We all worry. We worry about our finances. We worry about our children. We worry about the weird noise the car started making yesterday. If you’re feeling anxious and stressed, you’re not alone. Feelings of anxiety are on the rise for many Americans. And especially during back-to-school’s busy months, it’s natural to feel more stressed than usual.
However, excessive worrying is bad for your physical and mental health. Julie Manuel, psychotherapist at Kettering Behavioral Medicine Center, discusses in her intensive outpatient program how worrying can lead to chronic stress, which can lead to the physical manifestation of many diseases. It can cause insomnia, headaches, stomach problems, and difficulty concentrating.
If you find yourself worrying every day or if you realize you can’t “turn off” your worrying, you may want to change your routine or try a new strategy to combat these difficult feelings. Manuel suggests starting a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to take too much time—simply write down three things every day that you feel grateful for.
“I encourage people to really take a look at what is going on in their life,” Manuel says. “As you begin to do that, you begin to reduce your anxiety and stress level.”
Manuel practices mindfulness with her patients and stresses the importance of being present in the moment, whether that’s through guided meditations or keeping the gratitude journal. According to Manuel, this allows people to put their worries in perspective. Try out some of these tips to manage your worrying and keep your stress level low:
Learn your triggers. Keep a journal of your feelings. Look for patterns. What causes you stress? Is it situations at school or with family or work? If you know your triggers, you may be able to find a solution for them.
Find solutions. Look for actionable steps you can take to resolve what’s causing you anxiety. Sometimes you may not have control of a situation; in these cases, focus on changing your mindset. Ask yourself if there is a more realistic or positive way of looking at a situation.
Stay present. Be mindful of where you are and what you’re doing. When you find yourself dwelling on a worrisome thought, bring your focus back to the present and move on.
Talk about your worries. Tell a friend what you’re worried about. Giving voice to your fears can help you put them in perspective, and other people may offer solutions that might not have occurred to you. Sometimes talking with a friend can do the trick; but if you’re experiencing anxiety that’s disrupting your life, consider finding a licensed professional you can meet with regularly.
Breathe deeply. When you start to feel stressed, pause and focus on taking slow, deep breaths. Calming your heart rate down can bring your stress levels back down.
Exercise regularly. Exercise releases endorphins, which boosts mood and helps you stay energized and focused.
Eat well. A balanced diet keeps you energized and helps you stay mentally healthy. When your body feels good, it’s also easier to focus on keeping a positive attitude.
Don’t rely on caffeine or alcohol to ease stress. These substances can make you anxious and are common triggers for panic attacks.
Sleep tight. Aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. Chronic exhaustion can add to stress and worrisome thoughts.