, 2015 at 3:00 am

    Great post!! I definitely worry too much <3

    https://aspoonfulofnature.wordpress.com/

    Reply
  8. 8
    heyrita | February 27, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Such great tips! Opting for a mindful state of mind instead of giving in to those crazy unrealistic thoughts really helped me overcome my anxiety disorder.

    Rita
    http://heyrita.co.uk

    Reply
  9. 9
    Sweet Tea Sweetie | February 28, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    This is so good to read and put into practice!
    Kari
    http://www.sweetteasweetie.com

    Reply
  10. 10
    Carla Lima | February 28, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Definitely amazing tips… I need to put more effort in some of those 🙂

    Carla.
    http://www.alanaandkyra.com/

    Reply
  11. 11
    rosemary grant | February 28, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    Keep it simple. I learned this from my father. There is nothing in this world to worry about. If you have control over the situation then there is no need to worry, take care of it. If you have no control over the situation, then it is not worth the time to worry either, it is someone else’s concern.

    Reply
  12. 12
    nuriel | March 1, 2015 at 12:15 am

    great tips ! worrying about something can really mess your day

    http://nurielfashion.blogspot.co.il/2015/02/hello-everyone-it-has-been-exhausting.html?showComment=1425189038663#c3122592455554950170

    Reply
  13. 13
    annieparis | March 1, 2015 at 4:10 am

    Hi ..a super post and great reading. I have tried it all . Just cannot help myself worrying , especially in the night. I have tried all ways. I also think the older one gets we find different worries???? Will have to try again .

    Reply
  14. 14
    Louisiane T | March 1, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Seriously thanks! I’ve been really stress since the Charlie Hebdo things and all my fears where more present, fears on things that i cannot control. It’s paralyzing me, i think all the time about it: “If someone with a gun enter, will i be easly kill or will i have the time to escape?”. I’m already a stressful person at first, but with that and the fact that i don’t have time anymore to do what i love (boyfriend, running, makeup…), I don’t fell like i can leie anymore with security, or even worse if i can live anymore simply.
    So thank you these are great tips, I really need to get things done 🙂

    Reply
  15. 15
    Michelle Peters | March 1, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks for some great tips, I will certainly sort through my worries and try not to worry about things I cannot change.

    Reply
  16. 16
    aglossythought | March 1, 2015 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you, I found this post really enlightening. I am a chronic worry and it gives me the worst anxiety. Never heard of constructive worrying before but this is so helpful x

    Reply
  17. 17
    The Queen of Dreaming | March 4, 2015 at 9:01 am

    Great tips!

    https://justsem.wordpress.com/

    Reply
  18. 18
    Alexa Jones | March 4, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Great post! Often more than not I’m not aware of the fact that I’m worried, but my body tells me; I bite my nails, have problems with sleep… I need to learn to recognize those signals so I can faster figure out what the problem is and deal with it.

    Reply
  19. 19
    Marianna | March 4, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Amazing post!

    Reply
  20. 20
    Beth | March 6, 2015 at 8:19 am

    these are all really great, practical tips that I definitely needed today. will keep implementing them to change my habits of worrying, thank you!

    Reply
  21. 21
    Jemma | March 23, 2015 at 6:12 am

    Great practical tips!!
    http://www.poptherapy.com.au

    Reply
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