9 Scientifically-Backed Ways To Stop Worrying
The Huffington Post | By Amanda L. Chan Posted: 10/01/2013 8:47 am EDT | Updated: 10/01/2013 8:53 am EDT
Corrie ten Boom once said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”
Indeed, numerous studies have shown that worry not only puts a strain on our mental health, but on our physical health, too. While worry in and of itself is not bad — it spurs us into action, after all — too much of it can lead to anxiety, which can have a lasting impact on health and happiness. For instance, research has shown that anxiety can take a toll on sleep, tax your immune system, raise your risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, and even affect your risk of dying from disease.
The problem with worrying is that it becomes a cycle of self-perpetuating negative thoughts. In a new review, University of Surrey researchers described worry as “a chain of thoughts and images that are affectively negative and relatively uncontrollable.”
So what’s the best way to stop the cycle? We rounded up some research-backed ways:
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. Penn State researchers found in a 2011 study that a four-step stimulus control program could help seriously stressed people take control of their anxieties, LiveScience reported. Step one: Identify the object of worry. Step two: Come up with a time and place to think about said worry. Step three: If you catch yourself worrying at a time other than your designated worry time, you must make a point to think of something else. Step four: Use your “worry time” productively by thinking of solutions to the worries.
Kick your online addiction.
All that time you spend perusing your Facebook newsfeed probably isn’t doing your mental health any favors. A recent study from Anxiety UK showed that nearly half of people feel “worried or uncomfortable” being away from email or Facebook. “These findings suggest that some may need to re-establish control over the technology they use, rather than being controlled by it,” Anxiety UK CEO Nicky Lidbetter said in a statement. Need some ideas for things to do away from your computer or cell phone? We’ve got you covered.
The most effective strategies to stop worrying and rumination may be ones based in mindfulness, which involves nonjudgmental awareness of present thoughts and emotions, as well as cognitive behavioral therapy strategies, according to the University of Surrey review of 19 studies. Particularly, the review noted that “treatments in which participants are encouraged to change their thinking style, or to disengage from emotional response to rumination or worry,” as well as “treatments which enable participants to adopt more concrete and specific thinking or which cognitively restructure thinking in a more positive and constructive way” seem especially effective.
Accept the worry — and then move on.
Worrying about worrying is a dangerous cycle to fall into. A 2005 study in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy showed that people who naturally try to suppress their unwanted thoughts end up being more distressed by said thoughts. Meanwhile, “those who are naturally more accepting of their intrusive thoughts are less obsessional, have lower levels of depression, and are less anxious,” the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers wrote. Therefore, people who get caught up in worry when they try to force themselves to stop worrying may want to try a different strategy — acceptance.
Write your worries down.
Letting all your emotions out on paper before a big exam could help decrease test-taking worry, according to a 2011 study in Science. “It might be counterintuitive, but it’s almost as if you empty the fears out of your mind,” study researcher Sian Beilock, an associate professor in psychology at the University of Chicago, told U.S. News. “You reassess that situation so that you’re not as likely to worry about those situations because you’ve slain that beast.” While exams are no longer a threat to many of us, Beilock noted that the approach could work for people facing anxieties for other things.
Cut yourself some slack.
Dr. Susan M. Love, a professor at the David Geffen School of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The New York Times that the perceived need to follow all the rules when it comes to health can be a source of stress and worry in itself. Love, who wrote the book “Live a Little! Breaking the Rules Won’t Break Your Health” told The Times that at the end of the day, it’s impossible to have perfect health, and you’re probably a lot healthier than you realize. “Is the goal to live forever?” she said to The Times. “I would contend it’s not. It’s really to live as long as you can with the best quality of life you can. The problem was all of these women I kept meeting who were scared to death if they didn’t eat a cup of blueberries a day they would drop dead.”
Keep your hands busy.
Engaging in activities that keep your hands busy and mind distracted could help prevent flashbacks from traumatic experiences, according to research from the Medical Research Council in England. While the study didn’t examine how this strategy impacts everyday worry, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Bob Hirshon pointed out that “keeping your hands and mind busy interferes with storing and encoding visual images.”
Make time for meditation.
Taking some time to find some zen can really help anxiety in your brain — even brain scans say so. A study published earlier this year in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience showed that meditation training not only lower anxiety levels in people, but it also had effects on the anterior cingulate cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex brain regions (the former region controls emotions and thinking, the latter controls worrying).
Get your heart pumping.
Exercise may be a predictable way to beat stress, but it’s only predictable because it’s so effective. Research in animals, for instance, shows that exercise can affect brain activity of serotonin (a so-called “happy” brain chemical) as well as reduce the effects of oxidative stress, The New York Times reported. And Well and Good points out studies showing that exercise interventions can result in lower anxiety levels than people who stay tied to the couch. “Several studies have found the effects of aerobic exercise to be initially similar to those of medication,” Jeff Dolgan, an exercise physiologist at Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach, told Well and Good. “However, in the long term, exercise seems to work better.
Excellent Article I really wish this information had been around when I was younger.
I went white at a very early age as I was a compulsive worrier to the point, it caused me worry when I realized I wasn’t worrying. It wasted so much of my energy and stopped me from enjoying life to it’s fullest.
Every single one of the above suggestions are part of the solutions but there are a few more things that made the difference for me.
Nutrition plays a huge role in mental as well as physical health.
Vitamin Mineral supplementt, I found that when I was consistent in taking a really good Vitamin Mineral Supplement I was significantly less prone to worry. After trying many multivitamins and minerals, we finally found one in liquid form that tastes good, that is all natural, comes from whole foods, gives us more energy and more good nutrition than anything else we have ever found. We have been extremely satisfied with Daily Complete. The taste and the nutrition are phenomenal, It has 194 vitamins, minerals, organic fruits, organic vegetables, antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, Mediterranean herbs, pure phytoplankton. If you want to check it out here is the link. http://deb.awarenesslife.com/index.cfm?action=details&detail=complete
Magnesium , We as a society are now magnesium deficient, it is a natural relaxant that works to relax the body and the mind. It is used by the body in every cell. Minerals are very synergistic so when we are deficient in a mineral that is as significant to the functioning of the body and mind as Magnesium we feel much more on edge and are far less able to manage stress. Below is the link to a post that provides more information but is just the tip of the iceberg. Magnesium applied transdermally has a better absorption rate than by mouth. so consider magnesium salts in a bath or a foot bath or in a body spray form.
Vitamin D3 is so much more than a vitamin and plays a huge role in overall health and wellness. It is called the sunshine vitamin as our body is able to make it when our skin is exposed to sunshine. Interestingly it is also effective in improving our outlook on life as going out in the sunshine. There are varied opinions as to how much we need. As we are in Canada, in the winter we personally take 5000 – 10,000 IUs every day and find that we feel happier but also don’t pick up the colds and flu that are floating around.
Omega Fatty Acids
Excerpts from Fighting Depression and Improving Cognition with Omega-3 Fatty Acids – By Laurie Barclay, MD
“The human brain is 60% fat, and omega-3 fatty acids are the fatty acid of choice for the structure of certain parts of brain cell membranes and brain intercellular nerve connections,” Douglas London, MD
“The [evidence] is becoming quite compelling that increasing omega-3 fatty intake enhances many aspects of brain function, including the control of mood and aspects of personality,” Brian M. Ross, MD
***Getting sufficient Omega 3 is also a crucial part of the nutrition component. We use various things like coconut oil, hemp hearts and Cold Pressed Hemp Seed Oil as part of our diet. Hemp hearts and cold pressed hemp oil have virtually the highest concentrated balance of proteins, fats, vitamins and enzymes. They are, in essence, a super food and the health benefits of hemp hearts are amazing!
We live very busy lives. Exercising is not something we do as a specific but we do get a fair amount of physical movement due to lifestyle. Exercise is needed but often is not a priority for many people even though it is one of the most important components of true mental and physical health. When you feel good, the worry monster has a much harder time disrupting our lives. .
We hedge our bets with our Oxygen Spa. A 15 minute Oxygen Hydrotherapy Session gives us the same benefits as a 1-3 km jog plus a 1 hour massage. It is a huge stress reliever just like good exercise. The benefits of getting more oxygen into the body and a good cardiovascular workout always reduce anxiety and worry. The Oxygen Spa is one of the the cornerstones that has had the largest positive effect on us in quality of life. We have replaced showering with spaing so it does not have a time impact of something more to be fit into already busy lives. If you want to learn more check out this link.
In Asia, the Oxygen Spa is found in Emergency Rooms, Rehab Facilities, Salons, Spas and homes. It is enjoyable, reduces stress, oxygenate the body, detoxifies, massages, gets the heart pumping and the blood moving. While taking a bath in millions of bubbles that massage all of the acupuncture points, one also receives the benefits of hydrotherapy, massage therapy, oxygen therapy, Far-Infrared therapy, ultrasound, Detox and Hydration.
You can contact me Deb via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 780-363-2492 for more info. I have tons. I would love to see these as common in homes as microwaves.
As worry and stress have played a large role in my life, I am grateful to be able to offer some solutions that may benefit others. There is life beyond worry but it does require doing something different. But doing something different also leads to a different outcome that is more than worth the effort for receiving the freedom from worry that is truly liberating and life enhancing.