How to stop worrying: six helpful ideas

Fatmata Kamara
Specialist Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK
20 December 2018

Will my teenager cope during their exams? Is my boss happy with me at work? When will I find the time to take Dad to his hospital appointments? Will we be able to afford the heating bill this winter?

Whether they’re big or small, having worries and concerns is a normal part of life. It’s natural to want everything to turn out right. But what if you find yourself constantly worrying about every little thing, lying awake at night going over things in your head and can’t seem to stop? Here I’ll share some of the things you can try to help ease your worries and relax your mind.

Keep a journal

When you’ve got a lot on your mind, sometimes getting your feelings out of your head and onto paper can help. Seeing your worries in front of you, rather than having them swirling around your head, can help you to see things more clearly.

It might also help to specifically set aside some time to write about and explore your worries. This could help you to spot patterns and triggers. Take a look at our interactive worry tree for guidance on how to work through some of your worries.

If your worries are keeping you up at night, write yourself a to-do list and then divide all your tasks in order of their priority. What could realistically wait until tomorrow or next week? Putting pen to paper could help you to organise your thoughts and switch off.

As well as writing about the things that are worrying you, take a moment to note down all the things you’re grateful for too. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to get lost in negative thought patterns, so remind yourself of all the people, places and things that give you joy.

Talk to someone

The old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ rings true here. You could try meeting a friend for a walk and talk, calling a loved one for a catch up, or asking your colleague to go for a coffee and a chat. Or you could try joining a support group where you can talk to people who have been through similar experiences to you. Knowing there are people who understand how you’re feeling and sharing ways of coping might help.

You could also try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which teaches you to understand and work through your worries, and identify ways of coping. CBT is available in individual or group sessions, and through online courses or self-help books.

But if your worries are becoming too much and you don’t feel you can cope, speak to your GP. You can also talk in confidence to organisations like the Samaritans and Mind who may be able to help.

Practise breathing and relaxation techniques

Practising breathing and relaxation techniques can help you to cope with difficult situations. You might find yoga, deep breathing exercises or muscle relaxation helpful. You could also give mindfulness a try. Mindfulness is a practice that teaches you to be aware of the present moment, to slow down, control your breathing and become aware of your surroundings. Try our mindful walking meditation and our guided body scan podcasts to help you get started. You can also download free mindfulness apps to your phone and try following the meditations.

Call on others for help

If you’re struggling to cope with all the demands placed on you, could you ask anyone else to take something off your hands? Call on friends, family, colleagues or even other parents for help. If you’re stressed out at work, have an open and honest conversation with your manager and let them know how you’re feeling. They might be able to extend a deadline or pass some work on to someone less busy.

Take care of yourself

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and your worries begin to build, be compassionate with yourself and remember that you’re doing the very best you can. You’re only human after all and nobody can do everything. Take some time out for yourself to do something you really enjoy. It could be something as simple as reading your favourite magazine, putting on some relaxing music, taking yourself on a lunch date or putting on fresh bed sheets and cosy pyjamas.

Look after your physical health

Not only is it important to look after your mental health, but your physical health too.

Eat a healthy diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to keep your mood and energy levels up. If you’re feeling stressed or if you haven’t been sleeping well, you might turn to caffeine to wake you up and alcohol to help you unwind. But try to avoid caffeine and alcohol to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Get regular exercise

Getting active is a great way to clear your head and help look after your mental health. You might enjoy going for a swim, find that boxing is a release for you, or enjoy getting out into the fresh air for a walk. Whatever your exercise of choice, getting moving could help you to organise your thoughts and see things more clearly. For more on this, take a look at our article on exercise for mood.

Prioritise sleep

Falling asleep can be easier said than done when you’ve got a lot on your mind, but getting enough sleep can help you to cope during difficult times. Try to get into the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day if you can. A pre-bedtime routine might help. Switch off all electronic devices like your mobile phone, TV and computer. You could try having a bath, doing yoga, reading a book or listening to a guided meditation. If you’re tossing and turning, try getting up for a bit and going back to bed when you feel more tired.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a condition where you feel overly worried about everyday things for a long period of time. It’s not always clear why you’re worrying, and you may find it hard to control your feelings of worry. You might feel physical and mental symptoms of anxiety that won’t go away, which can make life difficult. To find out more about GAD, take a look at our health information on generalised anxiety disorder and our article on different types of anxiety disorders.

If you’re experiencing worry all the time and are concerned about your mental health, speak to your GP for advice.

If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. If you’re covered by your health insurance, you’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

Fatmata Kamara
Fatmata Kamara
Specialist Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK

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