Stop Worrying -- Tips That Work
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October 12, 2009 , last updated October 3, 2014
By Onda St. Jean, Contributing Columnist

Worry is the use of mental energy to anticipate bad
outcomes. As such, it is a uniquely human activity. Other
animals, by contrast, do not worry. They experience stress,
yes, but that stress is related to real danger -- a predator is
breathing down your back and you're running to escape
with your life.

But worrying, fretting, happens even when the danger is
not real. We worry even when the threat is over. And not
only do we worry that something bad will happen. We also
worry that something good --- something wished for ---
will not come true. How many times have you worried that
some one you like will not like you in return?

Worry occurs when we lack control.  In fact, studies show
that people who worry are those who need control more
than others.  And that is the key to how to stop worrying.
Here are 4 tips to stop worrying, based on research on
anxiety from universities around the world.

Break Repetitive Thoughts. Worry is characterized by a
ream of repetitive thoughts.  We think about what could
happen over and over again. You can see the repetitive
behavior in the extreme example of worry --anxiety
disorders.  In anxiety disorders such as obsessive
compulsive disorders, victims repeat certain actions over
and over again, unable to break the loop. So, the first habit
to break is the habit of repetition.

How do you break out of the loop? Visualization. The only
way to stop a thought is with another thought. The
thought you should use to break through the worry has to
be a powerful one for you.

Choose your happiest memory. Imagine the most soothing
scene you have ever experienced ---or imagined. Now, find
a picture in a magazine or online that comes as close as
possible to that scene. Carry that picture with you.

When you find yourself in a worry loop, take that picture
out and look at it. Now, here's the key.  Imagine yourself in
the scene, seeing yourself moving through the scene. If,
for example, there is a tree in your scene, imagine yourself
trying to climb that tree. Whatever you imagine yourself
doing, it must be a task, a chore, that requires energy.
Climbing a tree, building a sand castle, painting a house.
Next, while you are still imagining yourself in the scene,
imagine yourself making progress until you are about half
way through the chore.

By the time you are halfway through your chore in the
scene, you will no longer even remember what you were
worrying about.

Live Life Backwards. Remember what you did yesterday?
How about the day before? How about a week ago today?  
Take a moment and start to recount your life backwards.
Remember every detail of what you did yesterday, starting
with the moment you went to bed that night and going

We don't recommend that you spend too much time living
life backwards. But this little exercise will help to "change
the channels" of your current pattern of worrying.  It will
help to turn the page by re-training your attention. You will
then be ready for the most effective worry-breaker --- the
magic of mindfulness.

Mindfulness -Dwell on the Present.  The here and now.
The present.  To get here, to
be here just notice how you
are breathing. Are you breathing in a deep way or taking
shallow breaths. Are you congested?  Is the room stuffy?
Is it cold where you are?  

Now, think about your hands. Are they cold? Are they in
pain? Stretch them.  Rub them. Most of us never even think
of our hands. But they do so much work for us. Take a
moment to thank them.  Rub your hands together. Shake
them out. Wiggle them.

Now, think about your feet. Are they in pain? Are they
cold? Wiggle your toes. Stretch your back like a cat. This
exercise will force you to remember the present.  The
present. People who live in the present do not worry about
the future.

If you find that you are worrying about something, take
inventory of your present circumstances. If you're
worrying that you won't have enough money to sustain
yourself in the future, for example, ask yourself"Am I
now?" "Am I cold now?" "Am I sheltered now".

If you are worrying that you won't be able to get a job,
earn enough money, retire comfortable --- anything--- just
ask yourself, are you, at this present time, in this present
moment, in need of what you are worrying about?

Mindfulness is a skill, a tool. It helps us to return us to the
only power we have --which is the power to live in the

You can't do anything about the past---it's already

You can't do anything about the future --it's not here yet.

But you
can do something about the present.  Commit all
your energy to living and doing in the present, and you'll
find that, miraculously, the future will take care of itself.
(Read more about
how you shape your own karma.)

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