How to Break the Vicious Cycle of Worry?

by | Mar 20, 2024 | Anxiety, Burnout, Mindfulness, Psychology, Thinking | 0 comments

We all worry; it’s part of being human. However, sometimes we can fall into the trap of believing that worrying can help us to solve problems or that worrying is somehow necessary. Spending excessive time analysing potential problems can make us feel as though we’re preventing, or preparing for, worst-case scenarios. Worry can seem constructive, but often it actually exacerbates anxiety and makes us feel even more out of control.

The Cycle of Worry

The cycle of worry begins when we perceive something as a threat or a problem. In today’s context, this could range from opening our inbox to 30 unread emails to facing significant financial decisions. Our minds latch onto these potential “threats”, generating numerous “what if” scenarios and worst-case outcomes. This way of thinking then increases our anxiety as we respond to the content of our worries as dangerous. We then engage in repetitive, circular thinking, ruminating on the problem and can struggle to make any progress toward a solution. 

So How Do We Get Out of this Worry Cycle?

There are numerous ways we can start to untangle ourselves from the cycle of worry:

  1. Mindfulness: By practising mindfulness, we can learn to be fully present in our experiences rather than getting lost in worries about the future or regrets about the past. Mindfulness is a skill that takes time to develop. To start with, try incorporating a simple activity into your daily routine. For example, take a mindful walk in nature, and pay attention to the sensations of each step you take and the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Or engage in mindful eating, savouring each bite of your meal and noticing the flavours, textures, and sensations in your body as you eat.
  2. Challenge your worries: Challenge irrational or unhelpful thoughts contributing to anxiety by questioning their validity and reframing them in a more realistic and balanced way. For example, you could ask yourself:
  • What’s the evidence that the thoughts are true?
  • What’s the likelihood that the thoughts will come true?
  • Is the thought helpful?
  1. Journaling: Keep a worry journal to jot down your concerns, thoughts, and feelings. This can help externalise worries, gain perspective, and identify patterns in your thinking. For example, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by worries about work, take a few minutes each day to write down specific concerns and any associated emotions. Reflecting on your journal entries over time can provide insight into recurring themes and triggers for worry.
  2. Setting Worry Time: Designate a specific time each day to engage in worry-related activities. During this time, allow yourself to focus on your concerns, but outside of this designated period, practice redirecting your attention to other aspects of your life. For example, you might set aside 15 minutes in the evening to review your worries and brainstorm potential solutions. Outside of this time, remind yourself that worrying can wait until tomorrow’s designated worry time.
  3. Therapy and support: Seek the support of a mental health professional who can provide valuable tools and understanding of how to manage worries. 

Reach out to us at the Centre For Effective Living if you feel that your worry is becoming unmanageable, or if you are finding yourself getting stuck in unhelpful worry cycles.