I finally finish up my work for the night, and I’m ready for bed. I crawl under the sheets for a blissful night of sleep. I turn off the light, I lay my head on the pillow, and I finally close my eyes for the day.
And then, bam: Did I lock the front door? What if I forget to answer that email tomorrow morning? Did I remember to pack Ryan’s lunch? When will I have time to grade those papers? What did she mean by “that’s fine?” Why can’t I sleep? What if I can’t focus tomorrow due to exhaustion? Gah!
Lather, rinse, repeat…
And you know what? Sometimes the day isn’t much better.
Needless to say, I battle with anxiety. And it’s hard.
Can you relate? Does your mind ever spin with worry? Do you find yourself fretting over what you can’t control?
If so, keep reading. You’re not alone.
While I still battle with anxiety, especially at night, it is improving. Over the last year or so, I’ve discovered several strategies that help me recognize and quell that worry before it robs me of another night’s sleep. If you’re ready to do the same, then give these strategies a try; learn how to stop worrying in its tracks.
Stop Worrying: 6 Tips You Need to Reduce Anxiety and Stress
Plan Ahead to Stop Worrying and Avoid Additional Stress
For me, worry and anxiety often stem from feeling unprepared. For a simple daily example, I often find myself worrying that I’ll be late in the morning, or I’ll forget something important at home.
To help silence this concern, I take a few minutes each night to get myself organized.
I place everything I need for the following day next to the front door, and I put my car keys on top of any smaller “do-not-forget” items. If I’m feeling especially anxious, I make a checklist of everything I must do before heading out the door. Taking these few extra steps provides the extra reassurance I need to silence my racing mind quickly.
Rid Yourself of Distractions and Time-Wasters
A lot of stress revolves around a perceived shortage of time. I don’t know about you, but when I’m racing the clock, my anxiety levels skyrocket. And needless to say, that’s no fun.
But here’s the deal. More often than not, we do have enough time to complete the task at hand. The problem is this: we’re too distracted to focus on what’s important.
So cut off anxiety at its source; rid yourself of unnecessary distractions and focus on what’s important.
Do a Brain Dump and Make a List
When my mind is racing, I often turn to my trusty bullet journal and do a brain dump.
What’s a brain dump, you ask? Simply put, I take 5 minutes to write down everything and anything that’s swirling around in my mind. I don’t hold back or edit for clarity; I just get it all down on paper.
Admittedly, your list will look a bit jumbled when you’re done, and that’s okay! It’s much better to have the jumble down on paper than stuck in your head.
My list for Thursday included such random thing as: get bananas from the grocery store, submit abstract to conference, call mom, schedule Bruno’s vet appointment, review lecture notes, ask Ryan when the fence people are coming, and put away laundry.
Once I have my brain dump in front of me, I highlight the items that need to get done, and I write them on my to-do list for the following day. Knowing that I will tend to those pressing projects the next day – and that I won’t forget since they’re written down – helps quiet my mind.
Get Familiar With New Surroundings
If I’m giving a lecture at an unfamiliar location, speaking at a conference, or even teaching in a new classroom, that familiar feeling of anxiety starts building in my chest.
What if I can’t find the conference room? What if the technology doesn’t work? How long will it take for me to get there?
By taking some time to visit the unknown location or ask questions about the venue, however, I can help quiet those fears.
For example, in April I gave a lecture at a theater in Minneapolis. I had no idea where it was, so I drove there the day before. I learned where to park, checked out the space, and knew how long it would take me to get there. On the day of the talk, things were much less stressful because I planned ahead a bit.Stop worrying and start living today! #StressFree #Anxiety #MentalHealth Click To Tweet
I’ve always been a fan of journaling. Ever since I was little, I would take time before bed to reflect on my day. It was a great outlet, and it provided an excellent way for me to unwind.
Once I started dealing with anxiety in college and graduate school, however, journaling took on an entirely new role.
I found that recording my worries, no matter how big or small, was incredibly therapeutic. Sometimes writing my thoughts on paper helped me realize how unlikely they were to happen. Other times writing them down helped me process my fear and understand its root cause. And occasionally, working through my anxiety with a pen and paper allowed me to come up with a solution to handle the problem.
Not surprisingly, all three of these outcomes made sleeping much easier.
Limit Your Worry Time
I learned this last tip from Gretchen Rubin’s Podcast, Happier.
Unfortunately, there are times when we simply can’t quiet the anxiety no matter how hard we try. When this happens, Gretchen recommends setting aside a specific time to worry each day.
The key takeaway, however, is that you can only worry during that time.
If I’m concerned about a lecture I’m giving in a few weeks, for example, I cannot sit around and worry about it all day. Not only will it make the situation worse, but it’s also an incredible waste of time and energy.
So instead, I set a specific time frame, and I allow myself to worry then. That way, if I’m trying to focus on another project and that feeling of anxiety starts creeping in, I can tell myself, “Nope! Push that aside for now. You’re worrying about that at 5:00.”
It sounds a little silly, I know. But give it a try. It’s surprisingly effective.
And there you have it, friends. Those are my top six strategies to stop worrying and silence unnecessary stress and anxiety. Want to keep these reminders nearby? Download a cheat sheet with my six strategies here!
Do you struggle with anxiety? What are your tips to stop worrying? Do you like to journal? Let me know below!