Looking for ways to stop worrying so much? Then keep reading!
This has been a really tricky year, and if I could guess, people are more worried than ever.
All of your feelings are very valid, but it is important to focus on things you can control. That can be really challenging, so I want to share some simple ways to do that!
- Are you having health anxiety?
- Pregnant and worried about the future?
- Is your job really uncertain right now?
- Worried about sending your child to school this fall?
If so, you are not alone, and should not feel ashamed.
In this post, I’m going to talk about why it’s so hard to focus on things you can control, and what you should not be worrying about right now. I’ll also share some easy hacks to stop worrying before it takes over your life.
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Also, I am not a doctor or mental health professional. Just someone who has lived with anxiety for many years who is passionate about sharing her experiences and tips for success. If you are in crisis call your doctor, then click here for some good mental health resources.
Focusing on things you can control
I’ve definitely had my fair share of worries this year! I’m pregnant again after a loss earlier this year, and every day is a mixed bag of emotions. Joy, grief, guilt, shame, anger, excitement, nervousness… These feelings intertwine and can be very hard to process.
I also worry about the pandemic. I have two high risk parents and am now high risk myself. And I miss friends and family I haven’t seen in almost 6 months.
One thing I’ve talked a lot about with my therapist since the pandemic started, and my loss happened, is focusing on things you can control. It sounds like a very cliché piece of advice. Like the kind of thing you read in a fortune cookie. But keep reading and I will teach you my easiest strategies for making it a more realistic goal.
Why it’s so hard
As I said, it’s not an easy thing to take on. As with any mindset shift, it takes a lot of time and patience. So, why is it so hard?
When we live with depression or anxiety, our brain plays tricks on us. If our body was the Norse pantheon, our brain would definitely be Loki. Always looking for ways to throw us for a loop, for no other reason than it can.
In negative thinking, there are two principal parts of the brain at play. The PFC and DMN (prefrontal cortex and default mode network). Since it’s not the most exciting read, here is how it works in layman’s terms.
When we are stuck in reflection, our DMN lights up and kicks into action. One of the key parts of the DMN is the PFC. The job of the PFC is to guide our reflective thoughts and keep us emotionally healthy. But sometimes, the PFC goes rogue and keeps us stuck in negative ruminative thinking.
So, really, when people say it’s all in your head, they really aren’t totally incorrect. Even if they sound like jerks when they say it. Negative thinking is a process of our brain, and it’s important that we do what we can to get our mind back on track.
Keep reading to find out 7 things you can control right now, and 7 things you can’t.
7 things you can control right now
Before I start going into some things you can control, I want to give credit where credit is due! I found a really nice graphic on the old Google, and I want to give credit to those that created it and inspired this post.
The clipart in the image below is by Carrie Stephens Art, and the image itself is featured in a post on The Counseling Teacher. Check out the post, and lots of other great posts they wrote to help young people manage their emotions!
Your positive attitude
This one is a little controversial in the mental health community, so I want to offer some clarification. When I say that you can control your positive attitude, I am not saying:
- You can control that you have a mental illness
- You can control what life throws at you
- And that you can control ALL of the symptoms that come with your illness
But here’s what more and more research suggests:
- When something bad happens, you can control your reaction
- Barring an illness like Tourette’s possibly, you can control the words that come out of your mouth
- You can control who you surround yourself with
I know that it’s hard to take these steps. It can definitely be hard to control your attitude. But hey, something worth having is rarely easy.
How you follow CDC recommendations
When experts recommend ways to stay safe during a pandemic, one of the things you can control is how closely you follow them.This is a time where it is more necessary than ever to stick together. We need to think not just of ourselves, but of our fellow humans. We only have one life, and one ride on this rollercoaster, but that's not an excuse to let FOMO get… share on twitter
So, do what you can do to stay safe and help keep others safe. At the end of the day, that is all you can do. Here are some other ways you can stay stress free right now: 11 Easy Ways to Manage Your Fear of Leaving the House During a Pandemic
Your own social distancing
It’s really important, especially for those in high risk categories to practice social distancing when possible. I get it, it’s been a long year, and you miss your friends. But this time is only going to get longer if we don’t stick together and hang in there a little longer.
If you struggle with social distancing, here are some ways to stay social without putting yourself at risk:
- Join a Facebook group for people in your season of life (Millennials, moms, dads, business professionals, bloggers, knitters, book worms… There is something for everyone.)
- Make use of free tools like Facetime, Skype, Zoom, and Marco Polo. This way you can at least “see” the people you miss and keep the germs away.
- Go to an outdoors space and have a socially distanced lunch with a friend. Each of you bring your own picnic lunch and sit 6 feet apart.
Turning off the news
One of the other things you can control is turning off the dang news. It’s good to stay updated on things going on, but with all the misinformation out there, it can do more harm than good. When I look at the news headlines on Twitter or Facebook, I often walk away feeling more worked up than educated.
Check the news for 5 minutes each morning if you need to. But limit it to 5 minutes or less, and do not do it before bed. This can negatively affect your sleep, and it will likely exacerbate your anxiety.
Limiting your social media
This. Listen, I love social media. I have found some truly amazing community on Twitter and Facebook that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’ve truly made friends for life. Plus, I love seeing everyone’s adorable baby and puppy pictures!
But at the end of the day, social media platforms are perfectly designed to create low self esteem, body image issues, FOMO, and to spread fake news. They make it easy to keep in touch with loved ones, but they do not make it easy to stay emotionally healthy.
This is one of the things you can control that will really and truly benefit your mental health. Plug in your phone at least an hour before bedtime and do not look at it again until the next day.
Finding fun things to do at home
One of the easiest things you can control is ways to fill your spare time. Of course if you sit and mope, you’re going to find yourself thinking about things you’re worried about. That’s why it’s so important to stay busy if you can.
When I say busy, I don’t mean being up and mobile 16 hours a day, painting walls, building shelves, and power-washing your siding. I just means to find ways to keep your mind occupied.
A good Netflix binge is a perfect option for someone with a lot of chronic health issues that finds tons of physical activity challenging. Right now I’m making my way through “How to Get Away With Murder.” It’s a nice distraction! Just be mindful of getting too emotionally affected by the media you consume.
Here is the most important thing on my list of things you can control. And that is your kindness to others!
It can be really really hard to scroll by Aunt Eileen’s incendiary post about politics without stopping to comment. And yes, speaking up about issues that matter to us is so important.
But another thing that is important is pausing before commenting or sending a hateful DM. Pause, and take a moment to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Then, comment if you must, but do it from a place of love.
The world really needs empathy and kindness more than anything. You might not be able to control what other people do and say, but you can control how you treat others. If you can’t be kind, block/unfollow/unfriend, and move on.
7 things you CANNOT control right now
Now that we’ve gone over a bunch of things you can control, let’s talk about some things you cannot control, according to the graphic. Like I mentioned toward the beginning of the post, this has been a huge area of focus in my therapy sessions. It’s a really important skill for all people to master!
What you cannot control
- If others follow the rules of social distancing
- The actions of others
- Predicting what will happen
- Other people’s motives
- The amount of toilet paper at the store
- How long this will last
- How others react
My best hacks to help you stop worrying
Here are some simple tools to help you focus on things you can control and shut the other crap out. These are all methods I have used to stay distracted and worry-free in stressful times. Pick one or two to try, and don’t overwhelm yourself. If after a week or so one doesn’t work, try another one. Mental health is not one size fits all, and neither is recovery!
Try these out:
- Read a book. (I love immersing myself in a true crime book!)
- Do something creative. It doesn’t have to be expensive or super time consuming. Just grab some paper and $3 water colors from Amazon and go to town.
- Listen to a podcast while you do tedious house work. Right now, I’m listening to a podcast called Supernatural while I type this. (No relation to the CW show.)
- Do something active if you can manage. Even just a 15 minute slow walk around the block can help you clear your head.
- Plan your next trip. (Post Covid, of course!)
- Make a to-do list for tomorrow.
- Write some letters to relatives you haven’t seen in a while.
- Start a journal, and commit to writing in it every day.
- Make an appointment with a therapist.
- Challenge your negative thoughts as soon as they come up. Would you say them to a friend? Are they logical?
(Follow these Amazon links to find these or other products to help take your mind off things.)
Use these tips above to stop worrying, and start living life!
This is a famous literary quote that brings me a lot of peace in times of distress:
“I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.”The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers