I worry constantly about lots of little things

by Ali on April 10, 2008

Do you have lots of little worries on your mind? They might be keeping you from getting to sleep at night – or waking you up in the small hours. And feeling a nagging sense of anxiety all the time can sap your motivation to exercise or diet. It can even interfere with your digestion.

Of course, it’s normal to be occasionally worried or apprehensive about things (and you can probably think of friends or colleagues who could do with being a bit more worried and a bit less blasé on some occasions!) However, it’s very easy for this to tip over into crippling anxiety.

Why do you constantly worry? Is it something you consider a normal part of adult life, perhaps because you had a parent who was always anxious? This great article about How to Stop Worrying suggests that worrying is a habit which we can unlearn.

Make a list of things you’re worrying about:

Sometimes I know exactly what’s on my mind (“Will that new project at work go okay next week?”) but sometimes I find myself moody, stressed or lying awake in the middle of the night for no immediately obvious reason.

It often helps me to work through things on paper, and writing down worries is particularly helpful as I’m often anxious about forgetting things…. You’ll find that your worries divide into two categories:

  • Things you have (at least some) control over
    • “That presentation I’m doing next week for the big meeting”
    • “My overdraft and credit card bills”
  • Things which you can’t influence at all
    • “The exams which I did last month and am awaiting results for”
    • “It might rain at the weekend and we’ve planned a big picnic.”

Are your worries related to things you can’t control at all? If so, write them all on a big sheet of paper (draw some sad faces if you like – no-one said you can’t be childish), then rip it up! Any moment spent worrying about something outside your influence is a moment wasted.

Stop worrying: take some positive action

Sometimes, just getting on top of things can help you stop worrying. Whether it’s checking exactly what your bank balance is, when you’re worried you’ve been overspending, or getting the exact details about the journey to the conference you’re dreading next week, you’ll feel much better just for having things clear.

If you can, take a step towards improving the situation that’s making you worried. For instance, if you’re worried that you’ll end up eating junk again because you keep coming home late, plan ahead and have something quick but healthy ready to cook – ideally something you can just zap in the microwave.

Or if you’re worried about a friend or family member who’s been distant lately, why not have that chat you’ve been putting off? It might be difficult at the time, but once it’s over, you’ll have fewer things to think about.

Questions to ask yourself when you’re worrying

Whenever you catch yourself worrying, ask yourself:

  • Can I put off worrying until another time?
    (This is one of my favourite tips; the only time I can truly use procrastination positively! I first came across it in the article Stop Worrying: 7 Effective Strategies for Dealing With Anxiety on Pick The Brain.)
  • Will the things I’m worrying about matter in five years? In a year? … In a week?
    (If not, are they worth wasting your mental energy on?)
  • What action can I take right now to stop or reduce my worrying about this?
    (The action might only be to write it down, or to talk to someone you trust about it.)

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