I'm a firm believer that no emotion is inherently "bad"--everything you feel is supposed to guide you, teach you something or protect you. But worry is an emotion that, if not handled in the right way, can keep you from reaching the enormous potential you have inside yourself. So here's what you do when worry tries to kick you in the pants.

1. Remind yourself the worry is temporary.

Worry can be overwhelming in part because we get the irrational sense that we're going to feel it forever. We panic, suddenly believing we're trapped. If you simply acknowledge the worry as a natural, temporary response to a temporary event or situation, it's much easier to keep perspective and think more clearly.

2. Do some homework.

Worry is a feeling. It's typically not supported by facts and logic. For example, you might worry about your deadline, despite the fact that, from experience, you know the chances of you actually being late are slim. Try to look at just the top two or three reasons you're worrying and dig for evidence that what you're feeling actually is justified.

If you find some justifications, the next step is to come up with a realistic game plan to address the legitimate points of concern. For example, if you're worried about being late to a big interview because traffic is always awful, your game plan could include finding an alternate route in advance or leaving 10 minutes earlier. This type of risk management can feel incredibly empowering.

3. Focus on the here and now.

Worry always focuses on the future, on what hasn't even happened yet. But even if you do your homework, no one can tell what's going to take place with 100 percent accuracy. So go ahead and complete your risk management, but once that's done, just focus on the present. Try to look for and enjoy the positive things happening around you in the moment. Mindfulness practices, including meditation, can be wonderfully helpful for this purpose.

4. Take care of yourself.

When people are worried, they often spend all their time problem solving--they just can't let the issue go until they get the feeling of control that comes with a plan. But a good diet, adequate sleep and time for relieving stress all influence you on a biological level. The better your self-care is, the easier it is for you to maintain a better mood and think critically despite worrying events and circumstances.

5. Talk it out.

Worry is always a bit of a monster, but it turns into an outright demon if you feel like you're all alone without help. Vent to someone you trust to get perspective and support. Verbalizing what's going on inside of you can help you pinpoint the source of the worry and commit to a specific solution.

6. Schedule a worry session.

The idea here is to set aside a specific amount of time--say, 20 minutes--in your day where you'll focus just on what's worrying you. This might seem counterintuitive, like you're just making sure you've got time to ruminate on the negative. But creating a confined "appointment" for your worry can stop you from ruminating on it even more throughout the day. You can tell yourself you've got an opportunity to consider everything later, which can help you focus. And in the same way, when you do get into your worry session, you do so with time to problem solve without distraction from other tasks.  

Worry is normal. It is going to be part of your life. But as is true with any emotion, you are the director. Instead of trying to stuff the feeling down, be proactive and face it head on in healthy ways, starting with these.

Published on: May 15, 2018
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