Worrying is part of the brain’s response to fear. It is a functional mechanism when it’s specific, short-term, and protects us from danger. However, if you’ve been having a hard time operating normally, your worrying is likely on overdrive. There are ways to temper worry so it helps you make good decisions and doesn’t wear you out.
We can intentionally work with our fear response until it adapts to the point where we are able to prepare for and protect ourselves from potential risks without invoking the worry mechanism too much. Here are three tips for doing that.
Narrow your worries to specific things and tackle them one at a time. See if there is something you could be doing to prepare yourself to a reasonable degree. If you’ve done that but you are still worrying, then it’s time to take another worry-deflation step.
Practice mindfulness. This means doing something that keeps you in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or the future. There are plenty of ways to be in the present. One of my favorite ways is getting into a flow state.
Get into a Flow. Flow is a more active form of mindfulness that involves doing something that is enjoyable, moderately challenging, and moving you forward to higher levels. Examples of flow activities include playing video games; learning a new language; doing an art project; dancing, and exercise challenges. The goal is to become so immersed in your activity that your worries fade and your alarm system gets a needed rest.
Worrying will be a part of our lives. The best thing we can do is cultivate a productive relationship with it. It may help to think of worry like a slightly annoying friend who needs to be reassured every so often. Don’t ignore it, but don’t give its complaints too much attention, either.