Use Coping Self-Talk to Reduce Worry and Stress
Changing your self-talk is one great way to reduce stress caused by chronic worry. One of the quirks of being human is that we seem to be terrible at dealing with our own problems, but we’re usually pretty good at solving other people’s problems. Why not use this bit of psychological irony as a tool to help you worry less?
Advise yourself about your own worry
Imagine that someone is sitting in a chair opposite you. He or she has come to you for advice. For whatever reason, this person values your opinion and guidance. Even more strangely, he or she has the same worry you have.
Restrain yourself from your first impulse — throwing your hands up in frustration — and reach deeply into your storehouse of wisdom. You may find that you come up with some wonderful ideas. You’re an incredible solution finder. Now share these ideas with yourself.
Become a problem solver (rather than a worrier)
After you recognize that you’re a worrier, you need to know how to shift from worry mode to problem-solving mode. When you’re in problem-solving mode, you adopt a different mindset.
It begins with detaching from fears, uncertainties, perfectionist tendencies, and all of the distorted thinking and emotional over-reacting described in previous sections. As radical as this may sound, switching to problem-solving mode doesn’t necessitate a brain transplant or major personality overhaul.
It means becoming more mindful. You need to re-center, slow down mentally and emotionally, and rely on that side of you that is more accepting, objective, and reasonable.
People who worry too much tend to be somewhat limited in generating options, alternatives, and solutions to potentially stressful problems. This is mainly because their fears and anxieties limit their ability to think outside the box and come up with more creative ideas. They continue to worry in unproductive ways.
Instead, you want to begin talking to yourself in more adaptive ways. You can ask yourself a number of questions to help clarify your worries, and you can give yourself good advice and direction. This coping self-talk will help guide you on your road to managing and minimizing your troublesome worries.
Practice coping self-talk for reducing stress
Sometimes, writing down your answers can be an effective aid in this process. It slows you down and helps you focus your thinking. From the list below, choose the bits of coping self-talk that seem most relevant to you.
What exactly am I worrying about?
Do my emotional reactions (anxiety, upset, anger) fit the importance of the problem?
Is my thinking here out of line? Am I making some thinking errors?
Stop what-if-ing and catastrophizing and awfulizing.
Don’t assume the worst will happen.
I can cope with this!
Don’t make this a bigger deal than it really is.
I’m being a worrywart! Do I always want to be a worrywart?
Realistically, what is the worst that can happen?
Is all this worrying helping me in any way?
I will be able to figure out ways of coping with this.
On my zero-to-ten scale of importance, how important is this, really?
In three years (three months, three weeks, three days), will this still be important to me?
Is this problem really an emergency or crisis, or can I worry about it at a more appropriate time?
Can I change this, or is it better for me to work to accept this?
If I choose to address the problem, what are the next steps?
What advice would I give a friend who had exactly the same worry?
What am I afraid of?
Is there another way, a more sensible way, of looking at this?
Am I looking at worst-case scenarios?
How likely is it that what I’m worrying about is really going to happen?
How would someone else (a good friend or a role model, for example) look at this problem?
How would someone who is more of an optimist look at this?
What are some alternatives and solutions that I may have missed?