We know that worrying can help you live longer, but when anxiety hits (OMG, why do you have three missed calls from your sister?), it can be hard to silence. (She just wanted to tell you she got promoted, sheesh.) These simple strategies can help you put things in perspective—and worry more productively, too.
SCHEDULE A TIME TO WORRY
Those missed calls from your sister? The worry can be crippling if, when you phone her back, she doesn’t pick up. But take a beat and look at the clock. Say, it’s 2 p.m. Tell yourself: If you don’t hear back from her by 5 p.m., you can resume worrying then. After all, the two of you talk all the time and she probably just had a random question—no need to sound the panic alarm just yet. By scheduling a time to worry, you’re giving yourself permission not to worry in the interim and go on with your day. (Sans elevated blood pressure.)
WRITE (OR TYPE) YOUR WORRIES OUT
Here’s the thing: A worrier’s brain is always ten steps ahead when it comes to all the things that could possibly go wrong. To calm your nerves, bust out a pen and paper (or the Notes app on your smartphone) and jot down any fears that might be weighing you down. Seeing them on paper will help you put them in perspective, but most importantly stop them from swirling around in your head.
TALK THROUGH THE EVIDENCE VS. THE HYPOTHETICAL
You’ve got a big work presentation coming up that you’re certain you’re going to botch. Call a friend, tap your spouse or talk the situation through out loud to yourself: What evidence do you have that the presentation will be a total bust? (Did you prepare? Did someone say something to you?) How much of your anxiety is you letting your brain run wild? (Uh-oh, what if the PowerPoint file is corrupt?) Considering your worries—ranging from rational to irrational—allows you to consider the solutions, too. (For example, a simple fix to the potential for a PowerPoint file error is to save a duplicate. Worries averted.)
PRACTICE A CATHARTIC BREATHING TECHNIQUE
Shallow breathing is one of the easiest ways to exacerbate worry and stress. Pick a deep-breathing technique (we’re huge fans of umbrella breathing) when you feel nerves and anxiety coming on and focus your attention on your breath. Deep and measured breaths have a meditative and calming effect, super helpful when worries are on the rise.
CHOOSE A WORTHY DISTRACTION
A book you can’t put down. A Netflix series you’ve been waiting to binge. Basically, you just need something that will take your mind off whatever’s giving you jitters. Even an hour break from letting your mind obsess over your fears can be enough to offset worry. Just be sure the distraction is something that will actually distract you. (It doesn’t help if the book you choose leaves you reading the same words on the same page over…and over again.)