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Break the worry habit

It takes Eileen a half hour or more to get to sleep at night. Why? That’s when her worry mode kicks in. What if she’s late for her meeting tomorrow morning? What if the stock market crashes?

Brian is a worrywart, too. He even worries while he’s watching his favorite TV show or reading a magazine.

All of us worry from time to time, and sometimes it’s warranted. In fact, reasonable worrying alerts you to a problem and spurs you to action. Unfounded worrying, on the other hand, can become an obsession that takes over your life.

What can you do to break the worry habit? Start with these steps:

  • Set aside a worry time. Ignoring your worries won’t make them go away. So pick a time, say the half hour after dinner, to confront your troubles. That may prevent them from popping into your head at random. During your worry time, figure out if you really have reason to be concerned. If you do, think about how you can solve the problem.
  • Look on the bright side. Worrywarts expect disaster. They also blow events out of proportion. Research suggests that one way to counter these thought patterns is to visualize success. If you’re about to give a speech, for example, imagine yourself speaking in a clear, confident voice. See yourself standing behind the podium looking poised and in control.
  • Do something! Whenever possible, treat worrying as a call to action. Afraid your house will be robbed? Install deadbolts, invest in an alarm system, get new windows.
  • Just talk about it. Venting to a friend will shed new light on your troubles. They may suddenly seem trivial or more manageable. Talking out your worries also may keep them from escalating.

If nothing helps, try talking to a counselor. He or she can help you face your worst fears in a positive way.