How to Stop Worrying: 9 Simple Habits

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
Leo Buscaglia

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”
Swedish Proverb


It starts with a nagging thought.

That creates another few thoughts.

And before you know it there is a storm brewing in your mind, making you think irrationally and zapping your mental and physical energy.

Your old friend is back, creating chaos within.

I am no stranger to it either and to the powerful negative effects it can have on life and the happiness in it.

But in the last decade I have found several habits that have helped me to greatly decrease my worrying and to more easily handle such thoughts when they pop up.

Bonus: Download a free step-by-step checklist that will show you how to stop worrying so much (it’s easy to save as a PDF or print out for whenever you need it during your day or week).

Update 2016: I have now created a 7-week step-by-step course called Stop Worrying Today. Click here to learn more about it.

1. Most of things you worry about have never happened.

How to Stop Worrying: 9 Simple Habits

I love this quote by Winston Churchill:

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

I have found it to be very true in my own life.

So when you feel worries starting to pop up ask yourself this:

How many of the things I feared would happen in my life did actually happen?

If you are anything like me then the answer will be: very few. And the very few ones that actually happened were mostly not as painful or terrible as I had expected.

Worries are most often just monsters you build in your own mind.

I find that asking myself this question regularly and reminding myself of how little of the worries that actually came to life makes easier and easier to stay calm and to stop a worried thought before it becomes a big snowball of negativity.

2. Avoid getting lost in vague fears.

When fears feel vague in your mind, when you lack clarity then it is very easy to get lost in exaggerated worries and disaster scenarios.

So find clarity in a worry-inducing situation by asking yourself:

Honestly and realistically, what is the worst that could happen?

When I have answered that question then I follow it up with spending a bit of time on figuring out what I can do about it if that pretty unlikely thing happens.

In my experience, the worst that could realistically happens is usually not as scary as what my mind could make up when it is running wild with vague fears.

Spending a few minutes on finding clarity in this way can save you whole lot of time, energy and suffering.

3. Don’t try to guess what is on someone’s mind.

Trying to read someone’s mind usually doesn’t work too well at all. Instead, it can very easily lead to creating an exaggerated and even disastrous scenario in your mind.

So choose a way that is less likely to lead to worries and misunderstandings.

Communicate and ask what you want to ask.

By doing so you’ll promote openness in your relationship and it will likely be happier as you avoid many unnecessary conflicts and negativity.

4. Say stop in a situation where you know you cannot think straight.

From time to time when I am hungry or when I am lying in bed and are about to go to sleep I can become mentally vulnerable. And so worries can more easily start buzzing around in my head.

In the past this often lead to many minutes of time that where no fun.

These days I have become better at catching such thoughts quickly and to say to myself:

No, no, we are not going to think about this now.

I then follow that up with saying this to myself:

I will think this situation or issue through at a time when I know that my mind will work much better.

Like when I have eaten. Or in the morning when I have gotten my sleep.

It takes some practice to apply this one consistently and effectively but it also makes a big difference in my life.

5. Remember, people don’t think about you and what you do as much as you may think.

They have their hands full with thinking about what other people think of them. And with thinking about what is closest to their hearts like their children, pets, a partner or the job or school.

So don’t get lost in worries about what people may think or say if you do something. Don’t let such thoughts hold you back or down in life.

6. Work out.

Few things work so well and consistently as working out to release inner tensions and to move out of a headspace that is extra vulnerable to worries.

I also find that working out – especially with free weights – makes me feel more decisive and focused.

So even though working out helps me to build a stronger body my main motivation to keep doing it is for the wonderful and predictable mental benefits.

7. Let your worry out into the light.

This is one of my favorites. Because it tends to work so well.

By letting your “big” worry out into the light and talking about it with someone close to you it becomes a whole lot easier to see the situation or issue for what it really is.

Just venting for a few minutes can make a big difference and after a while you may start to wonder what you were so worried about in the first place.

Sometimes the other person may only have to listen as you work through the situation yourself out loud.

At other times it can be very helpful to let the other person ground you and help you find a more practical and useful perspective on the situation at hand.

If you do not have anyone to talk to at the moment about the worry bouncing around in your mind then let it out by writing about it.

Just getting it out of your head and reasoning about with yourself either on paper or in a journal on your computer – or even your own blog that’s just for your eyes or anonymous – can help you to calm down and find clarity.

8. Spend more time in the present moment.

When you spend too much time reliving the past in your mind then it easy to start feeding your worries about the future.

When you spend too much time in the future then is also easy to get swept away by disaster scenarios.

So focus on spending more of your time and attention in the present moment.

Two of my favorite ways to reconnect with what is happening right now:

  • Slow down. Do whatever you are doing right now but do it slower. Move, talk, eat or ride your bicycle slower. By doing so you’ll become more aware of what is happening all around you right now.
  • Disrupt and reconnect. If you feel you are starting to worry then disrupt that thought by shouting this to yourself in your mind: STOP! Then reconnect with the present moment by taking just one or two minutes to focus to 100% on what is going on around you. Take it all in with all your senses. Feel it, see it, smell it, hear it and sense it on your skin.

9. Refocus on the small step you can take to move forward.

To move out the worried headspace I find it really, really helpful to just start moving and taking action to start solving or improving whatever I am concerned about.

So I ask myself:

What is one small step I can take right now to start improving this situation I am in?

Then I focus on just taking that small step forward. After that I find another small step and I take that one too.

Here’s the next step…

Now, you may think to yourself:

“This is really helpful information. But what’s the easiest way to put this into practice and actually make a real change with my worrying?”.

Well, I’ve got something special for you…

A free step-by-step checklist that includes all the steps in this article… save it or print it out so you have it for the next time when the worries starts growing again.

Download it now by entering your email below.


Image at the start of the article by Amparo Torres O. (license).

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thank you Henrik,
    I’ve been following your posts for some time now and you always have a very gentle way of moving yourself forward when the going gets tough.

    I was also pleasantly surprised that I’m slowly getting the hang of this, meaning that I have already started to implement some of the things here.

    However, I am still on my journey to worry less:)

    I hope you keep writing inspiring and inspirational stuff! Cheers

  • Thank you so much … I read your articles and they really help me ….u are really helping us emo people to just live …I really haven’t been living for the past few years .I am happy that i came by your website LUCKY ME now i worry less i eat healthy and i try to be happy . My life has suddenly changed and now I am looking forward to help other people ….THANKYOU may God bless you … be happy :)

  • These are really great, Henrik!
    That Winston Cherchil quite is so awesome, and I keep repeating it to myself every time I feel like I need a little more courage and a better sense of perspective over my life.
    I have a tendency to just bury my worries as deep as I can, only to have them resurface in some volcano-like form, so number seven really gave me some food for thought.
    Thank you for sharing these, hope you’re having a good day!

  • “Let worry out into the light.” Priceless advice. In the midst of my darkest days it’s been when I’m willing to talk to others about my fears that they begin to recede.

  • Mah

    Today I got worried about something. I decided to find the eternal solution so that I may cut copy n paste the solution the next time I m worried. I got hold of my tablet n typed in google search”how not to get worried”,I saw your blog and within 5 minutes I have reached at the best solution list.yes next time I will certainly stop n slow down.


    Hi, Henrik,

    A good article. Thanks for sharing. You said it all.

  • Si

    First-timer, here. Thank you for the article. One question, though: what if your worries are sometimes accompanied by physical discomfort and/or pain and this persists over time but there is no apparent medical reason(s) for it – what then?

  • Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been guilty for not just having most of these habits, but treating them as some kind of my own unique quirks. Even though at times I realized that I’m not on a good path to lead a happy life, most of the time I still consciously stuck with these…
    You explained it all too well in this post, too bad it’s not as simple when I try to apply it in practice. Oh well, I guess the only thing left to do is take baby steps.
    Thanks again for sharing, this is exactly what I needed to read!

  • This is true that worry is a problem that can cause you to think the worse will happen. Remembering not to worry until there is something to worry about is a good motto to aim to live by.

  • I agree with you. Further to what you have written I would recommend the following points :

    1. Take Action – in many situation our worry arises from inaction which sets in insecurities and depressive feeling. “Take Action” is a powerful therapy. Keep moving every day towards your goal and this helps keep worries out.

    2.Drill Down – We humans have a tendency to worry about a situation in general without looking deep into things to ascertain the cause of worry. What I mean is…for example…there are people who hate going to office. They remain depressed , feel low about it and worry about it all the time. What they should try (drill down) and find out are the reasons for not going to office. Is it because they have a bad abusing boss, or they are made fun of at work, maybe they are not respected at work, they might not have the skill set to perform the work and feel the pressure. Inshort try to ascertain the reason of worry and once you know the reason …make a plan and take necessary remedial action to remove the cause of worry.


  • Henrik,

    Thank you for your words. Worrying is such a drain of energy, and these strategies that you provided are a great way to help eliminate it.

    I know I sometimes find myself caught up in worrying about what others think of me, but as you point out, people are too busy thinking and focusing on their own lives that they don’t have as much time as we think to be critical of ours. This simple mind shift can help to provide perspective and to alleviate worry.

    I also agree with you that working out is an outstanding way to crush worry. I was never a runner when I was younger as I was tall and heavy, but as I started doing it, I began to run more and more, until I worked my way up to running three marathons. I can say without a doubt that when I am out running, I have no worries, and when I finish, I feel powerfully equipped to shut down any anxiety that I may have been experiencing. Exercise is just a natural boost.

    Have a great day!


  • Joe

    Dealing with worries is simple. Ask yourself can I do anything or change anything about this situation. If you can then write it down the different solutions that you have come up with. If there is nothing that you can do to change things then accept it as a fact you can do nothing about it.

  • Bill

    Here is a nice acronym i have found useful. FEAR = False Expectations Appearing Real. When fear appears i always ask myself it it really warrants my precious energy….

  • Thank you for sharing this, Henrik.

    It is a great reminder for me because worry has been a constant plague in my life. After seeing the negative effects of anxiety/worry in my life and in those I know and love, I made the firm decision to actively replace my worries with faith. I fully believe in God and clearly I wasn’t really believing in the past because if I did, I would have understood that worry and faith cannot exist in the same space. You have to choose one over the other. Simple.

    Not to mention, being worried has never been known to stop the world from moving; there is NO SENSE wasting so much of our lives on worry.

  • Henrik,

    Love this post, and inspired by your article. One of my favorite quotes is “Anxiety is nothing… but repeatedly re-experiencing failure in advance. What a waste.” Seth Godin

    It took me many years of my life, and much worry to understand that most of my stress and anxiety was coming from worrying about how I was going to feel about something in the future. What I have come to realize is that you can prepare all you want for how you think you are going to feel about a decision, or circumstance, but until you live it you will never know.

    Worrying is wasteful, and I for one refuse to do it anymore!

    Thanks for the article!!!!