How to stop worrying: 11 steps to reduce stress and anxiety

October 15, 2021 - 25 min read
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What makes us worry?

Am I worrying too much?

Why do I worry so much?

Why is it so hard to stop worrying?

How worrying affects your body

How can you stop worrying? 11 strategies

Leave worry in the past

Are you ready to finally learn how to stop worrying? 

Everyone gets worried from time to time — in fact, 59% of adults reported a daily sense of worry in 2020. Whether you’re preparing for a big presentation or are going through personal changes, it’s normal to have the occasional sleepless night.

However, too much worry can make it difficult to enjoy life. If you want to take back your life from anxiety and learn how to stop worrying, you’re in the right place.

We’re here to share our best strategies for how to stop worrying. We’ll give you the tools you need to get your stress and worry under control.

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What makes us worry?

One of the keys to learning how to stop worrying is discovering the root of your fears. 

For better or for worse, worrying is part of how we’ve evolved as humans. Biologically, our central nervous system often responds to stress and fear by worrying. When this happens, the first step to stop worrying is to reflect on what exactly is causing your anxiety

Some feelings of worry can be healthy, pushing us to find solutions to real and present problems. However, chronic worry, even about things out of our control, can severely impact our mental health. The good news? There is a multitude of strategies to help us learn how to stop worrying, manage stress, and start thriving

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Am I worrying too much?

If you have the occasional anxious thought, there’s likely no need to be concerned about your emotional well-being or mental fitness. However, chronic worrying can be a symptom of something more serious, like an anxiety disorder. This type of worry can lead to physical symptoms like muscle tension, insomnia or poor sleep hygiene, stomach pain, back pain, and panic attacks. 

Are anxiety and chronic stress starting to interfere with your daily life, work, or relationships? If so, it’s time to get serious about learning how to stop chronic worrying.

Why do I worry so much?

Chronic worry can be triggered by anything. From working at a difficult job to becoming a new parent, there’s likely always going to be something in life for us to worry about. To find out why you may be an endless worrier, take some time to reflect and examine your self-awareness. Consider if any of these reasons could be causing your anxiety: 

  • A stressful work environment
  • Dealing with a toxic leadership
  • Life changes such as having a child, divorce, moving 
  • Financial challenges, job loss, or planning for a big purchase (like a home)
  • Relationship conflict with family, friends, or others
  • Physical health issues or concerns
  • Everyday inconveniences like traffic or housework
  • Too many social commitments, responsibilities, or obligations
  • Lack of time for self-care practices and hobbies

    The key to managing the anxiety that comes with each of these situations is to learn strategies for how to stop worrying and start living. 

 

Why is it so hard to stop worrying?

Once you start worrying, it’s easy to get caught up in a cycle of anxious and automatic thoughts. Over time, this can seriously impact your mental health. If you don’t learn strategies for how to stop worrying, it can feel like you’ll be stuck with chronic worry forever. 

Sometimes, worry feels productive. Taking time to relax and stop thinking about what’s stressing you out can feel lazy — and even cause more worry! Even though it may seem like the easier path is to stay stressed, you’ll be happier in the long run if you take the time to learn how to stop worrying.

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How worrying affects your body

One of the most insidious parts about worrying is the effect it has on our physical, mental, and emotional health. In fact, over a third of Americans visited a doctor over a stress-related illness in 2018, and many illnesses may be perpetuated by stress. If this sounds like you, it’s time to learn how to stop worrying. 

Along with causing physical symptoms, worry and stress can also make it harder to recover from illness. Here are a few ways worry may be impacting your overall well-being

1. Excessive worry can make you physically ill

Physical signs can be the first sign that constant worrying is becoming a problem. Headaches, stomach aches, and shortness of breath can indicate that you’re experiencing excessive worry. 

Want to learn how to stop worrying? One important step is to recognize the common symptoms of chronic worry or anxiety:

These symptoms can also serve as a sign to examine how you’re feeling. You may need to practice deep breathing and focus on relieving your worry. Ultimately, one of the first steps towards learning how to stop worrying is to identify these physical symptoms.

2. Worry can cause a stress response

Ongoing worry can quickly evolve into chronic stress. When you have a stress response, you may have a tough time identifying exactly what worrying thoughts got you there. 

Over time, repetitive negative thoughts can trigger other stress responses in your body. While it may seem like your mind is going a mile a minute, tracking your thoughts and the physical sensations in your body can help slow stress. 

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3. Worrying too much can affect your daily life

Worry begets worry, so it’s easy to start worrying about one or two bad things, only to end up worrying about even more areas of your life. 

When anxious thoughts become part of your everyday life, your stress can show up at work, with your family, in your finances, and even in your hobbies. In addition, feelings of stress are becoming more and more common in adults over the past few years. Learning how to stop worrying is more crucial than ever to maintain good mental health.

Over time, too much worry can impact your emotional resilience and make completing necessary tasks harder. Learning how to stop worrying can bring relief and happiness to your life. This can quickly reverse the effects of excessive stress and anxiety.

How can you stop worrying?

Chronic worry can quickly start to negatively impact your day-to-day life and overall mental health. Thankfully, with a little practice, you can make excessive worry a thing of the past. 

Here are our best strategies for how to stop worrying and finally start living:

  1. Mindfulness and meditation 
  2. Deep breathing 
  3. Practice self-compassion
  4. Do a body scan
  5. Share your fears with friends and family
  6. Practice gratitude
  7. Keep an emotions journal 
  8. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule
  9. Focus on what you can control
  10. Exercise more often
  11. Take positive action
  12. Enlist professional help

This list could go on forever, but let’s take a deeper dive into our favorite methods for how to stop worrying, manage stress, and take back your life.

1. Stop worrying by practicing mindfulness and meditation

While worrying, you may have a hard time focusing on anything else. However, constant rumination on negative thoughts is a bad habit.

When you feel your concentration waning, sitting in a quiet room and clearing your mind can do wonders for your well-being. Mindfulness and meditation can take your focus away from negative thoughts, stop you from feeling anxious, and inspire a state of calm.

A guided meditation app can help clear your mind, refocus your thoughts, or distract from your worries. Over time, meditation can also help you get into a flow state, which allows you to focus on your priorities and knock tasks off your to-do list with ease. Learning to focus on what’s in front of you, instead of your worries, can truly change your life.

2. Stop worrying by practicing deep breathing

When we worry, we often focus on bad things that might happen in the future. Staying in the current moment can help relieve worries and negative thinking — plus reduce physical symptoms.

You may experience shortness of breath or chest pain when you start to worry. Practicing deep breathing can redirect your attention from your worries and help you become grounded in the present. 

Whether you’re having trouble sleeping or you feel a panic attack coming on, deep breathing is a quick and easy way to stop worrying

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3. Stop worrying by doing a body scan

When you’re worrying, it’s natural to tighten your muscles. Over time, raised shoulders or a tight jaw can cause chronic muscle tension. The more you worry, the more tension you continuously carry in your body. If you feel constant tension, stiffness, or pain in your back and shoulders, it’s time to focus on how to stop worrying. 

In these moments, as you notice yourself feeling worried, take a deep breath and notice where you feel tension. Scanning your body can help you reconnect to the present, feel more grounded, and ultimately worry less.

Start at your toes and give dedicated attention to each part of your body up to your head. When you feel tension, focus on breathing into that discomfort and physically relaxing. Slowly release the tightness in your body, and before you know it, you’ll have discovered one great method for how to stop worrying instantly.

4. Stop worrying by sharing your fears with supportive friends and family

It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts as a chronic worrier, forgetting about family and friends without realizing it. Connecting with others is a powerful method to transform your emotional well-being, even when you feel like isolating.

Sharing the source of your stress, anxiety, or worry with a family member or friend can help you maintain perspective. Many times, our worries are irrational, but they don’t seem that way in our own minds.

Talking with supportive friends or family can offer a new view of the situation and be an effective way to stop worrying.

5. Stop worrying by focusing on what you’re grateful for

As we focus on one negative thought, it primes our brain to look for more. By contrast, looking for a silver lining can help train your brain to search for positives and interrupt the cycle of worry. This is one reason why a daily gratitude practice can be so helpful and even life-changing.

Having trouble finding something to be grateful for? Take a step back and look for what is interesting about the situation or funny. Engage your mind through curiosity and humor. This can quickly shift you into a better place and provide a needed break from the negative thoughts. You can even try to be curious about the way you worry. 

While it may take practice, learning to turn your negative thoughts around can be a great way to stop worrying.

6. Stop worrying by keeping a daily emotions journal

Chronic stress and anxiety happen when we don’t notice the first signs of worry and let it grow over time. Want to learn how to stop worrying? Checking in with yourself regularly is an important way to maintain your mental health and manage your anxiety.

By the time we’re in a worry cycle, we often feel disconnected from our emotions. Keeping a daily journal can help you track patterns and actively manage stress before your feelings spiral out of control.

As you practice journaling your emotions and sharing your thoughts, it becomes easier to identify when you’re starting to worry. Stopping worry early will ultimately help you feel better and stay focused on what matters most to you.

7. Stop worrying by maintaining a regular sleep schedule

Insomnia is a common side effect of chronic worry. When your mind is running wild, it can be tough to relax and get enough sleep. While you may feel like staying up will help you “solve” your worries, you’re often better off with a restorative night’s sleep.

Without sleep, minor worries can trigger a stress response that perpetuates for days or weeks in a row. 

Here’s how to stop worrying and finally get some sleep:

  • Do a quick meditation or mindfulness exercise before bed
  • Drink a cup of calming tea and read a book right before you go to sleep
  • Stop use of electronics at least an hour before bedtime (social media is shown to be linked to anxiety)
  • Use natural sleep aids such as lavender, melatonin, or essential oils
  • If you can’t get your mind to stop, take a moment to journal your thoughts (but give yourself a time limit so you still get to bed on time!)

If you try these strategies and still can’t get consistent, quality sleep, consider talking to your doctor. You could be suffering from insomnia, a common sleep disorder.

You deserve to stop worrying and take back control of your life, so never hesitate to ask for help when you need it. 

8. Distinguish between what you can control and what you can’t

Worrying is usually focused on a problem that needs to be controlled, putting our focus on “what if” rather than the present moment.

Many people falsely believe that spending more time worrying about a problem will make it easier to find a solution. 

If you’re preparing for an interview, you may be able to stop worrying and control the situation by researching the company or the interviewer. But, if you’re waiting for the results of an interview, worrying about the results won’t solve the problem because it’s out of your control.

If you’re struggling as a chronic worrier, ask yourself, “What can I control?” This can help you be more proactive when there is something you can do. Plus, this mindset can help release your worry when you discover there’s nothing you need to do about the situation. 

Want to learn how to stop worrying about things out of your control? When you notice there’s nothing you can or need to control right now, stop searching for a solution and let yourself relax.

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9. Stop worrying, with regular exercise

Want to learn how to stop worrying? Focusing on your body with something like yoga can help ground you in the present moment. Even if your mind is racing with negative thoughts, going for a walk or run may help shift your attention.

Your physical health is an important buffer against constant worry as it is harder to break the cycle when you don't feel well or have low energy.

Listening to music also is a great relaxation technique and a powerful way to stop worry in its tracks. Hitting the gym with your headphones in can get your blood pumping and help you stop worrying instantly.

Even simple stretches can help reduce worry. Relieving tension in your neck, back, legs, and arms can lead to a flood of endorphins.

10. Stop worrying by taking positive action

Doing something you love is a great way to keep your stress at bay and leave behind your worry habit. Not only does taking positive action distract you from your worries, but it also allows you to expel extra energy.

Focusing on any activity that makes you feel good can quickly shift your state of mind and help you stop worrying instantly. Here are a few powerful positive actions you can take right now:

  • Take a walk with your dog, children, or while listening to your favorite podcast
  • Paint or work on a creative project — the craft aisle at your favorite store probably has lots of kits with all the supplies you need
  • Watch your favorite movie and indulge in a delicious snack
  • Blast your most loved music while doing the dishes or cleaning your home

Ultimately, participating in a hobby or an activity you truly enjoy is a powerful method for helping you learn how to stop worrying.

11. Stop worrying by enlisting professional help

Ultimately, you deserve to live a life you love, and endless worry can prevent you from fully thriving. Chronic conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder or depression are tough to address on your own.

When anxiety, stress, and worry become too much to handle alone, the best method for how to stop worrying is to seek professional help

From therapy to coaching, to mentoring, there are limitless ways to get the help you need. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, specifically, can be a great, life-changing tool. Remember to speak to a few different therapists, coaches, or counselors to help you find the right fit. 

Above all, prioritize your mental health. In time, with the right professionals on your team, you can finally stop worrying and start living.

Leave worry in the past

Are you ready to stop constantly worrying about “what if”? 

At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can take the action needed to conquer your anxiety, worry less, and live the life you deserve. If you’re ready to learn how to stop worrying once and for all, try these strategies today. And remember — you’re not alone.

Need help with worrying? Get in touch with a BetterUp coach and learn how to be the best version of yourself.

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Published October 15, 2021

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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