Psychologist-approved tips if you’re a chronic worrier

If worrying is keeping you awake at night, give these practical tips a try.

Worrying is a pretty common state of mind, it happens to us all. But for some people (cough cough, me) it happens more frequently than others and it can not only be really frustrating but also a catalyst for anxiety.

According to Clinical Psychologist, Dr Judith Locke, indications that you may worry too much may include:

  • It is your default position to worry
  • You worry about minor things
  • You are constantly in a worried state
  • You have a one track mind when you are worrying, often becoming obsessed with the worry, even if it’s minor

Dr Locke says that the likelihood of a person having an issue with worrying too much is about 50 per cent determined by our ‘nature’ and 50 per cent by ‘nurture’. So, while we can definitely blame our parents for some of it (I’m looking at you Mum), what most of the worry warts, like myself want to know is how to actually do something about it.

Body+soul spoke with Dr Locke for her psychologist approved techniques to stop yourself unnecessarily worrying.

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1. Challenge your thoughts

Ask yourself two questions: Is it true? Is it helpful?

Dr Locke says that challenging your worry by asking yourself if what you are worrying about is actually true (e.g. will I really lose my job for taking a sick day?) and also asking yourself if it’s helpful to dwell on (can I achieve anything by worrying about it?), can be a simple way to get on top of the worry really quickly.

2. Set clear and realistic expectations about what you can achieve

“Get very clear what you can fit into a time period and consciously let go of what you can’t physically get done in that time. For example, set your intentions of what you want to get done that day and be realistic in that list, then you can’t feel guilty about things you don’t get to,” says Dr Locke.

3. Stop being another person’s saviour

Often people who worry find themselves not only worrying about themselves but others around them too. Dr Locke says this can be from more serious issues to minor ones but is “problematic if you are doing everything for a friend.”

Put simply, she says “you’re human and can’t do everything.”

4. Make a joke with yourself

By making a joke with yourself, by asking – “Am I really that important that my friend was crying all night because I didn’t call her? The answer is probably not. By taking it to the extreme you can see how ridiculous it is,” Dr Locke told body+soul.

5. Start a gratitude journal

“Looking at the positive aspects of your life can be greatly beneficial for worriers.”

Dr Locke encourages the use of gratitude journals to do this because they are an effective way of helping you be appreciative of what you have, especially if you do worry a lot.

6. Keep yourself physically busy

Keeping yourself physically active and busy means you are not solely focused on what you are worried about. It can also be a great distraction, improve mental health and it helps you sleep, which can also assist with worrying.

“Sometimes when you are not physically exhausted at the end of the day you can find yourself using that left-over energy to worry. So, keeping physically active can really help with this,” Dr Locke says.

7. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

If your worries do persist, Dr Locke says you should definitely visit your GP for a psychologist referral, specifically one who is trained in CBT or Acceptance Commitment Therapy as they provide practical strategies to help.

“Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in particular is really beneficial for worriers. Therapists take patients through anxious thoughts, have you face the things you fear and worry, so you know that they are not so bad. It demonstrates that you can most likely cope with whatever your worry is and shows that you are stronger than you claim you are.”

As well as these psychologist certified tips, I have personally found another two other things particularly helpful with my own worries.

Unplugging from the digital world

I often find the source of worries stem from an interaction or something I have seen via social media, email or a text message, so switching off from all portals that access these is a godsend, even if I only do it for two hours at the end of the day.

Set yourself a designated worry time

Yes, I have allocated myself time to worry (I like to be organised).

I put aside 30 minutes, usually toward the end of the day when I have unplugged, to think about my worries, write them down and come up with a plan. At least then I know what they are, that they have been thought about and that I can face them again when need be, with some sort of strategy in place.