6 Things You Can Do to Stop Worrying Today

Do you worry too much? Do you fret about every little thing in life? Are you constantly stressed about work, health, finances, and more? Maybe you even worry about your worrying.

Some people call this “what if disease” or “worst-case scenario disease,” but it can actually be a sign of a mental health disorder. If chronic worrying is interfering with your daily routine and diminishing your quality of life, it’s time to take action.

Are you constantly worried about your work, health, finances, relationship, children, pets, and more? Some people call this “what if disease,” but it can actually be a sign of a mental health disorder. Click To Tweet

This blog will introduce you to the consequences of constant worry, what makes some people more prone to worry, and how to stop worrying so you can feel happier.

WHAT IS CHRONIC WORRYING?

Chronic worry occurs when someone is unable to manage their worries. If you fall into this category, you may find that anxious thoughts tend to loop endlessly in your mind. And these fearful thoughts persist even in the lack of a direct threat.

Worriers are often preoccupied with distressing thoughts about a wide range of things, including:

  • Health and the possibility of getting or being ill
  • Family issues
  • Romantic relationships and friendships
  • Career
  • Financial issues
  • World affairs
  • Other issues

When you are constantly fretting about what might go wrong, it can make it very difficult to relax. Chronic stress may lead to hypervigilance, which is being overly aware of your surroundings and potential dangers. You may also have a sense of impending doom, expecting something to go wrong at any moment.

It’s important to understand that some anxiety and worry is a good thing. It helps you be prepared.

However, chronic worry can be mentally exhausting and physically draining. It is associated with mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. On the physical side, it can lead to muscle tension, a nervous stomach, loose bowels, high blood pressure, increased risk of viral and bacterial infections, and more.

WORRYING IN THE BRAIN

The brain-imaging work using single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) scans at Amen Clinics shows that people who tend to be worriers often have busy brain. In particular, there is too much activity in an area of the brain called the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG).

Located deep in the middle of the frontal lobes, this fascinating region is involved in shifting your attention from one thought to another and from one activity to another. When there is heightened brain activity here, people tend to get stuck.

Often due to low serotonin levels in the brain, overactivity in the ACG is common in people who get locked into negative thoughts or behaviors. They have trouble seeing options in situations and stay focused on those worst-case scenarios.

Optimizing this part of the mind involves increasing serotonin levels and brain training techniques to stop getting stuck on worries.

6 WAYS TO STOP CHRONIC WORRYING

  1. Eat foods that increase serotonin levels.

Research shows there are two ways that food can increase serotonin levels. First, foods high in simple carbohydrates—such as pastas, potatoes, breads, pastries, pretzels, and popcorn—increase insulin levels.

Second, the uptick in insulin raises the amount of L-tryptophan that enters the brain. Tryptophan is a natural amino acid building block for serotonin. With more tryptophan in the brain, more of it is converted to serotonin.

The calming effect of serotonin can often be felt in 30 minutes or less by eating these foods. This may be one of the reasons simple carbohydrates are so addictive.

Be aware that over time, simple carbohydrates can cause high blood-sugar levels that are associated with brain atrophy and some types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. For a healthier way to boost serotonin, opt for complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes and garbanzo beans.

  1. Exercise on a regular basis.

Physical activity can be helpful in calming worries and increasing cognitive flexibility. Exercise works by increasing brain levels of tryptophan, according to research.

In addition, exercise increases your energy levels and may distract you from the worrisome thoughts that tend to loop in your mind. When you find yourself focusing on stressful thoughts, take an exercise break.

Go for a brisk walk, do a few dance moves, try a few yoga poses, or engage in some other form of exercise. It can help take your mind off your worries.

  1. Practice “Thought Stopping.”

Whenever you notice thoughts looping or getting stuck in your head, imagine seeing a traffic stop sign in your head and silently saying to yourself, “STOP. THIS IS MY ACG GETTING STUCK!” For some people, the more actively they stop these thoughts, the more control they develop over them.

Keep a journal where you note how many times you use thought stopping each day. It’s likely the number of times you’ll need this intervention will decrease as you gain better control.

  1. Notice when you’re stuck, distract yourself and come back later.

A primary way to overcome a busy anterior cingulate gyrus is to notice when you’re stuck on a thought and do something to distract yourself. Becoming aware of circular or looping thoughts is essential to gaining control over them.

Distraction is often a very helpful technique. Get up and do something else. For example, try singing your favorite song, do a few stretches, or read an article.

  1. Think through answers before automatically saying no.

As mentioned, many worriers imagine the worst things that can happen. Because of this, when asked to do something, these people have an automatic tendency to say no. Fight this tendency.

Before answering questions or responding to requests in a negative way, take a breath and think for a moment. If you automatically envision a bad outcome, practice thinking about a good outcome. Is that good scenario more likely to happen than the bad one? If so, say yes.

  1. Write out options and solutions when you feel stuck.

When you’re stuck on a stressful thought, it is often helpful to write it down. Writing it down helps to get it out of your head. Seeing a thought on paper makes it easier to deal with it in a rational way.

When repetitive worries interfere with sleep, keep a pen and paper near your bed to write them out. After you write out a thought that has “gotten stuck,” generate a list of things you can do about it and things you can’t do about it. Practice focusing your energy on the things you can control about a situation and stop dwelling on what you can’t control.

SEEKING TREATMENT FOR EXCESSIVE WORRYING

By putting these strategies into action on a daily basis, you can begin to calm your worries. If you try all these interventions but are still wracked with worry, it may be time to see a mental health professional.

Treatment options for anxiety and worrying may include various forms of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medications, and/or nutritional supplements to boost serotonin levels.

Be sure to choose a provider who understands that excessive worrying is associated with overactivity in the brain. This can help you get more targeted treatment that will be more effective.

Chronic stress, excessive worrying, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

5 Comments »

  1. i am77! “Let me say this about that! This is the best miost effective piece of learning as well as advice I have eeeevvvverrrrrr received in my rich , but sometimes tormented life bc of this exact to the letter emotional problem! For all you do Dr. Amen…. thank you and a million hugs( which is alot for a borderline autistic!!)

    Comment by Ronna Berezin — October 28, 2016 @ 3:39 PM

  2. I have an hyperactive ACG based on reading this. I am also Hypo thyroid that I know of. I have not has much success with using T4 or T3 to treat so I pray God either heals me or takes me. I am only 49

    Comment by jrt — October 28, 2016 @ 10:33 PM

  3. excellent advice!

    Comment by doug morris — April 29, 2024 @ 8:53 AM

  4. So motivating and hopeful. Was worried and looping and saw article. Timing great applying NOW

    Comment by Brett — May 3, 2024 @ 11:07 AM

  5. Shoot. I’m like so worried about this articles effects on me

    Comment by Albert Stone cabodeal — May 3, 2024 @ 11:43 AM

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