How to stop being a worrywart?
November 16, 2010 6:50 PM   Subscribe

How do I stop worrying?

It seems as if I worry about every little thing. Ever since I was in junior high, I'm used to worrying over anything and everything, including grades, punishment, any sense of being possibly yelled at, or of failure, but only when there are consequences involved.

This is kind of tied in with my nervousness as well. When I get real nervous, I start going out of my mind and feel as if I'm a failure. Actually this sort of gets in the way of being nervous to some of the opposite sex, but only for the reason that in the past that I just couldn't believe that I wasn't attracted to them - and this started after condemnation by my parents in whatever shape and form it was - mostly verbal. This actually led me to be nervous because I got nervous in the past; it has led to me in the present getting obsessive as to why I got nervous and causing me to have to understand that it's not nervousness due to any kind of attraction, but nervousness due to a previous pattern of it. I know who I'm attracted to, but I see that I over worry.

So now at this point, I get nervous over the smallest matters, whatever they may be. How do I stop worrying and start living? How do I stop nervousness that is caused by worrying?

And ever since I moved out, my OCD-like behavior has diminished greatly and severely. Things seem to be moving forward and in a better direction. I'm just wondering what I can tell myself to help me stop worrying in its tracks.
posted by antgly to Human Relations (19 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
The same resources that you have been referred to before should be helpful in this regard. Have you contacted them?
posted by Wordwoman at 7:02 PM on November 16, 2010

Yes, I have. But can I get some tips from you people as to what has helped you personally. Any techniques?
posted by antgly at 7:03 PM on November 16, 2010

Dear antgly,

I have been following your questions for a while now. I have good news, and I have not so good news. Are you ready?

The Good News is that you are out of the mess you grew up in and your Real Life has begun. Yay! And congratulations, because your courage made that happen!!

The not so good news is this: It will be years before you sort through what is really you, and what is leftover programming from your crappy upbringing. It will take some therapy, lots of mistakes along the way, some burly life experiences... but you will finally get to a place of Health and Happiness. You will!

In short, you have a little PTSD left over from your family living situation. Seek therapy. Expect to overcome the PTSD symptoms and then discover more onion layers of dysfunction to address as you progress towards becoming an emotionally healthy, integrated and self-confident individual. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Good luck!
posted by jbenben at 7:07 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Time and benzodiazapenes to get me through particularly difficult times (holidays). I don't need the benzos anymore at all now.

I wish I could give you some self-CBT tips but really once I got out of the bad situation I was in things just gradually got better with time.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:17 PM on November 16, 2010

There's meditative technique I've used, when I was worried about my thoughts. It was very helpful.

Lie or sit quietly. Close your eyes. Breathing regularly really does help, as it gives you a sort of quiet focus. Imagine yourself, in your mind's eye, sitting quietly. As the various worries or thoughts come, visualize them as speech balloons or something concrete. I saw little floating pill shaped speech bubbles that contained a single thought/worry. In my mind's eye, I picked up the bubble, inspected it for what it was: just a thought. I acknowledged that it was there, that it existed, and then I just batted it aside or pushed it away and went on to the next one, examined and acknowledged it, then moved on.

That point is that all this shit is going on in your head, but it doesn't have to rule you or cause you to be negative in your actions. It's like a background radio that you can't shut off perhaps, but you learn to turn it down in a way and ignore it.

This may or may not work for you.
posted by nomadicink at 7:21 PM on November 16, 2010 [4 favorites]

Find something small that's worrying you. A dish left unwashed, a door left ajar, a book left sideways instead of standing up on the shelf. Something that you know, intellectually, makes absolutely no difference whatsoever.

Got that thing? Good. Now stare at it. Just sit there. Stare at it. Watch that damn crooked book for as long as you can psychologically stand it. When you get to that point, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and look around. Has the world ended? Has the rest of the room caught on fire? Is there anything, any single solitary thing, that is worse because of that thing that was worrying you?

Of course there isn't. You know that in your brain. And now you know it in your nerves. Every now and then, do that with something small and ridiculous that bugs you.
posted by Etrigan at 8:04 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

Here are a few things that have helped me, outside the obvious therapy/meds/exercise etc.

-- Set a timer and worry about the thing you are worrying about, full on, until the timer stops, whether it's five minutes or fifteen minutes or whatever. Do all your regular panic things if you need to. But then when the timer goes off, you're done. Go on with the rest of the day and try to relax, but you're done worrying about that thing.

-- Rubber band. Snap it when you are worrying/obsessing to remind yourself this isn't something you want to do.

Also, just every time that worry pops up in your mind, remind yourself that being obsessive and anxious about it isn't going to help you in any way, so you should push it away.

I am a therapy success story, however, so I would start there.
posted by sweetkid at 8:17 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Deep belly breaths. Try to inflate the upper part of your abdomen as much as possible and take a long exhale out.

It's also helpful to acknowledge your worrying in a detached, non-judgmental way. To reference another post... the thoughts going through your head are just stories you tell yourself. Say to yourself "Okay I am worrying again about my grades. Sometimes I have irrational nagging thoughts about school." I think it's easy to get caught up in a cycle where you feel shitty for having these kind of thoughts, which just feeds the badness all around.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 9:36 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to get myself completely worked up over grades. I think I drove myself to tears once for getting an 87 on a math test! 87! My mom would yell at me if I got bad grades (not that I ever did), and I was terrified of disappointing my mom.

And then I went to college. And I got some C's, and a couple D's even, and I got yelled at by my mom a couple of times (over the phone). And then . . . somehow . . . I got over it. There were consequences, sure, but they weren't actually that bad. Yeah, I got a few low grades, but I still managed to get myself a job, and then another job. My mom yelled at me, but she got over it, I got over it, and we still have quite a fine relationship. She realized eventually that my grades were my problem and not hers.

You meet new people who like you and don't care what your grades are, don't have any desire to punish you, and you go out with them and eat and talk and laugh and it's awesome. Keep yourself active and don't give yourself time to worry and brood over things. Get into a sport, or exercising, or yoga, or some sort of social dance, and get moving. Moving is one the awesomest mood-lifters out there. Find some sort of creative outlet--music, art, whatever. Music is good, and if you can find some group to play with, even better. Don't give yourself time to worry, time to be unhappy for a little while. And through that busy-ness (with fun activities), you may find that you are actually having fun and enjoying yourself, and you're not worrying as much!
posted by that girl at 10:01 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

do you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Seriously, if you do, try some anti-depressants along with yoga, exercise, and improved diet.
posted by Sal and Richard at 10:45 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

When you use sweetkid's worry timer method, pick a designated chair for it. NOT your favourite comfy chair or bed, or you'll end up associating it with negative stuff.

Pick a chair and make it your "worrying chair".
posted by Omnomnom at 10:57 PM on November 16, 2010

I wish I could give you some self-CBT tips but really once I got out of the bad situation I was in things just gradually got better with time.

This. I find that I have left-over adrenaline (or something- stress chemicals) for days after even a short anxiety producing event, especially if I felt calm during the actual stress.

When I've been in a stressful situation for weeks, it takes months. It goes away on its own and in the meantime, I try not to stress about being stressed. I remind myself that it WILL go away. I am not my anxiety- it's just something to put up with, like hiccups. And, importantly for me, I need to not blame whoever's closest for making me anxious or worried, even if they're being sort of annoying. I don't blame anyone for my hiccups. I don't blame anyone (not even myself!) for anxiety or feeling worried.

Other than that? Sleeping as much as I can manage. Since when I'm anxious I sleep poorly, I have to go for quantity over quality. Eat healthily. Have at least one social interaction with another human being (going for a walk or something is good). Exercise. Have faith that the stories of disaster your brain is coming up with are only stories and aren't truth.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:57 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

You worry because you're uncertain about what is going happen at some time in the future, based upon something that is happening (or not happening) right now. Not knowing whats going to happen makes you nervous, regardless of how "small" the consequences could be.

Next time you feel nervous, or begin to worry, think back to sometime when you felt the same way. Ask yourself, why did this make me nervous? And then recall what happened, and most of the time you'll say to yourself "Nothing happened, or at least nothing as bad as I thought, everything worked out fine". And you'll feel relieved. Take this sense of relief and apply it to why you are nervous right now and say to yourself "In the past, I felt nervous like I do right now, and thinking back, I had no reason why should I now? Everything will be cool, baby"...and start living.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 5:38 AM on November 17, 2010

Came in here just to second all that has been said before, especially about yoga and meditation.

I am also a worrier, to the point that where I have panic attacks. Today I received some particularly bad news, the kind that causes my brain to trip into major worrying mode. But, immediately after, I had to go to a tai chi class, and those two hours of moving veeeeeeeeeery slowly, being quiet and breathing deeply really helped me deal with the news, and by the time that I got out of the class, I was calm and able to deal with the news.

I also take a step back and observe myself freaking out, sometimes this actually makes me laugh when I say out loud, "Oh, there goes my mind again, worrying about money/about being worried/school/the European sovereign debt crisis/the future..." and in this way I acknowledge that my thoughts are there but that they are temporary worries, and that perhaps I cannot control some of these things--certainly not the European sovereign debt crisis--but that I can control my thoughts.

Exercising on a regular basis also helps with anxiety, and certainly has helped with my anxiety. The NYT Well blog covered this a while back.

Good luck! I've also been following your questions and I wish you all the best.
posted by so much modern time at 8:11 AM on November 17, 2010

Addendum: It also helped to realize, after simply growing up and being in the world more, that worrying actually didn't help me at all and that all of the bad things that I worried about never came to pass. Other bad things did happen, but they were never the things that I worried about.

But I literally had to just live longer to realize that, this did not occur to me at all until my late 20s.
posted by so much modern time at 8:18 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hello, I am a therapist, and while I'd never diagnose you online, you are describing what sounds a lot like generalized anxiety disorder. The questions we do ask to diagnose are how excessive the worry is, and how uncontrollable. If you try to stop the worrying, is it possible? If no, I'd go see someone. There are good treatments out there - go for a therapist that advertises empirical methods like CBT. Good luck!
posted by namesarehard at 8:47 AM on November 17, 2010

Yeah, a lot of good suggestions above. Hard to add, really, except to say 'hello! I'm a fellow worrier! Good times, amirite?'

Different things have helped at different times in my life. Yoga and meditation (and, by extension, deep breathing when I start to get nervous or worry) have had pretty astonishing effects.

Benzos have also really helped. I know there's a stigma attached, and they get abused and some people say they are addictive, etc. This is a very case by case basis thing. If you're taking them under the direct supervision of a psychiatrist, they can be really helpful and you have nothing to worry about.

And hey, I'll be the first to say it - marijuana can help to qualm anxiety in many people. In some people of course it does quite the opposite, so ymmv.

CBT and therapy will also help. I have the worry gene - my grandmother was an obsessive worrier as is my dad. My Dad has learned to control his pretty well just with talk therapy. Worrying, he always tells me, is like stringing beads without a knot at the end.

I also gave up believing in free will after some time studying philosophy. That's sort of helped, in a really weird sort of way, though it's caused other psych issues...
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:38 AM on November 17, 2010

I had a much milder version of what you're going through -- worrying and anxiety over all sorts of things, which I think stemmed from frequent unpredictable but strong condemnation from parents, sometimes over things that it never even occurred to me could be wrong.

Like "so much modern time" said above, what helped me most was realizing that the worry was unproductive. There's a quote I love, "Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due." For a few years now, whenever I catch myself worrying, I remind myself of that and think to myself, "What can I do about this?" If the answer is that I can't do anything right now, I consciously think about something else and keep turning my mind away from the subject of my worry until I stop thinking about it. I distract myself with a different activity if I need to. If the answer is that I can do something, I do it and then try not to look back.

I don't know if this will be helpful because it seems like one of those really obvious things the truth of which suddenly hits you one day. But maybe you'll like the quote too, at least.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:09 PM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Two Dialectical Behavior Therapy techniques that help me:

One: I pick a particular time in the day (early evening works well for me, ymmv) to worry. At that time I worry for a solid 20 minutes.

If a worry comes to me in the morning, or the early afternoon, I jot it down and tell myself, I will worry about this at the appointed time. Some days I get ten minutes into my worrying and I feel like I have nothing left to worry about. I review my list and worry about the things that are on there again.

Someone possibly going to be angry at me in 20 minutes? I'll worry about that tonight. World peace seem unattainable? I'll worry about that tonight. I might never have enough money in the bank for retirement? I'll worry about that tonight.

Two: I imagine my worries going into a box and then traveling away from me, on a conveyor belt. The box drops off the belt into oblivion, and I move along with my day.

And I would also like to remind you that your strength and resilience have gotten you so far, and will continue to carry you. I understand a lot of the worries that you may be having. Some of these things will continue to be part of your life forever, others will pass. However, none of them need to control you, and I'm really proud of you for realizing that you deserve and can achieve a life that allows you to be the boss of your, well, life. Here's a big hug for you.
posted by bilabial at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2010

« Older Winter boots for freaky feet?   |   RRRRRRAAAAAID! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.