Worry Control: How to Stop Those Anxious Thoughts

worried woman

Is worry control possible?  For some, the answer may be “Yes,” but for many others, controlling the tendency to worry is a constant challenge.  It seems that controlling the mind’s thoughts and activities is difficult, and staying focused on one topic can be a problem.  One thought inevitably leads to another, and with little effort your mind has transcended from the task at hand to some other past event or future plans.  Thinking about future plans can lead to worrying.

You worry because you are anticipating what <i>might</i> be lurking in the future—an outcome that makes you feel uneasy, upset, or angry.  People tend to worry about outcomes that they do not want to happen.  People don’t worry about happy outcomes or pleasant events.  Usually. the possible outcome that you spend so much time worrying about never happens anyway.  Yet you worry.

Worry control is important because anticipating negative future events can lead to anxiety.  Anxiety is a type of stress that can be motivating if you use the anxiety to boost your focus or motivate yourself to perform better.  However, when worrying leads to heightened anxiety that stops you from finishing a task or causes you to become less effective in your job or your life tasks, then worrying becomes problematic.

Stress is a positive source when it leads to problem solving, but stress becomes detrimental when it leads to problem generating.

So, how can you control your worrying?  The most effective skill is getting in the mental habit of focusing your thoughts on the present.  Too much of the time the mind starts to relive past events that you can not change, or anticipating future events that have yet to occur.  Rarely does your mind stay focused on the present in which you are living.

Focusing your thoughts on the present is an excellent strategy for worry control, but this skill takes practice.  Being mindful of your thoughts takes effort to notice how one thought can lead to another thought that takes you off your focus.  Often your thoughts become centered on a future event, and you become preoccupied by what may happen.  At that point you are no longer noticing what is happening around you.

Worry control is a skill that helps you stop thoughts as they begin to take you off your focus on the present.  To stop worrisome thoughts you need to create some attention grabbing tasks.  If you find yourself worrying and becoming anxious, consider what you might be able to do to distract these thoughts and divert your attention elsewhere.  For example, if you are worrying about an upcoming family event and you find your thoughts preoccupied on what might happen with certain family members and how the event might transpire, consider what you might do to take your focus away from dwelling on the family event.  Can you spend time planning some upcoming menus, helping your kids with their homework, or taking time to admire the outside weather.  If you find your mind wandering and focusing on the family event, change your attention grabbing task again to stop the thought process.

Becoming aware of what triggers your anxiety is another part of worry control.  You may find that learning how to keep a journal is helpful by recording what thought triggered you to begin worrying and what time of day you find yourself worrying the most.  Any patterns you can uncover help you understand how to control your worrying and lower your stress level.

Worry control and anxiety management takes discipline but allows you to regain a sense of the present and enjoy the world around you.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil. 4:6

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