The Hubby likes to call me a “Nervous Nelly” because I tend to be kind of high-strung. I worry too much about silly little things and get all worked up over “what if” scenarios.
I blame my Dad…Growing up, he’d always be unplugging the microwave when we weren’t using it (“It could catch fire!”), turning off our bedroom lights if we left for five minutes (“You’re wasting electricity!”), and calling us if we were 30 seconds late for curfew because he immediately started imagining us being kidnapped or who knows what. (The movie Taken was what I think he imagined would happen to us every time we left the house.)
Stress and worry is something I’ve dealt with my whole life. In middle school and high school, I used to get panic attacks around tough times like finals. (Or the college application process! Oh my gosh, that freaked me out like you wouldn’t believe.) But over the years, I’ve learned ways to deal with my worry when it starts to get overwhelming.
I may always be a worrywart by nature, I think it’s just my personality. But when the worry starts to take over, here are some of the ways I’ve learned to cope:
1. Breathing exercises
It sounds clichéd, but it totally works. If you can get away from the stressful situation, find a quiet room and sit down in a comfortable position. Then, close your eyes and focus only on your breathing. (If you can’t get away, at least sit still for a minute or two and still do the breathing part.)
Take a long breath in through your nose, focusing on how your stomach expands. (It should expand if you’re really breathing deeply. Put your hand on your stomach if that helps you focus on it.) Then, focus on letting that breath out slowly through your mouth, feeling your stomach deflate as you do it. Do this for as long as it takes to feel your breathing naturally fall into this relaxed pattern.
There are two benefits to this: One, it helps you clear your mind of everything you’ve been stressing over, and two, it calms down your body. When you’re stressed, your breathing tends to get shallow and quick, which only makes you feel more stressed. By calming down your breath, you can trick your mind into feeling calmer, too.
2. Working out
I don’t just exercise to be healthier, I do it because it’s a huge mood booster. It can help you work through your stress, relieve your frustrations, and release happiness-boosting endorphins into your system.
If you’re worked up over something really stressful and want to release some of that tension in a healthy way, try high-action activities like Zumba, running, or spin class. If you’re so worked up that action is the last thing you need, try a soothing activity like yoga to help you calm your mind and find your center.
3. Drink herbal tea
(Decaf, of course!)
I love lavender-infused tea and almond tea, both immediately calm me down. Oolong is also supposed to be good for relaxation. Do a little tea ritual like you’d do if you were practicing Zen…Take time to really enjoy the tea and focus on things like the warmth of the mug in your hands and the steam rising up to your nostrils. I’ve done my own little “tea ritual” enough times that just the act of getting out my teapot to brew some hot water makes me start to calm down.
4. Use personal mantras
I have some phrases I repeat to myself when I find myself getting all wrapped up in worry. They remind me to focus on what really matters and help me put things into perspective. Come up with a list of phrases (or visualizations) that speak to you and practice using them when you start to feel worried. You’d be surprised how much of a difference it can make.
Are you a worrywart? What are your tips?