Heading to an intense job interview, facing an unexpected event that could change your life significantly, expecting important news… they are enough to kick anyone’s worry and anxiety up. It’s normal and expected. We worry about stuff we find important in our lives, such as finances, relationships, work, etc. Worry is a natural mechanism that can be helpful – motivate us to take action, come up with a strategy to improve our situation and solve the problem. However, as many of us know, it can get out of control and become unproductive, paralyzing, disruptive, and turn into full-blown anxiety. But where is the line? What is the difference between worry and anxiety? How much worry is too much?
People use these terms interchangeably, but being worried is not the same as being anxious. Although worry and anxiety are both associated with concern and discomfort, they manifest differently and their implications for our mental and physical health are very different.
Here are 5 things that can help you distinguish the two and answer the question: “Am I anxious or just worried?”
1. Worry is concrete and directs you toward problem-solving. Anxiety is vaguer and marked by rumination.
Worry is more specific than anxiety. When you are worried, you can pinpoint exactly what you are worried about. With anxiety, it’s not so easy – it’s more of a general feeling of uneasiness about a number of different scenarios. Thus, worry usually prompts us to act, to solve the problem, to use our coping skills, and build a strategy for dealing with a given situation. Anxiety, on the other hand, is paralyzing – it doesn’t direct us toward a concrete solution. Rather, we get caught in an endless spiral of “what ifs”, unable to come up with a solution.
2. Worry usually resides in your thoughts. Anxiety is all over the place – in your mind AND your body.
Worry and anxiety affect your body in different ways. Worry is usually limited to your thoughts that you can verbalize, such as: “I don’t know if I will be able to make it in time” or “Will I be able to pay rent this month?”. You may experience some unpleasant sensations in the body, such as tension and short-term emotional distress, but those are mild.
Anxiety, on the other hand, you feel both in your mind and your body, and pretty intensely so. The physical reactions can vary and can include tightness in the chest, pounding heart, sweating, rapid breathing, trembling, “knot” in the stomach, nausea, trouble sleeping or concentrating, etc. Together with worrying thoughts and an endless spiral of “what ifs”, it occupies our whole system, so it’s not surprising that when we are anxious, it can be really difficult to focus on something else.
3. Worry leads to thoughts you can typically keep in perspective. Anxiety makes you jump to the ‘worst-case scenarios’.
There is a logical component in worry – your brain is trying to protect itself from real and present danger. Anxiety has a wild imagination and brings you into a panic mode for things that, if you stop and think about it logically, or ask someone else, are not very rational. When you are anxious, you overestimate the risk and believe that you will not be able to cope with the consequences.
Of course, it can sometimes be difficult to determine whether our concerns are rooted in reality or if they’re completely irrational, especially when we are stressed. What can help us distinguish between worry and anxiety in these situations is the degree of our ability to control our concerns. Usually, a good sign that normal worry turns into anxiety is an inability to put the break on and get it under control.
4. Worry is temporary. Anxiety is more longstanding.
Worry is usually short-term; once we solve the problem or a concerning situation passes, our worry disappears. With anxiety it is more complicated; since it is so vague and intense, it can linger for long periods of time. Also, it is rarely satisfied – when one thing is solved, you start getting anxious about something else.
5. Anxiety often interferes with your daily functioning. Worry usually doesn’t.
If the levels of distress and discomfort are so intense that it makes it hard for you to function (to eat, sleep, concentrate, think about something else, etc.), it is a pretty clear sign of anxiety. Worry is uncomfortable, of course, but it is not as intense and it has milder effects on our physical and mental state.
Tips To Manage Worry And Anxiety
Experiencing worry and a certain level of anxiety is normal. However, when it comes to the point of disrupting your daily functioning – and even before that point – it’s time to react and take steps to decrease it and bring it back to manageable levels. Here are a few tools to try:
1. Schedule worry time
When your mind persistently goes back to the same worries, again and again, this technique can be very helpful. Simply, determine 15-20 minutes of your day that are dedicated to worrying only. This is your time to worry all you want. Outside this time slot, when anxious thoughts arise, tell yourself something like: “I see you, thoughts, but your time is scheduled at 8 PM tonight. I’ll meet you then.”.
Check out more about this technique in our blog post: One Powerful Technique to Ease Your Worrying Mind and Anxiety.
2. Pay attention and question your thoughts
Your anxious mind is not very rational, and will often lie to you and speak nonsense such as: “Everybody thinks you’re a failure”, “You can’t do this”, “You’ll never get this promotion”, etc. When you catch these thoughts playing in your head, stop and remind yourself that they are the product of your anxious brain. Then challenge them by asking yourself questions such as:
- How helpful are these thoughts?
- Are they really true?
- What is the evidence against them?
- What are some other ways I can think about this situation?
- What would I tell to a friend who had the same thought?
Remember, your thoughts are just that – thoughts. They are not always a perfect reflection of reality.
3. Stop jumping to an imagined future and connect with the present moment
There is an old quote from Lao Tzu, a famous Chinese philosopher, that says: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Although this quote oversimplifies both depression and anxiety (there are many different factors that contribute to them), there is some truth to it. An anxious mind is overly focused on what might happen in the future, spiraling down the hole of endless “what ifs” without an answer. This kind of thinking is unproductive and keeps us in the anxiety loop.
Taking a few minutes to practice mindfulness and focus on the present moment can help take your thoughts away from the past and the future, helping you re-center and think more realistically. If you’re interested to learn more about mindfulness and its benefits, our blog posts Return to Now: Living in the Present Moment and 6 Reasons Why Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Life Is Helpful might be a good place to start.
A few mindfulness techniques you can try:
- Mindful meditation
- 5-4-3-2-1 technique. Focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, two things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
- Focus on your breathing – inhale for 5 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat until you feel calmer.
- Focus on your body and how it relates to the space around you. Feel the ground beneath your feet, how your clothes touch your skin, where you’re sitting or standing, etc. Then ask yourself: “What is wrong with this particular moment? Am I safe right now, this minute? Let’s go one minute at a time.”
4. What are your strengths?
We all face difficulties and hard times during our lifetimes; it’s inevitable. Sometimes our worries come true, and we need to cope with real adversities that come up. Fortunately, research shows that we are, usually, more resilient than we may think.
Resilience is the ability to move through adversaries and rise from them. It is a set of skills and psychological traits that allows us to cope with struggles and recover from them. There are some things we can do to build our resiliency and rise back from difficult experiences more quickly. Read more about it here: 3 Things You Can Do to Recover From Setbacks More Quickly.
In the end, it’s important to know when anxiety increases to clinical levels, so you can react promptly.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by severe, persistent worry that is excessive for the situation, and extreme avoidance of anxiety-provoking situations. These symptoms cause distress, impair daily functioning, and occur for a significant period.
If you are experiencing anxiety so often that it interferes with the quality of your life and impacts your physical and mental health, please do not hesitate to ask for help. There are proven and very effective ways to treat it and cope with it successfully, so you can be happier, more productive, more satisfied You.
How do you cope with worry? Share your tips with us in the comment section below.
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Grief is one of the most painful states of all. And although it is a natural response to experiencing loss, it can really knock you off of your feet. Grief comes with all kinds of different emotions, difficult and unexpected ones, from deep sadness to disbelief, anger, guilt, confusion, loneliness, helplessness, and apathy. The pain of grief can also interfere with your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, get out of bed, or even think straight. Some people report an initial feeling of ‘numbness’ before the pain arises. All in all, there is really no order or a . normal way of experiencing grief. Some may opt for mood enhancement supplements (from the likes of https://mykratomclub.com, maybe?) and alternative medications to feel better, but learning to deal with a loss is important, at all costs.
Coping with the loss of the loved one is one of life’s biggest challenges.
Going through the grief process is hard, and doing it alone and quietly makes it even harder. You probably heard that talking about your feelings, especially when you’re facing difficult experiences in your life, is important and good for you. And it’s true – letting yourself feel and express your emotions helps you process and validate them. This is especially true for the grieving process. However, it’s also true that grief makes facing emotions seem like a terrifying thing to do.
Talking About Your Grief Is Healing and Scary at the Same Time
Many people are afraid to let themselves feel the sadness and pain, let alone talk about it, because they’re afraid that, once they get started, they won’t be able to stop. They fear they won’t be strong enough to handle the pain, that they will fall apart and never put themselves back together again. But the truth is, when we let the words and tears flow, we’re letting the pain out. It’s uncomfortable at first, but in the end it frees up some space in our mind and heart for asking questions, seeking meaning, and finding some form of acceptance.
Grief feels like endless loneliness and incomprehension. These two are the main reasons why grief feels so overwhelming. Feeling disconnected from the world and questioning the meaning of the event is completely normal after experiencing significant loss. What talking about it does is that it tackles down these two main problems by doing two things:
It connects you with another human who is ready to listen and sit with you through your pain
Knowing that someone deeply listens and truly hears you is soothing. Disconnection and loneliness take a lot of space after a loss. Sharing your pain with someone willing to understand and accept it opens some of this space for letting connection and comfort in. It won’t take the loneliness away, but it can reduce it significantly. Sometimes, if you speak to a friend, it can be hard for them to truly know what to say. They don’t want to upset you further, but even just offering you a shoulder to cry on, or asking if you want anything from the shop can make a huge difference.
It helps you untangle your thoughts and understand the situation, even for a tiny bit
Making sense of the loss may be one of the most difficult things to do, but it’s also essential for healing. The process of grief is a foggy experience full of hard questions. What does this loss mean in terms of who you are and where you’re going? What does it mean for your understanding of life?
Moving forward in the process of grief is, essentially, about exploring what the loss means for your present and future self. It’s about rebuilding a meaningful life after such a significant change. This is a difficult thing, because not only are these questions filled with difficult emotions that can seem too hard and scary to face, but there is also no definite answer. It’s different for everybody, and there is no ‘recipe’ or a shortcut to it.
Even if it doesn’t look like it at the moment, the pain will lessen. It won’t completely go away, it will come in waves, and sometimes you’ll feel like you’re drowning. But you will laugh again and love again and live a purposeful life again. In the meantime, give yourself a break. Give yourself a hug. Give yourself time – LOTS of it. And be kind to yourself. Seek out and accept help from someone who is willing to listen and provide support. A trusting friend, a family member, your significant other, a support group, a therapist – find what works for you, but don’t battle it alone.
If you know anyone who is experiencing grief, please be free to share this post with them, as well as on your social media.
Lindemann, E. (1944). Symptomatology and management of acute grief. American journal of psychiatry, 101(2), 141-148. (http://www.nyu.edu/classes/gmoran/LINDEMANN.pdf)
Bukman, M. J. (2017). The development of a new identity through the process of bereavement counselling: a qualitative study (Doctoral dissertation). (https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/83637608.pdf)
We’re happy to announce that we got featured in HuffPost’s article: “How to Deal When Your Therapist Goes on Leave”. This is an important topic that is not so often addressed, and we’re glad we had an opportunity to talk about it. Read the whole article HERE.
A relationship between a therapist and a client is often incredibly deep. Leaving such a strong and meaningful connection, even if it’s just for a few weeks or months, can feel disorienting. Hence, it’s useful to know some coping strategies and practical steps to get yourself back on track. HuffPost’s article covered it really nicely, but here are also some additional tips on how to deal with your therapist’s (short or long-term) leave.
Develop a plan of action together in case of a mental health emergency
The leave of your therapist might mean that, in stressful situations where you urgently need mental health support and guidance, you won’t be able to reach them as easy as when they’re regularly working or they won’t be available at all. It is important to prepare for such situations and develop a plan for it beforehand.
This means identifying potential stressors and triggers and making a list of coping strategies you can utilize. From discussing who you should contact depending on the severity of the situation (another therapist from their practice, your support network, an emergency room, etc.), to using specific skills you’ve learned in your therapy sessions, you should try to make this plan as detailed as possible. You may not need to use it, but it’s smart to have it just in case. Besides, making such a plan with your therapist may help reduce your anxiety by making you feel a little bit more ready for what may be ahead.
Prepare for the possibility that the transition to a new therapist may not feel emotionally smooth
Most therapists will announce their leave well in advance. They will most often offer to refer you to their colleague while they’re away, so you can prepare for the change.
However, starting a relationship with a new therapist may feel uncomfortable at first. When someone knows your deepest thoughts, feelings, needs, your past, and your struggles, it can be difficult to start it all over again with someone new. Thus, prepare for a possibility that the first session or two with a covering therapist may not feel as comfortable and familiar as with your regular therapists. Give yourself some time to adjust to the new environment. However, if after a few sessions your gut still tells you it’s not the right fit, give yourself permission to find another one. That’s why it may be a wise idea to ask your current therapist to recommend a couple of their colleagues instead of just one, so it can be easier to find what works best for you.
If after a while you still aren’t sure whether your emotions toward a new therapist are “off” because of this transition or due to some other factors, THIS article may give you some clarification.
See it as an opportunity to practice skills and strengths you’ve developed in therapy
If you’re seeing your therapist for a long time, you must have learned a lot. You developed some behaviours, skills, and thinking strategies you didn’t know before.
Although your therapist’s leave can be a pretty scary thing, it’s also a space to consolidate your gains and see how far you’ve come so far. It’s a great opportunity to practice your psychological coping skills on your own and get to know yourself even better. Having a break from therapy can help you assess your progress and also evaluate areas where you’re still struggling and need to continue to work on.
The most important thing while your therapist is away is to continue practicing what you have learned in therapy, whether it’s with a new therapist or on your own.
Returning to your daily routine after a fabulous vacation can feel like an anticlimactic end to a life-changing experience. It’s like someone slowed down time and showed you all the stresses and chores you have to come back to, and all you can think of is “This is how I’m supposed to live the rest of the year?”. It’s like Sunday night blues on steroids. But, is post-holiday depression real?
Vacations give us the opportunity to escape the humdrum of our daily lives for some time and recharge our batteries… at least they are meant to. But what if, instead of feeling energized and ready for new challenges, we return home with an acute case of post-vacation blues?
What’s Up With Post-Vacation Blues?
Post-vacation blues, also known as post-vacation depression or post-holiday blues, are characterized by feelings of lethargy, anxiety, sadness, lack of motivation, and other unpleasant symptoms associated with the return to work after vacation.
According to the research from University in Rotterdam, people experience the largest happiness boost before their vacation, in the phase of anticipation and planning. Furthermore, shortly after the vacation ends, a significant number of participants reported increased levels of stress, anxiety, and aversion towards returning to daily responsibilities. And, ironically, the longer and more exciting the trip – the stronger these unpleasant feelings that characterize post-vacation depression are likely to strike you.
Feeling blue and unmotivated after a vacation is nothing unusual and is completely understandable. While you’re in vacation mode, you do far more of what you want to do in comparison to what you need to do. You focus purely on pleasure. And that’s great! A number of researches show that taking a vacation can significantly contribute to your mental and physical health. However, a sudden re-entry from ‘mainly pleasure’ mode to ‘more responsibilities’ mode can be a jolt on your mind and body. Thus, you need to take some time to go through this process of re-adjusting to your daily working routine.
Besides, although vacations help you rest, de-stress, and regenerate, they do not eliminate the source of problems that typically bug you in your usual daily routine. A good vacation may help you run away from your annoying boss or your overwhelmingly full inbox for a while, but they don’t fix the issue.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent post-vacation depression or at least minimize its effects. Here are 4 tips that can help you get back on track with a more positive attitude.
1. Mix your responsibilities with pleasurable activities, especially for the first few days.
In other words, give yourself some time to ease back into your daily routine. Getting back from vacation often means having to deal with a pile of chores like unpacking your suitcases, doing the laundry, grocery shopping, maybe some cleaning around the house, etc. But if boring responsibilities are all that waits for you after alluring beaches or calming nature, it can feel like a cold shower and make your life seem a lot more stressful than it actually is.
So, instead of jumping right in and setting your expectations too high for getting everything done immediately upon your return, it may be a good idea to give yourself some more time for post-vacation transition and fill it with little pleasures. For example, make yourself a fancy cocktail and play some music you love while doing the cleaning or sorting out the bills. Or, the first day after work – go to the movies. Having your first few days filled with small stuff that brings you joy and cheers you up can help you avoid the downward emotional spiral post-vacation period can effect.
2. Plan something to look forward to – even if it’s the next vacation.
One part of why post-vacation blues hit us is because, for some time, the anticipation of that vacation brought us pleasure and pushed us forward. Now that this long-awaited vacation – aka the source of happiness boost – has come to an end, our mood drops. Having something to look forward to brings positive expectations and can, therefore, help boost our mood. Even if it’s putting yourself in a holiday planning stage again, whenever that holiday may be.
3. Make a list of everything you love about your life at home.
There is no place like home. And although you enjoyed your trip, returning to the familiar comforts of life at home is something to embrace and express gratitude for. It is probable that the life you live – your hometown, job, family, friends, your usual routine and habits – have a tremendous value to you. This is the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate how you live and to notice things that you usually take for granted.
It’s easy to forget and minimize the little joys that make our ordinary day feel comfortable and homey. In that sense, it may be a good idea to take some time and make a list of everything you’re grateful for in your everyday life. Perhaps it’s a view from your window while you’re sipping coffee from your favourite mug exactly as you like it, or the coziness of sleeping in your bed, or returning to your pet, or that grocery store nearby where the kind worker always wishes you a good day, or your neighbour who’s always ready to help. Whatever it is, noticing these amazing, valuable things you’re coming back to is a good way to change the focus from post-holiday blues to gratitude.
4. Evaluate what isn’t working.
If your feelings of anxiety and sadness are persistent a few weeks after your vacation has ended and you find yourself escaping into daydreaming about past times much more than being in the present moment, maybe it’s time to look at why home life is so hard to come back to. Is your job too stressful? Are you too busy? Do you lack interesting hobbies and pleasurable activities in your ordinary routine? Are you bored? And most importantly – what can you change? Asking these questions can help you understand what makes your daily routine so unsatisfying and what steps you can take to make changes and move forward to a more enjoyable life.
You don’t have to do this alone. If you need help and guidance in identifying what holds you back and creating an action plan for overcoming these obstacles, don’t hesitate to ask for help. We’re always here.
How do you feel after a vacation? Have you ever experienced post-vacation blues? Share your thoughts and experiences down below in the comments! And if you like this post, please don’t forget to share it with your friends on social media – you never know who you might help.
Welcome home and happy summer!
There’s been a lot of talk about self-care lately, and it’s for a good reason. Self-care is an essential part of managing stress and living a balanced life. But what is it exactly? For many, the first association to self-care is pampering yourself, like taking a long bubble bath or going to a massage. And yes, self-care can surely look like that, if it works for you. But it’s also so much more.
Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
In other words, it’s any activity that restores your energy, promotes your health, and makes you feel nurtured and taken care of. What makes it so important is that it is a vital starting point for dealing with stress and challenging situations in life. Think of it as an armour to protect the energy you need to survive and thrive. It’s not just an escape from the daily grind, but an ongoing routine that increases your resilience and overall vitality.
Struggling With Self-Care
While a part of self-care is taking care of your physical health, it also means – and here comes the tricky part – paying attention to your needs and allowing yourself to act on them. Many of us don’t know how to practice self-care because we weren’t taught to pay attention to our inner states, trust them, and be honest about them. Instead, we learned what we’re ‘supposed’ to feel or think, and try to ignore things that are opposite to that. For example, you may feel upset about something, but at the same time you think that you shouldn’t feel like that but be strong, positive and grateful. So you suffocate your anger, sadness, or anxiety about the certain situation.
If this is something that sounds familiar, there is a chance that you apply the same mindset on self-care too. In other words, you have the idea of how self-care should generally look like and force yourself to do activities that fit into that picture. So self-care becomes a chore, which is exactly the opposite of what the whole concept is all about.
Despite its huge importance for mental health, self-care still sounds a little yucky for some. The reason for it probably lies in the fact that, in our culture that glorifies self-sacrifice and ‘hustle’, it’s easy to feel guilty for wanting something different than that. We may feel wrong or shameful if we put our needs first, if we take some time to relax and do something nice for ourselves instead of helping others all the time or tirelessly working toward our goals. As a consequence, we might label ourselves as being ‘selfish’, ‘weak’, ‘lazy’, or ‘entitled’. And, of course, because we don’t want to be any of these things, we neglect meeting our needs, sometimes to the point where our body and mind beg us for it. The end destination – exhaustion and burnout.
Considering its significance for our wellbeing and at the same time so many misconceptions attached to it, it’s time to rethink self-care, don’t you think? Let’s debunk some common misbeliefs about it.
Misconception: Self-Care Is Selfish
Truth: Self-Care is Necessary for Maintaining Loving Relationships And Investing in Them
Think about it like when you’re in an airplane. The flight attendants always tell you to, in case of an emergency, put your oxygen mask first, and then help others. It’s similar with mental health – if you’re not properly taken care of, there is a chance you’ll end up not helping anyone, including yourself. The lack of ‘me’ time can drain your energy and lead to resentment toward others. And that, you’ll admit, is not the most positive starting point for investing in relationships.
Self-care is the opposite of selfish. It means you’re preparing to be there for others and to give and help not out of guilt but because you honestly want to.
Misconception: Self-Care Means I’m Weak
Truth: Self-Care Is a Necessary Part of Being Strong and Healthy
Self-Care is not a sign of weakness, but a fundamental aspect of staying healthy, emotionally and physically. Practicing self-care is not proof that you can’t persevere and cope with challenges, but a sign that you’re thinking long-term. Almost everywhere we turn, there is some sort of messaging to push it harder, to stretch our limits, to go, go, go. Self-care doesn’t fit in this kind of mindset society imposes on us, and sometimes it takes courage to go in the opposite direction – to slow down and take some time for yourself. And something that takes courage is surely a sign of strength, not a weakness.
Misconception: Self-Care Means I’m Lazy/Is a Waste of Time
Truth: Self-Care Boosts Your Productivity
Today, many of us are addicted to busyness. We always have to be on the move, make plans, have things scheduled in. But your energy is not limitless. If you never stop to take some rest and you neglect your needs, it is a well-known road to stress, overwhelm, and burnout, which all lower your productivity. On the other hand, self-care is a way to recharge and prepare for new challenges. It’s not a lack of self-determination, but exactly the opposite – a smart strategy to keep you in line with your goals in the long run.
Simple Self-Care Ideas to Try
A self-care routine doesn’t have to be something big, expensive, or time-consuming.
Still not sure where to start? Here are some simple self-care ideas that might give you some inspiration to start exploring what works best for you.
1. Eat a healthy meal. If you’re into cooking, prepare it yourself. Experiment with new tastes.
2. Set a date with yourself. Visit a museum, go to a cinema, or treat yourself with a nice dinner or a long bubble bath ?
3. Get a solid eight hours of sleep.
4. Go to your favourite workout class or talk a walk in nature.
5. Did you know that Natural Healthcare Center offers massages? You may also want to book yourself a pampering session in such centres in your vicinity.
6. Stretch. Multiple times a day. Pay full attention to your body.
7. Take time to breathe gently and deeply. While doing that, say some kind words to yourself.
8. Switch off all your electronic devices (laptop, tablet, phone, TV), and enjoy the silence.
9. Meet with a friend whose company you really enjoy.
10. Learn something new that always interested you. Wake up that curious inner child.
11. Write in a journal. Get honest about your feelings and needs.
12. Meditate or practice mindfulness.
13. Practice gratitude.
14. Write yourself a ‘well done’ list at the end of the day to celebrate your achievements, however big or small they may be.
15. Curl up with a cup of tea and read a book or watch your favorite TV show. Extra points if you light up a yummy smelling candle ?
16. Tap into your creative side. Try sewing, writing fiction, painting, dancing, or buy some crayons and a coloring book.
17. Say NO to activities or gatherings that drain your energy.
18. Seek therapy.
19. Practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to a close friend.
20. Practice taking ‘should’ out of your vocabulary and freeing yourself from feeling that you ‘should’ do things.
How do you take care of yourself? Let us know down below in the comments. And also, if you like this post, please share it on your social media. Let’s raise awareness about the importance of self-care.
Most of us want to be liked by other people. It feels great to know that others think good of us. However, when we believe that being liked depends on how much stuff we do for other people and how helpful we are, that’s when the problems arise. People-pleasers know this issue too well – the inability to say no.
Helping others can be really fulfilling, but if you do it at the expense of yourself, out of fear or anxiety, it becomes an unhealthy pattern of behaviour that can suck all your energy and negatively impact your relationships. You spend so much time on what you think you need to do that there is almost zero time left for what you actually want to do. In the end, you feel exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed, and even resentful.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Learning how to say no and not feel awful after is absolutely possible. In fact, knowing how to set boundaries is one of the most important things in sustaining healthy relationships with others and yourself.
Why Saying NO Is So Difficult?
Early relationships can additionally influence “people-pleasing” patterns of behaviour in adulthood. In general, as children, we learn that saying no is inappropriate and rude. If you said no to your parents’, cousins’, or teachers’ requests, you’ve probably been told off for it. Over time, you associated saying yes to requests with getting approval and saying no with criticism.
You may have been raised to be a sweetheart who always took care of other children, especially if you were the oldest child in the family. An influence like this can lead to the formation of beliefs such as: “I am only lovable if I’m accommodating and helpful”. Or maybe you come from a family where emotional support was conditional and inconsistent. Thus, in the attempt to secure love from important adults, it’s possible you developed the underlying belief: “If I don’t do everything to make others happy, they might leave or stop caring for me”. Inability to say no can also stem from early experiences with highly-critical parents who severely punished their children, even for small mistakes. Such experiences can lead to beliefs such as: “If I don’t do everything right, I will disappoint others or be punished”.
Whatever the case is, your self-worth may have come to depend on things you do for others. This is a tricky thing because it forms a vicious circle with no satisfying solution. On the one hand, being unable to say NO can make you stressed, exhausted, and resentful toward others. On the other hand, saying NO might be a threat for your self-image and result in you questioning your decision, feeling bad about yourself, or worrying others will get hurt, angry, or disappointed at you. Either way, with this kind of pattern, you can’t win.
But there is a way to actually win, and that is – change the pattern. Here are some steps you can take to help you say no effectively and create space for a more intentional yes.
Step 1: Get To Know Your Priorities
If you don’t know what you want, it’s a high chance you don’t know what you don’t want. Identify what is important to you, and acknowledge what is not. We all have limited energy and time; decide where you want to direct those, and where you definitely don’t. Before you say no, you have to be clear that you want to say no.
There are, of course, things that need to be done, even if we don’t like it, like finishing that important but boring report at work. But there are also things that you are not obliged to do, like spending another two hours at work helping your colleague finish their task while you really wanted to spend that time at the movies with your significant other.
You can’t be all things to all people. Choose what and who the priority is, and invest your limited time and energy there. The rest gets your resources only in case you really decide it’s worth it.
Step 2: Know What Saying NO Is And Is Not
- Saying NO means you’re rejecting a request, not the person. Make clear to yourself (and to the other person) that you’re not rejecting them as a whole person; you’re just turning down their invitation. People will usually understand that it is your right to say no, just as it is their right to ask for the favor, and that your no doesn’t mean “I don’t like you” but simply: “Sorry, my plate is full/my priorities are elsewhere”.
- Saying NO doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Just because you say no to sacrificing your time and comfort to accommodate others doesn’t mean you’re unlikable, rude, or selfish. It means you’re thinking long term and saying no is a preventative act against self-loathing and resentment in the future.
- Saying NO is not a missed opportunity but a trade-off. Some people hate to say no because they feel like they’re missing out the opportunity. However, saying yes to something unimportant often means saying no to something important. So, instead of looking at NO as a missed opportunity, you can see it as a trade-off. You’re choosing the opportunity to do something you value more than the request. It seems like a fair deal.
- Your NO might be much less threatening than it seems to you. Research from Columbia University found that, very often, people whom others see as appropriately assertive mistakenly thought others judged them as being over-assertive. This effect is called the line crossing illusion. So, if you feel you might be confrontational, there is a high chance the other party doesn’t see you that way.
- Saying NO is a form of self-care and self-respect. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first if you want to have the energy to help others.
Step 3: Learn To Tolerate The Reactions Of Others
The reality is, with some people, setting boundaries will unleash some unpleasant emotions and reactions. There is a possibility they get angry or disappointed, especially if they’re used to you being always available and accommodating. Some might even try to cross your boundaries and continue to push to change your NO into YES. However, when you know this, you can be prepared to work to firmly maintain the boundaries that you have set.
Remember that you’re an individual to yourself and that everyone is responsible for their own reactions. Sometimes, deep down, negative response and unpleasant emotions of others are simply not about you. But even if they are, don’t overgeneralize and jump to conclusions too fast. If someone is disappointed or angry, it doesn’t automatically mean they will ditch you out of their life or think you’re an awful person. It means they are disappointed or angry in that particular situation.
If someone keeps crossing your boundaries even when you communicate them clearly and gets upset because you’re not ready to sacrifice your happiness for their comfort, it may be a good idea to ask yourself is it the kind of relationship you want to nurture in the long run. In the end, you want to surround yourself with people who respect you for who you are, not only for what you do for them.
Step 4: Learn Some Practical Skills For Saying NO
Here are some tangible tips for practicing saying a polite but effective no.
✔️ Express your appreciation. More often than not, when people make a request, it’s because they trust your capabilities or they like your presence. Thus, even though you’ll refuse the invitation/request, thank them for approaching you.
✔️ Be kind but firm. Being polite doesn’t need to lead to a YES. Simply expressing your NO with a kind tone can help the other person (and you) feel better about the situation. However, some people don’t give up easily and will test your persistence. In this case, it’s important to know that nobody can “make” you change your answer with their repeated requests; the decision is completely yours. It’s your job to set boundaries. You can be as decisive as they are pushy. This is a good opportunity to practice your assertiveness.
✔️ Give some reason if you want but don’t over-apologize. Some people find it easier to say no if they give a reason for it, and that is okay. If you feel more comfortable saying: “I’m sorry, I have something else in my schedule already” instead of: “Sorry, I can’t”, that is completely fine. Just don’t lie about it and don’t make up excuses, because that will make you feel even guiltier and possibly complicate your life further. It’s important to know that you don’t need the good excuse to say no – having your priorities elsewhere is enough. Remember, you’re not asking for anyone’s permission to say no – you already have the right to it.
✔️ You can take time to think about it. Sometimes we just babble out YES and commit to something we don’t want to because we feel pressured to give the answer right away. It’s okay to take some time to think about it. That way, we give ourselves the opportunity to answer from the logical and realistic point of view instead out of anxiety and desire to please. If you’re really not sure about the request, tell the other person you’ll get back to them when you think about it. Just make sure you actually do it in a timely manner.
Saying no is a new thing for many of us, and therefore takes practice and courage. But with time, it becomes easier and brings amazing benefits. You are unique, important, and valuable even when you say no to being everything to everyone and take time for yourself. Don’t be afraid to practice it.
What are your experiences with saying no? Share it with us in the comments below! And also, share this post on social media; some people-pleasers you know might be thankful ?
Smith, M. J. (1975). When I say no, I feel guilty: how to cope–using the skills of systematic assertive therapy. Bantam.
Do you feel like the same situations keep happening to you over and over again? Do you keep attracting partners that don’t fulfill your needs or you face the same problems in different relationships? Are you struggling with the same stresses and conflicts at work, or you keep losing your jobs? It’s like you’re a magnet for people who hurt you, or embarrassing situations, or bullies at work, etc.
I am sure that, at least once in your life, you have said or thought something like: “Why this keeps happening to me all the time?”. And really, why? Is it some kind of a mystic cosmic power that brings these experiences to your life? Fortunately, psychology has a more realistic explanation to why you keep entering the same unpleasant situations all over again. Let’s explore what actually happens.
Frameworks You Live By
From the moment you are born, you are in a survival mode. During your childhood, your little mind is programmed to absorb everything that is happening around you in order to learn and adapt to your environment. You pull in the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, ideals of those around you. By interacting with your parents or primary caregivers, you form certain beliefs about yourself, other people, and life in general. These beliefs are the product of the way you interpreted behaviours of your important adults and how they treated your needs, as well as things they were telling you about other people, rules, and life in general.
Of course, not all parents are the same. Thus, some will be convinced that life is a fight, you are not allowed to make mistakes and need to be perfect in order to succeed or be loved and appreciated. For others, life will be a scary and dangerous place full of people waiting to hurt you, so you need to be careful who you trust and never let your guard down. Some will, on the other hand, believe that life is easy and fun, that people usually have good intentions and that, whatever you do, everything will be okay in the end.
These belief systems become the frameworks we live by. They are like colored glasses that affect how we see everything unfolding in our lives. More importantly, these beliefs direct our decision making, condition our behaviour and, ultimately, affect how others react to our behaviours and how they treat us.
Now, imagine a situation that you’re going to a party where you don’t know almost anyone.
Version 1: You’re afraid nobody will talk to you because believe you’re boring or not good with new people. Consequentially, you will probably feel self-conscious and anxious, and enter the party acting awkward, standoffish and not so friendly. As a result, people will not be encouraged to come to you and start a conversation, which will only, in turn, reinforce beliefs you already had.
Version 2: You strongly believe that you’re an interesting person and others will be open to meet you. You think: “This party is going to be great”. People will probably be drawn by your openness and outgoing attitude and come talk to you, which also proves you were right in your beliefs in the first place.
This effect is called a self-fulfilling prophecy, a term coined by famous sociologist, Robert Merton.
Merton noticed that sometimes a belief brings about consequences that cause reality to match the belief. He defined self-fulfilling prophecy as “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true” (Merton, 1968).
In other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief or expectation that we hold about a future event that manifests because we hold it. Our expectations and predictions of what will happen impact our behaviour, which shapes how others see us and how they act toward us. In turn, they provide feedback we set ourselves to get in the first place, which serves to reinforce the original belief. Generally, this process is unintentional – we are not aware that our beliefs cause the consequences we expect or fear. And that’s exactly why it’s so difficult to tackle them down and start changing them.
Breaking the Cycle Can Be Hard…
Breaking the cycle of entering the same situations over and over again can be tricky, in the first place because we don’t see our fundamental beliefs as beliefs but as actual facts about the world. Subconsciously, it’s important for us to prove that our beliefs about how life works are “right” because it gives us a sense of security. If we “know” the rules by which the world functions, we feel like we can prepare and know what to expect. That’s why we filter information so they can fit our belief system. We rate experiences that are in line with our beliefs as an important “proof” that our frameworks are actually true, while we label those opposite to our frameworks as unimportant coincidences that won’t impact the way we see the world.
Over time, these patterns of thought and behaviour become our automatic response, a sort of a habitual reaction to circumstances. Researchers believe we have neural pathways in our brains that are reinforced by habit. The more you repeat the behaviour, the stronger your neural pathway for that behaviour becomes, and the easier it triggers the next time.
It’s like a forest dirt road – the more you walk on it, the more well-established it becomes. You have an automatic impulse to walk down that well-worn path, rather than on the grassy part. However, this dirt road often leads to the same destination. To break the cycle, you need to consciously resist the urge to stay on the road you know and start walking on the grass to a different direction. Over time, as you repeat taking the same route on the grass, another path will form and it will be easier to walk on.
One thing you can do to make the first step toward exiting the circle of “attracting” the same problems is to, for starters, let go of certainty. It’s important to understand that much of what you think you know about yourself, other people, and life, is more probably a belief and less probably a fact. It is a product of your upbringing and your past experiences. But the good news is that we can choose our beliefs and, therefore, change them.
You can start off by choosing a pattern that you want to break out of. Then, write down the past five times when it happened. List all the details about those situations – how did it happened, what led to it, why you think it happened. Now, try to find commonalities across these situations. In the end, try to find what part you play in these situations? Are there any behaviours that might have led you to the common outcome?
Here is a list of questions that might be helpful in discovering a pattern and your part in it:
- What keeps happening over and over again?
- How does it start?
- What happens next?
- And then what happens?
- How does it end?
- How do you feel after it ends? (John James, 1973)
This process is crucial for changing your patterns. It gives the opportunity to tackle down the reason you might have taken up a particular role and contributed to the outcome that keeps happening. From there, you can set up a goal – what you want to change and what results to get – and then map out a different path from the one you’re taking now.
It’s absolutely okay if you’re not able to identify the reason behind the same situations repeating in your life by yourself. A good therapist can help you figure out where you’re standing and how to proceed.
Please share your thoughts and experiences on the topic down below in the comments, it’s always amazing to hear it! Also, don’t forget to share this post on your social media.
How is it possible that it’s already Sunday night when it feels like Friday was half an hour ago?! The struggle of knowing the laid-back, weekend You has to dress up tomorrow and face the overwhelming to-do list of the working week again is real. That sinking feeling you experience on Sunday night is what millions are dealing with too – the Sunday night blues.
Why Sunday Nights are So Tough?
For one thing, Sunday night blues started in our schooldays, when Sunday evening meant the fun of the weekend is over and we have to return to our boring textbooks and homework. Even when those days are over, out body and mind remember those anxious feelings and Sunday night remains the trigger that brings this response back. The fact that, for many of us as adults, Sunday means roughly the same thing – returning to tasks and responsibilities on our workplace – additionally strengthens that familiar physical and psychological response we developed a long time ago. For this reason, even people who love their jobs are not immune to Sunday night blues.
Additional thing that probably happens is that you are thinking too far ahead. We described this cognitive distortion HERE, so you might want to take a look. In short, when you think about everything you need to finish during the next week all at once, stress spikes up and you feel overwhelmed. What you ultimately do is you’re cramming the workload of five working days, so about 40 working hours, into one moment of thinking; the result is, naturally, that it looks like too much to handle. But in reality, things are much easier while you’re actually going through them.
“You probably know it yourself – something seems so much more frustrating or difficult or boring when you think about it ahead than while you’re actually doing it.”
So, when Sunday evening comes, your body and mind habitually start familiar pattern all over again: worrying about the upcoming week, feeling of overwhelm for everything that has to be done, sadness for weekend being too short, anger at yourself or others for not doing everything as planned, irritability, anxiety, depression. You may even have a hard time falling asleep.
How to Beat Sunday Night Blues?
Sunday night sadness and anxiety may be common, but you don’t have to live with them. Here are a few things you can do to outsmart your sad Sundays and feel uplifted for the week ahead.
Keep your weekend plans realistic
You want to make your weekend as enjoyable as possible, and that’s great. However, it’s important to not get caught into the trap of setting the expectations for the weekend so high that it becomes a race of accomplishing everything on the list.
If you’re determined to finish work reports and answer some additional e-mails, reorganize your closet, meet with friends on a drink, spend time in nature with your family, read that exciting book that’s sitting for too long on your bedside table, and go to a yoga class all in the same weekend, activities that are supposed to be fun and relaxing might turn into obligations. The end result is that you’re probably going to end up either exhausted from running to achieve all of it or frustrated that you haven’t accomplished it all. Either way, your mind on Sunday night consequentially becomes, well, a not so pleasant place.
Sometimes, even the most organized people have to deal with the reality that things don’t always go according to the plan. Because of this, try to see plans you make on Friday afternoon as an outline, as a list of possible things that you have the freedom to do on the weekend, not as plans written in stone. It’s wonderful to have a variety of choices – embrace it. But don’t let can and want turn into a must.
Active leisure time
About 75% of people don’t leave the house on Sunday (source). When we combine it with the fact that “feelings of anxiety and depression are most common when the person is not particularly busy”, as the professor of psychology at Roosevelt University, Steven Meyers says, then it’s easy to recognize why Sunday becomes a perfect time for those unpleasant feelings to creep into our minds.
One good way to avoid entering this “empty space” is to replace your passive leisure time with enjoyable activities that will occupy your mind and redirect your attention. And by this we don’t mean doing some house chores – reschedule them for some other day. Instead, you want to do something you enjoy – spend time with friends, exercise, devote time to hobbies, do something creative, anything that is fun for you and gives you something to focus on.
One amazing way to spend your Sunday is volunteering. One study found that people who volunteer are happier with their work-life balance. Further, those who volunteered in their free time were less stressed and less likely to feel burned out at work. Another study shows that volunteering in our free time makes us feel like we actually have more time! It suggests that volunteering makes us feel more efficient, like we are doing something big and valuable with our time, and therefore like we are less stressed and hurried.
Schedule something you look forward to for the working week
You know that fuzzy excitement before a vacation? That tingling anticipation of all the adventures that you might experience on your trip? Well, a micro version of that happens before your weekend. Having something to look forward to often serves as a fuel that helps us go through stressful times. But sometimes the weekend can feel too far away, and especially so on Sunday night.
However, you don’t have to save all your fun activities for the weekend. Scheduling little things you enjoy strategically throughout the week should give you something to look forward to, which will relieve some stress and anxiety and boost your mood and energy. When, on Sunday, you know that the next time you’ll enjoy yourself won’t be on the next Friday, but actually much sooner, already on Monday even, the upcoming week doesn’t look so long and scary. These activities don’t have to be anything big – scheduling a romantic dinner on Thursday night, going out for a movie on Wednesday, or curling up in your bed with a blanket, a cup of tea and your favourite book on Monday night will do just fine.
Ask the right questions
Your Sunday night blues might simply be a product of overthinking, but they can also be an important sign. Take a step back and try to identify what’s causing you anxiety, stress, or sadness. Do you have too many commitments? Do you need more sleep? Have you neglected yourself for too long? Is your job in opposition to your personal values and beliefs? Maybe it’s time to slow down a little. Whatever it is, pinpointing the exact root of those unpleasant feelings that occur right before Monday is the first step toward a solution.
If you need additional help, do not hesitate to reach out. Your therapist can help you explore where your Sunday anxiety and sadness come from and create the right strategy to soothe them.
If you know a friend or a family member who is having a hard time on Sundays, share this article with them on social media – they may find it helpful.
How do you fight Sunday night blues? Leave a comment below!
Chances are, at least once in your life, you firmly decided that you’re going to get disciplined and change your behaviour or a habit. You’re going to get up at 5AM and go for a run every day, or workout five times a week, or you may decide to write a book… And chances are, after a few days, you failed. It’s okay. Don’t feel bad, it happens most of the time. There are two reasons for this:
1. You relied on your motivation rather than on self-discipline; and
2. Building self-discipline is, simply, difficult. It doesn’t come naturally to us as humans.
Clash of the Titans: Motivation vs. Discipline
But I don’t feel like it!
I know. Me too. Bill Gates also doesn’t feel like it either. Yet, self-discipline is not about how you feel – it’s about what you do despite how you feel.
On the other hand, motivation is emotionally driven – it’s a desire to do something. When you’re motivated, doing the thing comes easy. The problem is, however, that we often expect our motivation to last forever and to be the force that will always draw us toward success – which is unrealistic. When you rely on motivation to change a behaviour or build a habit, you’re standing on the very unstable ground with its chances of collapsing changing by the day. In contrast, self-discipline helps you don’t fall off the path. It is driven by reason and therefore makes you do the right thing for your long-term benefit despite the fact you may want to do something else.
To reach your goals, you need both self-control and motivation. Motivation is your “why” behind the goal, and it is a very powerful engine to keep you going… on a good day. On days this engine is not so active, which happen to everyone, you need self-discipline to continue doing the thing that brings you closer to success. Utilizing only one will get you nowhere.
Why Is Self-Discipline So Hard?
We, as human beings, are evolutionarily built to experience pleasure and avoid discomfort. We are also adapted to respond to immediate events, like a threat or a current problem, or immediate pleasure, and have an emotional reaction to them, which are essential for our survival. But when it comes to long-term planning, we’re not so good, or at least behaviours that follow from it are not as strong because they’re not wired to our emotions. We naturally go towards pleasure and away from pain. That’s why we fall to the temptation of doing the pleasant thing even when we know it’s not the smartest choice for us in the long run – the emotions overpower our reason. So, it’s not you, it’s your brain. 🙂
However, your instant-gratification monkey-mind is not particularly useful in modern society. Learning to do things even when they are boring, hard, or frustrating, is absolutely necessary for success. Now read that again – I said learning. Self-discipline is not a trait but a skill, and like any skill, it can be learned. If practiced on a regular basis, like any skill, it becomes easier and you become better at it. Additionally, research found that people with higher levels of self-control are happier over both short and long run. Sounds like a skill worth developing, right? Of course, some habits will be difficult to break purely because of the nature of the habit. Addiction, for example, is one that people often cannot overcome by themselves, and they may need the help of somewhere like https://www.aristarecovery.com/ in order to master the techniques that they need to use to ensure that they don’t fall back into the habit. Most habits don’t require this sort of intervention, however, so it is possible to learn how develop the self-control that will mean you are able to change your life.
How to Push Past Yourself And Get It Done
Okay, let’s equip you with some tricks that will help you become more efficient.
1. Don’t think about it too far ahead.
Thinking about all 15 tasks that need to be done today or this week can be overwhelming. When you think about them all at once, they can seem like a scary mountain you don’t want to climb on. This illusion eventually leads you to give up or, if you don’t, to stress out ahead. What happens here is a cognitive distortion – all those responsibilities piled up all at once in your mind make you believe you’ll have to deal with them altogether at the same time, while in reality you’ll complete these tasks one after another, in small chunks, which is much easier. You probably know it yourself – something seems so much more frustrating or difficult or boring when you think about it ahead than while you’re actually doing it.
So, instead of ruminating about all the things that need to be done, try to concentrate only on the first task in front of you. Just begin the first thing like it’s the only thing you have to do today, and do it mindfully. For example, if you’re in the gym, concentrate only on the movements you’re doing. Don’t think about the report that waits for you when you get home or the sink full of dishes. That will only stress you out and make it seem like a whole lot of work. The report and the sink will be there whether you stress about them or not. So, choose not.
2. “Only 5 minutes” trick
Similar to the previous one, if you think about hours and hours of work you have to put in to achieve something, chances are you’ll procrastinate. A good way to trick your brain is to pick the first task and tell yourself you’ll do it only for 5 minutes. No more, no less. And yes, after these 5 minutes you have to stop. But the magic that happens in most cases after these 5 minutes is that your energy and momentum will start to flow. You might even won’t want to stop and end up getting involved in the activity. The best thing about this 5-minute-trick is that you realize doing the thing isn’t that painful after all. The hardest thing was to start.
3. Remind yourself of your big WHY every day
When things become difficult, we can easily forget our big goal behind all our efforts. It’s human nature – remember how our brains are wired to respond to immediate problems rather than to long-term goals? Because of this, it’s important that you keep your reason easily accessible to your brain. One way to do it is to remind yourself of the end result you want to achieve every day. Morning journaling about your goal and reasons for achieving it might be helpful. Or you can place a photo of your goal result in front of your bed or on your screensaver. This will help your brain not lose sight of the long-term result. Thus, you’ll get a stronger stand against temptation more easily and actually persist in doing what brings you closer to success.
Self-Discipline Through Self-Acceptance
I think the word discipline got a bad reputation over time. We somehow started associating it with punishment when it’s really all about something very different. It’s about self-love and self-respect.
Too often we forget that discipline really means to teach, not to punish. A discipline is a student, not a recipient of behavioural consequences. – Dr. Dan Siegel, The Whole-Brain Child.
Self-discipline is a form of self-love. It means you are committed to doing something good for yourself. It shows that you want to build a meaningful and valuable life for yourself. That’s amazing!
When you look at self-discipline from this perspective, as a way of loving and appreciating yourself, it becomes a little easier to do what you know is best for yourself even when you don’t feel like it.
And remember – nobody is disciplined all the time. You’ll make mistakes; it’s completely natural. When this happens, the most important thing is to be kind to yourself and not fall to self-criticism. Self-compassion will help you get back on track faster and move forward. This “moving forward” after a failure is a crucial trait for the self-disciplined and one that is required for success.
Are you stuck in your head? Do you feel like you are worried about anything and everything all day long? Repeating the same scenarios in your head over and over and spiraling down the hole of anxious thoughts is tiring! We all feel anxious from time to time, but it is about how we deal with it that can make a difference.
Sometimes, worry can be a good thing. When there is a realistic possibility of failure or unpleasant things occurring, worry can motivate us to work harder, prepare and focus on what we can control. However, when it slips into rumination about the things you have no control over, it doesn’t lead to productive or practical solutions. Instead, it triggers unhelpful thought patterns and excessive worry that repeat over and over. It’s completely useless and simply frustrating. But how to stop?
Why Simply Telling Yourself to Stop Worrying is Not Helpful
Your excessive worry isn’t there without a reason. You bother yourself with worst-case scenarios and anxious thoughts because they give you a false sense of control. If you worry too hard, bad things might not happen, right? And if they happen, you’d surely be prepared?
Still, you don’t feel any better if the thing you were worried about really occurs, do you? Think about it.
Remember, worrying gives you a FALSE sense of control. We have a tendency to believe that rumination will bring a sense of relief, but it doesn’t because that tailspin has no end or solution, which just intensifies anxiety more.
Simply telling yourself to stop doing something is not enough because, as mentioned above, somewhere deep down you might believe that worry gives you some sense of control and relief. That’s why your subconscious mind doesn’t let go. However, this sense of control is extremely weak, and the damage to your mental health far outweighs that illusion of the “benefit”.
So the first thing you need to do is to consciously decide to give up on trying to control things you can’t control. Second, stop blaming yourself for feeling anxious. It’s enough you feel overwhelmed in the first place; you don’t need additional pressure. Simply telling yourself to stop worrying doesn’t work. So, what does?
Schedule Worry Time
It may sound counterproductive, but forcing yourself to worry during a specific time of the day may actually help you worry less. Studies consistently show that dedicating 15 to 20 minutes during the day to purposely obsess over things that worry you actually decrease the number of worrying thoughts during the day and helps to ease anxiety.
Rules are simple: schedule 15 minutes at a specific time every day to worry about your problems. Pick a time when you know you’ll be able to focus all your attention to worry without interruptions. However, try to make this time at least 2 hours away from your bedtime to avoid possible difficulties falling asleep.
Okay, now that you made your appointment with worry, spend some time with it. Dedicate your full attention to your anxious thoughts during those 15 minutes, without fighting them or trying to make them go away. Don’t try to think positive or to convince yourself these thoughts are unnecessary. Exactly the opposite – strive to come up with as many worries as you can, and try to be as uncomfortable as possible in reviewing them. If you run out of ideas in those 15 minutes, it’s important to not walk away. The goal is to fill the whole 15 minutes with worry, not a minute more or less. If you spent all your anxious ideas in the first 10 minutes, repeat the ones you already thought over.
When your scheduled date with worry passes, get up and go on with your day. You’ll meet your worry at the same time the next day, but not until then. Anxious thoughts will, of course, try to sneak in and occupy space in your head during the day. Just politely tell them that now is not the time, and they will have to wait until the appointment when you’ll listen to all of them. If they are persistent, instead of getting stuck in your head with them, try some of the mindfulness techniques like focusing on the outside sensations or on your breathing.
There is a little mind twist here. You’re probably frustrated with not being able to run away or combat all those worrying and uncomfortable thoughts; it just seems there are too many of them all the time. However, when you turn tables around and purposefully try to find as many of them as possible, you realize three things:
- There are not so many of them after all,
- Facing your worries and letting unpleasant feelings those obsessing thoughts evoke is not so terrible or unboreable,
- In the end, worrying becomes boring.
These three things change the way you approach your worry and gradually ease your anxiety over anxiety. Instead of becoming all tense on the first thought of worry, you become to experience other emotional responses, like boredom for example. That creates space for making a distance from unhelpful thought patterns and for taking a more realistic perspective.
In the end, one important note: be persistent. Give time for change. When you start practicing this technique, it’s possible that your worry will intensify in the first few days, and it will be more difficult to resist rumination between worry times. That is frustrating, but also totally natural. Just keep up the practice. Emotional changes need time. However, if this technique stirs up extremely strong emotions in you after a week, stop practicing it. Don’t hesitate to ask for additional support. Your therapist will work with you to discover what lies behind your anxious thoughts and feelings, and find techniques and tools that suit you best.