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Inside: How to Stop Worrying with One Simple and Amazing Habit (Hint: A Worry Journal Sidekick)
When I started writing ‘train your brain to stop worrying’, I had no idea just how many people (old, young, rich, and poor) are suffering from chronic worrying.
Just like me.
I’ve often felt more alone than a lone star on a starless night, so I was stunned and a little alarmed to learn that 18% of all American’s are also suffering from this destructive habit.
It seems there is a quiet crisis on hand and that’s why I’m going to tell you one simple habit that will train your brain to stop worry dead in its tracks.
The Worry Cycle
I’m what you would call a worrywart, it’s something I do like a part-time job.
Doomsday thoughts swirl around in my head.
What if I get sick? What if my son gets sick?
And these destructive thoughts snowball from there:
What if I get sick and no one is around to take care of my son? He will be motherless and alone.
Worries can also be more situational in nature.
What if I fail my test? How will I pay the month-end bills? What if it rains during my golf tournament?
I know I’m left dizzy with the extent and depth of my worry. It’s always with me, following me around, casting a dark cloud of doom over my day.
And you know what; my day would otherwise be pretty friggin awesome.
Why am I letting future events (unpredictable what if’s) that haven’t happened spoil my day?
This worrying is a lot of effort and energy and it’s ruining my life.
Folks — listen up — life isn’t a dress rehearsal and we want/need to enjoy our limited time here, so it’s crucial we find a way to stop worrying.
I know I’m exhausted and ready to change this cycle.
I can feel the freedom already. Insert deep breath here.
Let’s get to it, how to stop worrying with one simple habit.
How to Stop Worrying with One Simple Habit
Write your worries down
I know this might sound counter-intuitive — to focus more on something that you’re trying to stop, but this is singlehandedly the biggest technique that has helped me squash my worries.
Sure I’ve practiced meditation and physical exercise and these are very useful techniques — but this one — the worry journal, has had ginormous results.
After my son was born, I went through a period of EXCESSIVE worry (paired with debilitating insomnia).
Hormones out of control — check.
Overwhelming newfound responsibility — check.
Deep-seated anxiety issues — oh check, check, check!
I spent hours googling symptoms of various illnesses (for myself and my son).
I almost bought an online medical subscription! Yikes.
Needless to say:
I needed some help (perhaps I should have opted for the drugs), but instead, I went to a psychologist, and lone behold, she suggested the worry journal technique, and it actually worked!
Creating a worry journal is a type of cognitive behavior therapy, and it’s known to significantly ease symptoms of anxiety.
What is it?
Cognitive therapy is identifying faulty or maladaptive patterns of thinking, emotional responses, or behavior and substituting these thoughts with desirable patterns of thinking, emotional responses, and behavior.
It’s effective and here’s why:
When you write down your worries you can relax knowing they won’t be forgotten. They are now on paper.
Writing down all you’re concerns/problems/worries tells your brain that these worries are important and you won’t forget them. You will work to solve the problem.
And guess what?
Your worries are important. Even if you are worried about an asteroid plunging into the Earth, the stress and physical response are real to you.
Irrational worries are worries all the same and they still rob you of your peace.
Tell yourself that you are taking each and every worry seriously.
When I’m caught in the rocking chair of worry, by writing it down, I can take a step back, climb out of the chair and see the worry for what it really is – just a thought, not reality.
Take a break!
If you’re going to use the free worry workbook provided I suggest you keep your pages in a binder (nice and organized) because I’m a huge nerd and just hate loose pages everywhere.
Check out our recommendations on how to print your pretty printables here.
It will also come in handy to keep all the free self-care goodies you receive here organized in one place.
Before we jump into how to use your worry workbook, here are a few of the items you might want to put your binder together. (And if you’re the unorganized type, that’s okay too, no binder needed). 🙂
HOME BINDER SUPPLIES
- A 3-Ring Binder (I like this one.)
- Dividers (I like these ones with pockets and these ones without.)
- Clear Sleeves (Like these, optional.)
- Hole Punch (I use this heavy-duty one.)
- I like to use this label maker + clear tape to label my divider tabs.
Ready for the steps?
STEPS TO USING A WORRY JOURNAL
Use the workbook provided, your own journal, or get one here and follow the steps as outlined below:
Alternative Worry Journal Suggestions:
- Mindfulmazing’s full 3-month guided Worry Journal (140+ pages)
- Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal – A Creative Way to Let Go of Anxiety
- No Worries – Write, Act, Turn the Page
1. Write down your biggest worry
Write down a situation(s) you are worried about. Be specific.
It can be anything.
Examine your thought patterns and pinpoint where your mind stays stuck.
You may find your mind flits from worry to worry, emotion to emotion (work, love, money, kids, etc.) but you must narrow it down; get to the root of the worry.
A few tips to narrow down your thoughts:
- Pay attention to where your thoughts stay stuck.
- Can you pinpoint what events triggered certain negative thoughts?
- What thoughts come up over and over?
- What news stories, movies, books or news reports make you upset
If it’s helpful, carry a mini journal around to write down specific worries that pop into your head. This will give you a grasp of the exact worries you are having.
But chances are if you’re anything like me, one or two big worries keep popping up like an old ex-lover.
Chances are you are well acquainted with your most troublesome worries.
What’s churning in your mind?
Write it all down; purge your brain of these thoughts.
Instead of carting around these worries all day or week, choose to put them in your workbook, and free your mind for more positive activities.
It feels good to set down the 100-pound cart you’ve been carrying around for months, maybe years, maybe decades?
When you write your worries down, you can schedule a time to revisit them later for the solution planning step (we will get to below).
This means that right now you don’t have to worry about these things. You can come back to them at your scheduled appointment with your worry workbook.
So now guess what?
You have given yourself permission to stop worrying. You can relax and focus your attention on other things.
And this feels pretty fantastic!
Recommended read: Dale Carnegie’s – How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Learn how to break the worry habit — Now and forever! More than six million people have learned how to eliminate debilitating fear and worry from their lives and to embrace a worry-free future with this book!
2. Envision possible outcomes
“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened”.Michel De Montaigne
Rate the worries on your list in terms of the level of distress and interference with your everyday life.
What is your anxiety level on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest)?
Pluck out the worst, most pressing worry plaguing you right now and invite this worry for a little night-cap.
This is weird!
Yes, we are going to schedule a worry date night.
This is a scheduled time for you to pull out your worry journal and dedicate a little time to improving the situation.
On your weekly worry date night (not the most exciting of dates, but we’ve all had a few bad dates now and then, haven’t we?) head to the next section in the workbook (or in your own journal) and we will work out and envision possible outcomes.
3. Objectively observe real-life outcomes of your biggest worry.
How might this worry manifest?
- If my main worry is getting sick, maybe a possible outcome is that I will get cancer.
- If my main worry is paying the bills by month-end, perhaps an outcome is that my heat will be shut off. Let’s brainstorm everything from the impending Tsunami, the potential car crash, or maybe even the next zombie apocalypse.
Worries can unfold in endless ways. Nothing might happen, I might never get cancer, but I might. Or something better or worse might happen.
Be creative and think about the best and worst possible outcomes of what’s plaguing your mind.
Here’s the deal:
If we worry about possible outcomes all the time, we end up associating everything in our environment with anxiety. Not to mention our heads start swirling with about ten thousand different possible outcomes.
Anything can happen, most of which we can’t predict or control.
This is a useless worry; it’s serving us no good.
“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it”.Mark Twain
Recommended: This guided meditation – Feeling safe pairs nicely with a worry journal. I can’t recommend it enough, the music alone is enough to calm your body and send you into deep relaxation.
4. Find practical solutions to your worries.
The next step is to find practical solutions for your worry.
Show your brain that there is a plan in place.
If your worst-case worries come to fruition you will jump into action with a well thought out plan because you’ve already put one in place.
You can be like a worry planning ninja, ready to pop up and SMASH those worries out of the park!
Once again, back to my worry of getting sick. Here is my plan:
- I will phone the doctor
- Order some health books
- Adjust my diet and sleep.
- Prepare my wills and legal arrangements
- Vow to spend the most quality time with my son
If my worry is paying the bills, I might look for a part-time job, phone a relative, create a budget, and/or cut costs.
There are always logical steps we can take in any situation.
I realize, we can’t always predict what crisis might strike us, and you just might have a crisis that you’ve never written and planned for. I know right – the stress of the unknown!
But geesh, we can’t worry about that — give yourself a break!
It’s also helpful to examine irrational thoughts and determine if there is really a threat.
Do you really need to worry about an asteroid destroying the Earth right now?
Talk and write your way through your feelings – substitute the negative thoughts with more positive ones.
And here’s the best part:
Simply writing down your worries will also help you sleep.
I know, amazing right!
Insomnia and worry have a complicated relationship. When you go to bed worried, it’s hard to fall asleep or you wake up and start worrying again.
…and this is the worst, you start worrying about not sleeping….
The next night anxieties are high that you will repeat the night before.
Worries often manifest into chronic sleep problems.
Sleep technologist Laura Butler states: “People with insomnia lie in bed and think, think, think. If they put a notepad by the bed, they can write down all the stuff they’re thinking about – the grocery list, pay that bill – so they can release it.”
There are many other journaling techniques to help with worry, some include: Picking a positive word to focus on for the day — such as beautiful, forgiveness, or love.
You can write down all the ways you have experienced this word lately.
Or writing down a habit or activity that improves our mood or stress levels. Write down how you feel, and how you can do this more often.
Mindfulmazing’s premium Worry Journal (get it below) comes with these exercises and more.
Don’t leave without getting your copy of Mindfulmazing’s Worry Journal. a 3-month guided journal that’s guaranteed to help you overcome your worries for good.
Filled with writing prompts, quotes, actionable steps, positive affirmations, creative spaces and so much more.
This step-by-step workbook will help you feel calmer, less stressed, and more in control of your thoughts and life.
Meditation and mindfulness techniques will also help relieve worries. In a BIG way.
And I definitely have you covered there. Check out, well pretty much anything on this blog and it will lead you to mindfulness. But a few articles in particular I recommend are 10 Easy Steps to Mindfulness or How to Practice Lying Down Meditation.
There you have it, how to stop worrying for good with one powerful habit.
I wish you well on this journey, from a fellow worrywart, I know how difficult it can be to quiet the mind. But it’s possible!
If you enjoyed this article, please share it. You might help someone else combat this destructive habit. And don’t forget to PIN it!
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