12 Practical Ways to Overcome Worry
DISCLAIMER: This content is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute any professional medical advice and is not intended as a substitute for professional mental health therapy.
It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of worry. Especially with so many uncertainties that we have to deal with each day.
The good news is that the situation is not hopeless. And though worry and fear are stubborn mental states, there are things we can add to our daily habits that calm our minds.
Here are 12 habits that can help you overcome fear and manage worry. Activities that have been proven to help reduce stress, calm agitated emotions, regulate mood, and enhance a sense of well-being. Things that you can easily add to your daily routines.
We’ll look at:
- Defining worry and fear
- 12 simple and practical ways to combat worry and fear:
- Have a support group
- Keep a journal
- Exercise often
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing
- Listen to soothing music
- Go out in nature
- Avoid stressful work situations
- Plan ahead to avoid last-minute stress
- Reward yourself whenever you overcome worry
- Do something you enjoy
- Turn worrisome thoughts into prayer
Let’s jump right in.
What is worry and fear, really?
Worry and fear are mental states that cause a feeling of uneasiness and dread that something bad may happen. Sometimes we can feel worried but not even know why.
Fear has to do with a known threat in the present moment. It’s a natural response from the nervous system to keep us out of danger.1
And worry has to do with concern for mostly unknown and unexpected things that are in the future.
Both feelings are okay in the short term, but excessive worry and fear over a long time can be crippling to anyone’s everyday life, leading to anxiety.
True anxiety is not just a passing state. Anxiety is a medical condition or disorder that can range anywhere from a generalized anxiety disorder to panic attacks, and may even lead to other physical health problems.2
It can be caused by phobias, trauma, stress build-up, abusing drugs and alcohol, etc.3
Physical symptoms include nervousness, increased heart rate, and having a hard time controlling worries and fears.
And to keep worry from growing into an anxiety monster, here are strategies that will help you on that journey.
12 simple and practical ways to combat worry and fear
In this section, we’ll explore strategies for avoiding worry and fear, or managing the symptoms that come with anxiety.
While these tips are no replacement for professional therapy, these can be self-help measures you can apply to your daily life, alongside other forms of treatment.
1. Find a support group, or a friend you can trust
We humans are social beings. And having someone to talk to and pray with can go a long way in helping us deal with difficult situations.
It could be a friend you trust. Or a family member. Or anyone who will listen without being distracted, and without judging or criticizing you.
When you start spiraling, talking about your fears can help you sort them out. It may even help them seem far less threatening or impossible to handle. And others can help us see a different perspective to the problem, or come up with a helpful solution.
It doesn’t mean you have to talk to a lot of people. In most cases, a few helpful friends will prove sufficient.
However, if you struggle to find someone you feel comfortable confiding in, there may be support groups in your community that are free to attend, or at least free to try. Check out local health clinics, community centers, and churches to see what might be offered.
These could be available in person or online. And they could be run by organizations, private groups, or as group therapy organized by hospitals.4
And it is always highly recommended to seek professional help with a mental health professional. Even if you don’t think you have a serious condition, there are numerous benefits to counseling, and they are trained to help you handle the difficulties of life with scientifically-based strategies. They may even recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
2. Keep a journal
It’s amazing how helpful it can be just to write down your thoughts and emotions. It helps further process thoughts and situations, which can start leading you toward possible solutions.
Try writing out your thoughts every time you notice a worry-cycle starting. Just expressing it may already help you tackle it, since writing tends to draw out the most creative parts of us.5
We can also review our entries after certain periods and take note of trends or situations that make us worried or fearful. Then we can make proactive efforts to avoid them, or find healthier ways to deal with them if they involve necessary parts of our lives.
Research on gratitude has shown that being thankful promotes positive emotions, heightens awareness, boosts wellbeing, and helps relieve stress.6
So try to take just a little bit of time at the day’s end to write about what you were grateful for that day. It could be answered prayers, people who made you smile, etc.
Or you can do it in the morning to set the tone for the day.
Look back to the previous day at all the things that went well and list all the things you are thankful for.
Journaling regularly can help progressively, compounding over time as well. It’s a healthy mental habit.
Exercise is an effective, natural anti-anxiety treatment.7
When we get up and moving, our bodies release endorphins, which benefits our minds and bodies by:
- Relieving tension and stress
- Boosting energy
- Enhancing our sense of well-being
Exercise also stimulates the parts of the brain responsible for executive functions, so that can help regulate the brain’s emotional centers—which is where anxiety resides when it awakens.
And since exercise requires concentration, it takes your mind off the feelings of fear and anxiety, breaking the worry cycle.
Also, exercise has emotional and psychological benefits by improving confidence, increasing chances of social interactions, and just providing a healthy way to cope with various situations.8
Of course, it’s important to find out what type of exercise you will most enjoy and be able to reasonably add to your life. If you don’t enjoy running, this doesn’t mean you have to start jogging every morning. Do a little research and start small.
For more information about the benefits of exercise and finding what works for you, check out this page.
4. Eat a healthy, balanced diet
A healthy diet is vital for both physical and mental health. Our thought patterns can indeed be influenced by what we eat.
For example, research is showing that some foods can predispose individuals to anxiety. Especially in high quantities. Such foods include:9
- Too much sugar and other refined carbohydrates, which can cause fluctuating blood sugar levels due to hormonal reactions that impact your mood, energy, and concentration, followed by insulin spikes and stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline which can lead to anxiety.
- Too much coffee, since caffeine can increase stress hormone levels and anxiety levels. Caffeinated soda can do the same, and possibly more, since there is so much sugar in it.
- Artificial sweeteners, which are commonly found in diet soda, have also been linked to mood problems.10 It’s not likely that they’re causing mood disorders, but they’ve been shown to exacerbate existing conditions or symptoms. And because they’re also linked to several other health issues, it’s best to avoid them as much as possible.
- Alcohol. Even though it causes momentary feelings of relaxation, it also causes anything from restlessness to anxiety and panic attacks as its effects wear off.
- Aged, fermented, cured, smoked, and cultured foods like salami, cheese, sauerkraut, red wine, etc. These contain histamine, a powerful neurotransmitter that can aggravate our nervous and hormonal systems, making anxiety worse.
- Foods from the nightshades plant family contain glycoalkaloids that cause overstimulation of the nervous system in sensitive individuals. These foods include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and goji berries.
On the brighter side, there are also foods that can help us feel better! Research shows that some foods stimulate the release of “feel good” neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are especially effective in the brain’s management of anxiety.
These foods include asparagus, almonds, probiotics-rich foods like (non-vinegar) pickles or kimchi, cashews, and leafy greens.
Also look for foods rich in magnesium, zinc, omega-3, and antioxidants.11
And all these are found in great measure in the kind of diet Adventists aim to maintain—plant-based, with an emphasis in nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
5. Try relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques are skills used alongside conventional psychotherapy to relieve anxiety. We can try them by ourselves at home to relieve the anxiety and tension build-up that happens in our bodies as a result of worry and stress.12
You may have been encouraged to meditate or to practice mindfulness. These are good examples of ways to help you relax and free the mind from relentless ruminating.
We’ll look at the following two examples of relaxation techniques—deep breathing and muscle relaxation.
When in a state of worry, you often become anxious and breathe faster, which usually leads to more anxiety.
But if you take deep breaths, it helps increase oxygen levels. You can start to soothe your nerves, calm your mind, and quiet negative thoughts.
The technique is called diaphragmatic breathing.
Muscle relaxation techniques
This is achieved by alternately tensing and releasing different muscle groups in your body to release muscle tension.
This can help you break the endless loop of worrying by focusing your mind on your body instead of your thoughts.
And as your body relaxes, your mind always tends to follow suit.
6. Listen to soothing music
Relaxing music helps us to process our emotions, relieve stress, and moderate mood, therefore helping with worry and anxiety.
Research shows that listening to meditative music helps relieve anxiety in patients.13
Calm music will help you sleep or rest better, while happy and cheerful music will lift your mood.
Good music may mean different styles for different people. But in general, research has shown that music with a tempo of about 60 beats per minute is the best. This is because it promotes alpha brain waves which lead to a relaxed and conscious mind.14
It also reduces the amount of stress hormones the body releases, like cortisol and adrenaline.15
And these positive effects are not only produced by listening to this music, but also when we make the music. This would be writing a song, playing an instrument, or singing.
So go ahead and search for that relaxing playlist. Most streaming services have such collections. They’re mostly classical pieces, hymns, etc.
7. Go out in nature
Natural beauty found outside in parks, beaches, backyards, or anywhere outdoors is calming to most people.
Research shows that being out in nature enhances emotional well-being, relieves stress, and relaxes the mood.16
Also, nature lets you see the bright and beautiful aspects in the world around you, which brightens your outlook.
And the physical activity involved, like walking or jogging outdoors, diverts the thoughts from worrying to the exercise, which is an excellent distraction from a cycle of worry and fear.
So make a point to get out and take a walk among the trees, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. It could be at remote places, or city parks, or at the beach.
8. Avoid stressful work situations
Our workplaces can be tremendous sources of worry and fear.
Especially if you don’t have a stable job or if you work in a tense environment. Just having a job you don’t find fulfilling can put a damper on your mood.
And there’s no question how stressful it can be if you’re in a situation where you’re not sure if you’ll have a job tomorrow or not.
Our careers can cause a whole variety of worry cycles that rarely end up in a productive place.
While we can’t always change our work situation, at least not immediately, here are some steps you can take to make things more manageable:17
- Setting healthy boundaries at work
- Taking time to recharge
- Finding healthy ways to deal with the stress, like exercising
- Learning ways to relax, like the relaxation techniques we looked at earlier
- Talking to your supervisor and coming up with workable options for you
- Finding a support group
- Start searching for another job
And it can certainly help to pray about it, asking God to lead you toward a better opportunity.
Talk to friends in your network, and who knows? One of them may know of a job opening that might be just right for you.
9. Plan ahead to avoid last-minute stress
In many cases, proper planning removes a large percentage of things we worry about—especially those we can influence or which are in our power to solve.
For situations we’re already in or future events, we can:
- Evaluate the situation
- Come up with concrete steps for dealing with it
- Then put the plan into action
For example, if you are worried about a big exam coming up, you can look at how much you need to study, plan the time you have until the exam time, then do your best to remove distractions and get started.
Because the best way to be ready for an exam at the end of the school year is to be a faithful student each day in the school year.
From that example, we see that doing what you need to do today is the best preparation for facing tomorrow’s trials.
10. Reward yourself when you overcome worry
Rewarding yourself leads to the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s released when your brain is expecting a reward.
It’s often called the “feel-good hormone.”
And if you associate a certain activity with the pleasure of receiving a reward, even just the anticipation of this activity raises dopamine levels. Then when you do the activity, the flood of dopamine acts to reinforce this “craving” and focus on satisfying it in the future.
So, it creates a cycle of motivation, reward, and reinforcement.
And if you can associate overcoming worry with a reward, you get a triple benefit. The benefits of:
- Being motivated to deal with the worry
- Enjoying the gift you use to reward yourself
- Resolving to overcome the next time you start getting worried
A reward in this case could be as simple as getting yourself a new book, or treating yourself to a favorite refreshing drink or hot beverage. Any small thing that you know will give you a boost.
These habits, together with fostering positive mindsets, have helped many to fight worry and fear. And most importantly, trusting in God’s promise to help you overcome worry and fear, because as Paul says:
“It is God who is at work in you, both to desire and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13, NASB).
And we can always find comfort in Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, right after warning people about how focusing on wealth and possessions can drive you crazy, He says:
“So don’t worry, saying ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ … Your heavenly Father knows that you need [these things]. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (verses 31-33, CSB).
11. Do something you enjoy
Getting wrapped up in a healthy hobby has a great way of distracting us from all the things we worry about. It also helps us use our time and energy on something constructive.
You can even do something as simple as listen to your favorite podcast, listen to music, go hiking, or plant some flowers.
Just something you find meaningful and enjoy doing.
Studies have shown that engaging in a hobby helps to reduce stress, improve sense of well-being, and enhance social connections. And all these benefits are helpful in dealing with worries and fears.18
So make some time for a hobby. It could be daily, weekly, or even monthly.
12. Turn worrisome thoughts into prayers
While our aim is to get to where we don’t get worried easily, we know that there will be moments in the journey when worry will kick in.
Maybe a child gets sick. Or you get stuck in traffic on your way to an important appointment. Or your doctor informs you of some health issues.
Then you begin talking to yourself about all things that can go wrong…
But a good way to deal with these anxious thoughts is to begin to talk to God about it.
Paul tells us not to “worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6, CSB).
Dr. David Rosmarin, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Spirituality and Mental Health Program at McLean Hospital, in Massachusetts found in his research that prayer can calm your nervous system and shut down your fight or flight response. It also makes you less reactive to negative emotions like anger and more tolerant to pain.19
This has an effect of decreasing stress and anxiety, while promoting a more positive mood.
So the next time you start getting stressed and worried over something, just talk to God about your fears and frustrations, and ask Him to help you.
God has thousands of ways to solve our problems. And even in seemingly impossible situations, you may be surprised at how He will intervene for you. And even if it’s not solved immediately, you will experience relief in trusting in His promise to care for you.
While we do this, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, CSB).
Then you can maintain a calm disposition, make better decisions, and navigate the situation better.
You can overcome worry and fear!
As you’ve seen, there are simple strategies you can adopt to help you deal with worry and fear. These are things you can implement into your daily routine, which will go a long way in helping you take your life back.
God desires for you to live your life to the fullest without the crippling effects of fear and anxiety.
He welcomes you to bring Him all your fears in prayer when He says, “Call on Me in a day of trouble, I will rescue you, and you will honor Me” (Psalm 50:15, CSB).
So go ahead and begin your journey towards overcoming worry and fear. Try these simple strategies, and see how they work for you.
To learn more on overcoming worry and fear, check out this page on attitudes to help you overcome worry and fear.
- https://www.verywellmind.com/fear-and-anxiety-differences-and-similarities-2584399 [↵]
- https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/do-i-have-anxiety-or-worry-whats-the-difference-2018072314303 [↵]
- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961 [↵]
- https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/anxiety-support-group [↵]
- https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryancollinseurope/2019/11/05/the-surprising-creative-benefits-of-journal-writing/?sh=7a253e1d110a [↵]
- https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier#:~:text=In%20positive%20psychology%20research%2C%20gratitude,adversity%2C%20and%20build%20strong%20relationships. [↵]
- https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495 [↵]
- https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-exercise-help-treat-anxiety-2019102418096 [↵]
- https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/diagnosis-diet/201607/these-5-foods-and-substances-can-cause-anxiety-and-insomnia [↵]
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28198207/ [↵]
- https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-strategies-to-ease-anxiety-201604139441 [↵]
- https://medicine.umich.edu/sites/default/files/content/downloads/Relaxation-Skills-for-Anxiety.pdf [↵]
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5685102/ [↵]
- https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/how-music-affects-mental-health [↵]
- https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/music-therapy#for-anxiety [↵]
- https://www.apa.org/monitor/2020/04/nurtured-nature [↵]
- https://www.apa.org/topics/healthy-workplaces/work-stress [↵]
- https://extension.usu.edu/mentalhealth/articles/how-hobbies-improve-mental-health [↵]
- https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/the-science-of-prayer-2.html [↵]
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