Breaking the worry habit



A leading provider of Canadian business support solutions, employee and business assistance plans. AreteMD améliore le bien-être des Canadiens par l’entremise de programmes d’aide aux entreprises et aux employés.

It’s 3 a.m. and you’ve been awake half the night worrying about bills, relationships, children, jobs and “what if” worst-case scenarios. The more we worry, the more our minds travel to uncharted territory, where big worries reign supreme and it seems as if there’s no way out.

Some worries spur us to take action and prevent problems; others build until we feel paralyzed and trapped, with no solution in sight. Excessive worrying is a habit that can be tamed—with practice.

Here are a few ways to retrain your brain and lessen the worry factor:

Don’t tell yourself to stop worrying

Stop worrying! It sounds logical, but rarely works. It’s almost impossible to not mull over something we’ve decided not to dwell on. (Try not to think about the double negative in the last sentence, for example.) The more we attempt to suppress worries or ignore them, the more often they come back to visit and the bigger they grow.

Make a date with your worries

When a worry bogs you down, interrupt it by scheduling a time to review it later on. Tell all your worries you can devote some time to them at a 3:45 pm or whenever convenient. Jot down a list as worries occur during the day. Remind yourself you’ve set aside time to tackle them later and use your energy to get on with the rest of your day. This approach helps train us to postpone jumping every time a worry rears its ugly head. Keep your appointment, but come prepared for the meeting with your list.

Classify your list

Worries come in two different categories: things you can control and things you can’t.

Review your list and identify which worries may be illusory, caused by catastrophic thinking or are just plain unlikely to ever happen. Most “what if” scenarios tend to be unreal, for example. Figure out which ones could be lessened by some action on your part: ask for an extension on a deadline; apologize for a wrongdoing on your part; make a workable debt reduction budget—you get the idea.

Recognize when you’re powerless

Negative news, rumours, and fearmongering can be overwhelming and leave us with a sense of dread. The trick here is to accept that there is uncertainty in the world and we, as humans, are unable to control everything, as much as we try. We can’t predict exactly what’s going to occur tomorrow, no matter how much effort we extend.

Accept you might feel frightened about uncertainty and—this one can be hard—give yourself permission to have those feelings. Act as an observer to your thoughts and without judging, notice how you feel physically, what mental process you follow when worried and the results. By becoming aware of patterns we open up the possibility of changing them.

Put away the crystal ball

Most worries focus on the future, but rather than propel us forward, can keep us stuck in the past. By changing our focus to what we can deal with today, instead of spending time predicting the unknown, we can retrain our thought process to minimize unhealthy preoccupation. “Living in the moment” may at first seem like an unrealistic goal for the chronic worrier, but offers great benefits. A simple meditation period, practised every day, can help accomplish this state of mind.

Payworks understands the importance of the health and well-being of your workforce. That’s why we’ve partnered with Arete to create HR Advisory Services, a comprehensive management tool of practical HR-related guidance, resources and services provided by industry professionals to ensure you’re supported every step of the way in growing a strong organization. HR Advisory Services is a versatile and insightful solution that supports you and your management team in managing the broad spectrum of unique issues your organization may encounter. Whatever comes your way, we’ve got you covered. Email to learn more. 

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