Money, work, relationships, health, pretty much everything causes us to worry more than we need to. It’s not our fault. Our brains are wired to worry all the time. Whenever we are anticipating something, our hearts start thumping louder and butterflies start flying in our stomachs. As soon as we lay down, thoughts flood in and keep us awake all night. Bills to be paid, work to be done, rooms to be cleaned, people to deal with and fake smiles to hide behind in front of our enemies. All of these things can take a huge toll on our minds. There are steps you can take right now to hit that pause button on thoughts that cause you to worry and to give yourself a time out from all of the stress.
1. Get more sleep.
Sleep is important to the human body. Research strongly suggests that sleep deprivation can kill you. Sleep is as important to the human body as food and exercise. Lack of sleep can affect our well-being. Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, explains that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to be less healthy and have lower energy levels than those who get the recommended amount of shut eye per night. After analyzing the results of 20 separate studies, he’s found a strong correlation between how much people sleep and how long they live. In summary: The less you sleep, the shorter your life will be.
But when you are worried and thoughts flood your mind, closing your eyes and dozing off is easier said than done. In such cases, practice breathing exercises and set a fixed daily bedtime and wake up time. Maintain this routine even during the weekend. This automatically lets your brain know that it’s time for bed.
2. Go for walks and talk your way through your feelings.
When your mind is filled with clutter, take long walks. Not only is it helpful to clear out your brain, it is also healthy for your body. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, people learn to counter their illogical thoughts with more clear-headed evaluation. Much of this process involves substituting the negative ways people think with more neutral or positive thoughts. Talk to yourself during these walks. Use the time alone to evaluate your life and problems in order to find a positive resolution. When you’re surrounded by nature, the wind, fresh air and the earthy feeling you get helps you process information in a clear way.
3. Reduce caffeine.
Caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive substance. At least 80 percent of the adult population in the United States consume caffeine in amounts large enough to have an effect on the brain. According to the NCBI, caffeine affects the same parts of the brain as cocaine, but in completely different ways. There is evidence for caffeine withdrawal symptoms, and caffeine does act as a weak reinforcer.
I get it. It’s hard to wake up in the morning and deal with people. Coffee helps to do these difficult tasks, however, if you are someone like me (who is sipping on chocolate latte while typing), we need to cut down the consumption. It increases the heart rate, blood pressure and overall levels of stress hormones. Slowly try shifting towards green tea since it is known to have compounds that help you relax.
4. Make a note about things you need to worry about and those you don’t.
Get a notepad and write down your thoughts. Make an ongoing list of things that you need to worry about and things that you don’t. Then, find time to use the list, prioritize the issues that need to be dealt with and start from the lowest. Cross the issues out when you are done and as your make progress, you will see how small the list becomes, making you realize that you were worrying for no reason. The reason why experts suggest us to make notes about our issues is because it helps us retain our self-confidence when we see the list shrinking. Addressing what’s weighing you down and realizing how insignificant and irrelevant most of your worries are can help you relax.
5. Set your feelings aside when you are faced with an important decision.
Our emotional arguments can trick us into doing something which we later regret. Trial lawyers know this and they tell their clients to not show any kind of feelings, especially anger, in the courtroom. The human mind can be governed by emotional arguments and prosecutors sometimes use this to convey that an innocent man or woman is in fact guilty of a crime they haven’t committed. Be it a fight with your partner, close friend or parents. Take a break and use the time to think of the outcomes that could happen because of your actions. This can help you put things into perspective.