How To Manage And Deal With Worry

Published on January 21st, 2021

Updated on March 12th, 2022

How To Manage And Deal With Worry

During uncertain times, it is natural to have worries and doubts.  But when the worries feel uncontrollable or overwhelming, they can impact our daily lives, our mental health, and our overall well-being.  Worrying prevents us from seeing things clearly, making healthy decisions, and can affect those around us. If you are experiencing excessive worry, learning ways to manage the worry can help you feel more in control instead of your worries controlling you.

Manage the “What if’s….”

When we worry about future events, or have uncertainty about what will happen in the future, our minds tend to go to the “what if” thoughts.  And more often than not, ruminating about what could happen or what might happen, results in increased fear and anxiety.  This is because the “what ifs” tend to lead to catastrophizing, or thinking about the worst-case scenarios; very rarely do we predict positive outcomes. Catching when your mind goes to the “what if” thoughts (and choosing not to follow those thoughts) is a great start of managing your worries.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one of the most well researched techniques for managing thoughts.  Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment.  We can be mindful of what is going on in the present moment both internally (physically, emotionally, and mentally) and externally (our surroundings, our behaviors, what others are saying or doing, etc.).  Mindfulness helps eliminate worry, especially those “what if’s” associated with the future.  There are many ways we can increase our mindfulness:

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Radical Acceptance

When we radically, or fully, accept something, it means we are choosing to see reality for what it is, rather than fighting it or denying it.  So many things in life are out of our control, and many of us spend much of our time complaining about the things we do not like, which are the exact things that bring us anxiety.  Through radical acceptance, we free our minds to focus on other things.

Learn About Cognitive Distortions

At the root of most worry, a cognitive distortion can be found.  Cognitive distortions are, put simply, errors in thinking.  Cognitive distortions result in thoughts that are irrational, unfounded, or just plain wrong.  While not an exhaustive list, these are some of the most common cognitive distortions:   

All-or-nothing thinking (also known as black-or-white thinking)
All-or-nothing thinking is thinking in terms of false dichotomies.  This either/or way of thinking about the world is illogical and unrealistic, and most certainly contributes to worry.  For example, someone who struggles with all or nothing thinking might think, “I am total failure” after getting a B on an exam. In life there are in-betweens and shades of grey; not everything is an absolute.

Discounting the positive
This cognitive distortion involves minimizing positive experiences or turning positive experiences into negative ones.  For example, someone who does well on a project might think, “Anyone could have done well.” This way of thinking can suck the joy from life and create an overall sense of negativity.

Emotional reasoning
This error in thinking is likely one everyone has experienced.   We fall into emotional reasoning when we take our emotions as evidence of the truth.   For example, “I feel worthless, so I am worthless.

Mind-reading is a cognitive distortion that occurs when we assume what others are thinking and feeling.  The assumptions made from mind-reading come without any supporting evidence.

Write The Worries Down
As worries arise, it can be helpful to write them down.  Once the worry is recorded, use some of the grounding techniques (previously mentioned) to bring yourself back to the present moment.  Writing our worries down helps alleviate some of the “pressure” from our busy minds, and allows for the opportunity to go back and reflect on and challenge some of the worries we recorded.


The link between gratitude and anxiety goes beyond just seeing the positive side of things.  Thanks to the neuroplasticity of the brain, it can be rewired with our thoughts.  The more we can focus on what we are grateful for, the more grateful thoughts our brain will produce.  Over time, these thoughts of gratitude can begin to cancel out the worry thoughts.

Gratitude has been shown to decrease stress levels.  And while stress and worry are not the same thing, they are closely linked. Practicing gratitude is simple – you could write down a few things you are grateful for each day, or even write gratitude letters to your loved ones.

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