How to Stop Worrying: Help for Chronic Worriers

The first prescription from my daughter’s pediatrician was for a gin and tonic. Not for my child. Not for me. For my mother.
When my mom arrived to visit her brand new granddaughter, I bragged about my daughter’s rosy glow. To my horror, my mother said she didn’t look pink at all. She looked yellow and blue. She urged me to call the doctor, who examined Cassie and assured me she was neither jaundiced nor oxygen deprived. Instead, he said, my mother needed to have a drink and relax.

Why moms worry
All moms know that relaxing is easier said than done. I can always find something to worry about. I can spend weeks obsessing over everyday hazards, and, when I run out of those, I can always turn to the world-at-large. The news media deliver them straight into my living room each evening at 6 and 10. Crime, war, famine, earthquakes, incurable diseases, and school shootings.

Our social structure contributes to the worries, too. With so many demands on our time, we strive to do everything our mothers did, and then some. Many of us have responsibilities outside the home, as well. We worry about not having enough time and energy to be the mother--and perhaps the professional--we want to be.

The people we rely on for support are just as busy as we are. Physicians seem more rushed than ever, and many of us hesitate to pick up the phone to ask a question just to ease our minds. If we turn to books to get the answers we need, we risk finding more things to worry about after skimming the child development charts and best-case-scenario advice.

Worry Zappers
Worry helps set us in motion. It helps us muster the motivation to fulfill our various duties, but when worry turns into obsession, it can interrupt our daily patterns and immobilize us.

Here a few tips to zap excessive worry:

Know your limits
Many of us are worried about not having enough time to make it all happen. Lesley Spencer is the founder and director of Home-Based Working Moms an association that helps women balance work and family. “Focus on a daily to-do list, accomplish what you can and decide what solutions are needed to relieve additional concerns you are not able to address,” she suggests. 

“It is important to review one’s goals for their family and their business. Decide if there’s adequate time and resources to accomplish those goals." Spencer says. "If not, one needs to re-evaluate those goals and decide appropriate solutions such as hiring outside help to care for the children, hiring help for the house or business, cutting back work hours, or giving up one’s business.”

On the same token, recognize that it is not worth your time and energy to obsess over trifles, nor about issues, events, and people in your life over which you have no control.

Take it one day at a time
It’s important to plan well, and to prepare for the future. A daily checklist can help you break up larger tasks into more realistic nuggets. After you make your daily to-do list, concern yourself only with the issues at hand.

Trust yourself
Each time you find yourself dwelling on some future event, remind yourself that you are capable of handling this problem when it arises. Develop a sense of trust in yourself to handle anything that comes your way.

The best way to develop this trust is to charge your “confidence battery.” Reflect on all of your successes...the times you succeeded in something on the fly.  Spend less time worrying about what could happen with thoughts of what did happen...and how well you handled it.

Prepare for the Worst
Prepare yourself to accept the worst. Dale Carnegie offers some classic advice in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. First, identify the worst-case scenario.  Accept it. Then, set out to improve upon the worst-case result. Meanwhile, ask yourself, “Just how likely is this worst-case scenario?”

Hope for the Best
A positive attitude works wonders and prevents us from falling into the dark pit of worry and obsession. Oprah Winfrey and Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance, frequently tout the benefits of keeping a Gratitude Journal to record the daily blessings life bestows on you. This Gratitude Journal is a remarkable tool for helping you see the cup as half full.

Write them down 
Record your worries in written form. Journaling can help you channel nervous energy and pinpoint the real subject of your anxiety. Then you can work to solve those problems rationally and objectively.

Get help
A support system is vital, too, just make sure it does not contribute to your worries. Sometimes, we tend to feed off the anxieties of others. We hear about the neighbors concerns, and we wonder why we haven’t been worried about that all along...

Keep busy
George Bernard Shaw said, “the secret of being miserable is to have the leisure to bother abut whether you are happy or not.” If you’re obsessing over something you know is silly, distract yourself. Start a new project. Take the kids out for ice cream. Call your mother just to say hi.

Remember your religious faith
Your religious faith can go a long way in breaking the worry habit. If you see the things that happen in your life as God’s will, and you use your energy to understand that will--and not to change it--you will naturally let go of worry. After all, the events in the future are in god’s hand--not yours.