The Worry Habit: Why You Worry, What It Means & How To Stop It

Worrying is the normal human response to uncertainty. You worry when youe don’t know what’s going on, how to respond, or what the outcome may be. This is a sensation that we are all familiar with, on some level.

Most people primarily worry about the future and what it may hold. And to top it off, we don´t just worry about ourselves; we also worry about our family, our job, our finances, our home, and the world, in general.

We can never be 100% of what the future will bring and worry is proof that part of us is aware of this uncertainty. Learning to avoid worry means learning to become more comfortable with uncertainty.

In many cases, we worry about losing what we already have: i.e. health, comfort, and support, for example.

Important decisions create a strong sense of worry because big decisions create new circumstances and plunge you into the unknown. (This is why so many people procrastinate!)

Quite often we think it´s better to deal with the uncertainty we have in our lives already, rather than create additional uncertainty…

There are even those who believe that worrying is productive.

The fact is…

Worrying all day is exhausting. And it´s this feeling of mental fatigue that has us convinced we’ve done a lot of work. It is a lot like spending your day digging a hole and then expecting your car to starting running better as a result.

Worry can be useful though. Here´s how…

Learn to see worry as a signal that some part of you is uncomfortable. While there may be a good reason for this discomfort, there may also not be. Treat worry as an alarm that something might be wrong.

When you view worry as a warning, it´s not necessary to dive deeper into that worry. Instead, you can focus your energies on finding a solution.

The Worry Habit: Why You Worry, What It Means & How To Stop It

Worry & Your Health

Worry doesn’t just sap your life of happiness. Worry can also contribute to a wide variety of health issues that can be eliminated or improved simply by minimizing what I like to call the “worry habit”.

Worry is a form of stress and your body releases stress hormones when you worry. These hormones can negatively impact your blood sugar, triglycerides, digestion, mood, blood vessels, heart, and immune system.

And while stress can give you a short-term boost when it comes to getting things done, it can wind up actually harming health over time.

This is how worry can damage your health and shorten your life:

Heart Disease

Stress has been found to increase heart rate, blood pressure, and cause an increase in cholesterol levels. Worry can also increase the likelihood of obesity, which contributes to heart disease.

Diabetes

Worrying has been shown to increase blood sugar levels in those with Type II diabetes. Again, worrying also contributes to overeating and poor nutritional choices. These behaviors contribute to the formation of the disease.

Headaches

Those that suffer from regular headaches, including migraines, will attest to the fact that worrying can cause headaches.

Stomach & Intestinal Problems

Stress doesn’t cause ulcers, but it can make them worse. Heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome have been linked to worrying. Some people even vomit when faced with a stressful enough situation.

Weight Gain

High stress causes higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which has been shown to increase the storage of belly fat. Worrying can also affect eating habits. Obesity is a major contributor to many other diseases.

Depression

Worrying too much can bring you down. Those that worry excessively are 80% more likely to develop depression. Depression can lead to other psychological issues and even suicide.

Premature Aging

Stress and worry can prematurely age your DNA! Studies have shown that the chromosomal damage experienced by those with high levels of stress mimic chromosomes of those up to 15 years older.

Worrying isn’t just unpleasant…it can literally kill you.

That said, remember…

stress is only the trigger.

It’s your response that trigger that can cause problems with your health.

Let´s look at some signs that you might be worrying too much…

So, how do you know if you are worrying too much?

There are some common signs that you are spending too much of your time and energy worrying. Learn to recognize them and you can begin to take control of your worry habit.

A little worry is normal. Excessive worry gets in the way of enjoying life and finding viable solutions to your challenges.

Problems Sleeping

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? Do you wake up feeling anxious or as if your mind is racing? If so, the cause may be excessive worrying. Everyone has an occasional night of poor sleep or worries before a big event, but regular disturbances in sleep are neither normal nor healthy.

  • Take note of how many hours you normally sleep. If the number suddenly drops and you’re not making up the time on the weekends, you may be worrying too much. Consistent sleep in necessary for optimal health.

Tense Muscles

You may have experienced pain in your neck, back, or jaw from excessive tension. If you regularly feel muscle tension in one or more parts of your body, you might be worrying more than you should.

  • Tension headaches are another common sign of excessive worry.

Chronic Digestion Problems

Indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, and stomachaches can all be signs that your worrying is out of control.

If you’re regularly having difficulties with your digestive system, be sure to see your physician.

Difficulty Concentrating

Poor concentration can affect every part of your life. Even with moderate stress and worry, it’s possible to maintain a good level of concentration on any task. If you’re unable to keep your mind on your current task, you might be worrying too much.

Chronic Worry

It’s natural to worry about a specific event, but if your days are filled with worry about anything and everything, your worrying is excessive.

  • How much of your day do you spend worrying? Ask your friends how much they worry.
  • Are you too worried about work to attend your daughter’s softball game? Are you so worried about your finances that you’re missing days of work?

If you’re experiencing any of these signs on a regular basis, your health and happiness are at risk.

The Worry Habit: Why You Worry, What It Means & How To Stop It

Why We Worry

Generally speaking, human beings are much more alike than they are different, which means that you probably worry about the same kinds of things as everyone else.

Here are some of the most common reasons for why we worry:

Money

It’s not just the financially challenged that worry about money. Even the wealthy are plagued with worry about their finances.

The only true solutions to money issues are spending less, earning more, or bankruptcy. One or more of these options is necessary to create change in your financial situation.

Work

In this case, the worry might be due to a fear of losing your job and the resulting financial challenges. Worry can also be related to dealing with difficult personalities, giving a presentation, or a looming deadline.

It’s inevitable that work will be a cause of stress from time to time. You spend a lot of time there. It’s a competitive environment. It’s also your primary source of income. How could it not cause worry?

Relationships

Our close relationships can be a source of stress or drama. This is especially true of romantic relationships. Common worries include:

  • Am I with the right person?
  • Does she love me?
  • Will he leave me?
  • Is he cheating on me?
  •  Will I ever find my soulmate?

Health

The survival instinct is among the strongest. If your health is failing, it only makes sense to be concerned. If you weren’t worried about your health, you would’ve fallen off a cliff or accidentally stepped in front of a bus years ago.

Purpose

Most of us end up working in an office environment, yet it would be difficult to find a child with that dream.

 It’s easy to find yourself stuck with what appears to be a bleak future. You have time to change course and create a meaningful life.

Children

We worry if they’re safe. We worry whether we’re being good parents. Kids can get sick, struggle with school, or struggle socially. Whenever you care about something or someone, you’re likely to worry.

The Future

All worries are grounded in the future. You couldn’t worry if you never thought about the future. If you’re worried, you’re worried about something not working out well in the future.

What do you worry about? Has worrying ever helped you find a solution to your problems?

We all worry from time to time, so try to find some comfort in the fact that others have the same concerns you do.

Whether we like it or not, worry is not just common, it´s part of being human.

Worry Doesn´t Help

Think about it for a few minutes…

Has worry ever helped you solve a problem? Chances are good the answer to that question is no.

The only way worry could ever be seen as positive is if it leads to action that solves the challenge that created the worry, in the first place.

Beyond that, worrying only makes you less effective in dealing with life’s challenges and problems.

Worrying has never:

  • Paid a bill
  • Turned a failing relationship around
  • Made a sick person well
  • Improved anyone’s body shape
  • Positively changed anyone’s mood
  • Made a job more fun or secure
  • Taken out the trash
  • Mowed the lawn
  • Painted the house, or
  • Stopped the rain from coming

More often than not, the thing you worry about never happens. And when it does, it’s rarely as bad as you thought it would be.

Worrying is little more than a means of torturing yourself.

Since, if worry isn’t an effective emotion, what can you do instead?

The Worry Habit

Negative vs Positive Coping Strategies

When worry kicks in, most of us have one or more coping strategies we use to deal with it. Some are helpful, some are neutral and some are harmful. When you are worried, the worst thing you can do is magnify your challenges.

And yet, that is what many people choose to do when they turn to negative coping strategies.

Negative Coping Strategies
  • Drinking
  • Drugs
  • Overeating
  • Casual sex

All of these behaviors tend to create additional problems and all of them have the potential to cause harm.

These behaviors are nothing more than a distraction that fails to solve the source of your worry, while, ultimately, making life even harder. Make a decision right now to remove these coping strategies from your list of habits.

 Though they don´t cause any additional harm, neutral coping strategies also fail to address the source of your worry.
Neutral Coping Strategies
  • Watching television
  • Surfing the internet
  • Reading a frivolous book
  • Listening to music

These coping strategies won’t make your challenges worse, but they won´t solve any of your problems either. Still, they may put you in a better frame of mind which could lead you to taking steps towards some kind of progress.

Positive Coping Strategies
  • Exercise
  • Connecting with friends or family who are positive and uplifting
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Sleep

While these strategies may not directly help eliminate the source of your worry, they are all options that contribute to both your physical and emotional health.

When you find yourself caught up in the worry habit, choose one of these strategies to counteract it.

We all worry. The only difference is how each of us chooses to respond to it. Some choose to let the worry habit control their lives. Others choose distraction over action. And then there are those who choose to confront the underlying cause.

The most effective solution to worry is addressing it directly. Anything else is an attempt to distract yourself.

What To Do When Worry Strikes

Regardless of your personality, how strong you are mentally or how lucky you are, something will eventually happen that will cause you to worry. It’s inevitable.

Still, while you can´t completely avoid worry, you can choose your reaction to it.

Develop a process for dealing with worry that addresses the cause.

By focusing on solutions, you can de-activate the trigger and get on with your life.

Dealing With Worry: An 8-Step Plan

Step 1: Notice When Worry Kicks In

This is always the first step. Notice that you’re worrying. This is trickier than you think. Mental patterns are very habitual. You’ve been thinking the same way about the world for a long time. Worrying can start to feel normal.

  • Ideally, you’ll only worry for a moment before you’re able to say, “I’m worrying.”

Step 2: Ask Yourself “Why?”

Do you know why you’re worrying? Just ask yourself, “What am I worried about?” Listen to the answer you receive. Some worries disappear by shining a light on them.

Step 3: Check Validity

It’s easy to worry about unreasonable things. You may be worried about your job security due to the announcement of future cutbacks. Do you really have a reason to worry?

  • Are the cutbacks likely to affect your department?
  • Do you have a good relationship with your boss?
  • Can anyone else do your job?
  • How was your last performance review?
  • Can you get additional information from a reliable source?
  • Ensure you have a legitimate reason to worry before you start worrying.

Step 4: Is It Within Your Control?

Why worry if there’s nothing you can do to fix it? Learn to let it go. Whatever is going to happen will happen whether you worry or not. You may as well enjoy yourself as much as possible right now.

  • If you can do something about it, why worry? There’s no reason to worry about a situation you can fix! Get busy fixing it.

Step 5: Seek A Solution

Assuming you can create a more acceptable outcome, what can you do?

If you’re worried about funding your upcoming vacation, you might consider:

  • Finding a part-time job
  • Tightening your budget
  • Cancelling cable
  • Carpooling to work
  • Asking for a raise
  • Finding a job with a higher salary

Create a detailed plan and follow it. Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your plan. Avoid operating with blinders.

Step 6: Stop Procrastinating

The solution to the source of your worry might not be enjoyable, but you can relax when you’re finished. The more you procrastinate, the more likely you are to worry. Your worrying will increase as the amount of time you have to rectify the situation shrinks. Take a deep breath and get started. Freedom from worry is the ultimate reward.

Step 7: Focus

You only worry when your mind starts to wander and you think negative thoughts. Keep your attention on your solution. Attempt to get the necessary work done with a smile on your face and an overall feeling of calmness.

  • Prayer and meditation can be effective tools to help gain and maintain focus. A few minutes spent on these activities can be well-spent.

Step 8: Let Go of the Worry Habit

If worrying doesn’t help and it doesn’t feel good, how does it ever become a habit? Because you’ve fooled yourself into believing that it’s beneficial.

You’ve worried about plenty of things. In most cases, everything turns out okay. It’s natural for your brain to link worrying with acceptable results.

Having the cognitive awareness that worrying is a waste of time isn’t enough to eliminate the worry habit. You have to consciously let it go.

Wouldn’t any of these actions be more effective than responding to worry by sitting on the couch with a bag of chips and watching Seinfeld reruns?

You can choose your response to worry. Ensure that your response makes sense.

Worrying is one of the most common things we do as human beings. We can’t help ourselves. We have trained ourselves to believe that worrying is productive.

But that´s just not true.

Worrying is a counterproductive habit that needlessly sacrifices our effectiveness, health, and sense of well-being.

When faced with worry, recognize that your brain is providing a warning. Intelligently and logically choose a course of action. You may or may not have a legitimate reason to worry.

Getting caught up in the worry habit and allowing worry to build only creates additional stress. Instead, use the plan I´ve shared with you here to work on de-activating your worry triggers, so you can give yourself the mental space you need to be at your best!

About the Author Jan Marie Mueller

Jan Marie Mueller is founder of the inspirational blog ThinkBrilliantly and The Brilliance Community, a free Facebook group dedicated to empowering women to let their inner brilliance shine! Her mission is to help women everywhere shift the way they think about themselves, their world and those around them so they have the confidence to do, be and have what they want most in life!

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