We all worry at times but if feeling anxious becomes a habit it can lead to fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and depression

Sad face and smiley face

Worrying sometimes is normal, but you don’t want it to become a habit © Alamy

Our bodies don’t know the difference between worrying about imagined hazards and real, physical danger – so it responds to both in exactly the same way when we’re feeling anxious.

Your heart rate increases and the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released into your bloodstream to help you flee danger. And if a high level of worrying continues over a long period, it can raise your risk of stomach ulcers, stroke and even heart attacks.

But you can stop worrying in its tracks by asking yourself these questions.

Is It Likely To Happen?

* Next time you’re fretting about whether there’s been an accident because your partner’s late home or being alone forever after a divorce, reword the question. Instead of torturing yourself with, ’Is it going to happen?’, ask yourself ’Is it probable?’

* Then, rate the chances of it happening from 1 (least likely)
to 10 (most likely). If you rated your worry 9 or less, it’s unlikely to ever happen.

* ’It’s estimated that at least 90% of the things you’re concerned about won’t actually happen,’
says worry management expert and international speaker,

Denise Marek, author of Calm: For Women Who Worry (£8.99, Hay House). Changing your focus in this small way helps give you a better sense of perspective and peace of mind.

Can I Manage My Mind Better?

Marek coaches women to accentuate the positive and have faith in happy endings, and she advises:

* Don’t exaggerate situations and have negative inner talk, such as: ’Everything’s a disaster’. Practise saying more accurate things to yourself, such as, ’I make some mistakes, but I also do many things right’.

* Have faith in happy endings. Instead of fretting that you might not fit in at a social event, redirect your thoughts to what might go right. Another handy technique is to gain perspective by asking yourself, ’Will this matter a year from now?’

Do I Sound Like A Broken Record?

Ailsa Frank, author of Cut The Crap And Feel Amazing (£14.99, from ailsafrank.com) explains, ’Hypnotherapy works by dripping positive messages into a client’s subconscious.
In a similar way, we hypnotise ourselves all day long with the repetitive, negative conversations we have with ourselves in our heads.’

* So instead of worrying, ’It’s too late for me to get fit now’, for example, start focusing on the life you want. Pretend you’ve already achieved it – even if you don’t quite believe it.

* For instance: ’I can improve my health. I am exercising three times a week. I am as fit and well as I can be.’

* Keep your thoughts positive, If old worries creep back, tune the radio in your head into a positive wavelength.

Am I Thinking In Black And White?

* Don’t fall into rigid thinking, such as, ’I’m feeling my age and there’s nothing I can do about it.’

* There’s always something we can do to improve our circumstances, but we need to do things differently if we want different results.

* ’Be open to making lots of small changes to get you back on course for a happier life,’ advises Ailsa Frank, who uses hypnosis and positive-mind coaching to help her clients. ’A change might make things 1% better, then 10% better and, before you know it, 50% better.’

* Visualise yourself happy and relaxed – and if you’re going through a rough patch, tell yourself, ’I can get through this. I am getting through this.’

Am I Living In The Present?

* ’When we’re being dragged down by the past or worrying about the future, we can’t flourish in the present,’ says Ailsa.

* If your past has been difficult, let it go, so you can focus on the now. Envisage yourself climbing out of a dark hole until you’re surrounded by light – as if you’re in a computer game.

* By visualising yourself making progress, you’re retraining your mind to believe you can move forward.

* Even dwelling on the ‘good old days’ can be unhealthy. Thinking ’Life was better then’ can lead to more worry.

* See past events as stepping stones to where you are today. They are the foundation of who you are. And instead of fretting, ’What if something bad happens?’ ask yourself, ’What if something amazing happens?’

Can I Do Anything To Feel More In Control?

* Take action where possible. So, if you’re weighed down with a health worry, see your doctor. If you’re feeling old, get a new hairdo. If you’re worried about making ends meet on a pension, take up babysitting or dog-walking If you’re planning a garden party that could be ruined by rain, change the venue or date.

* ’This puts you in the driver’s seat of your life,’ explains Denise. ’It can give you a feeling of control and can even prevent what you’re worried about from happening.’

Can I Accept Uncertainty?

* Worriers tend to equate the unknown with danger and try to work out what could happen in every ‘what if?’ scenario.

* ’Intolerance of uncertainty is the most important element in= worry. However, uncertainty is neutral,’ explains cognitive psychotherapist Dr Robert L Leahy, author of The Worry Cure: Stop
Worrying And Start Living (£9.99, Piatkus).

* Just because you don’t know if your savings are going to run out, for instance, it doesn’t mean they will. It’s simply unknown.

* He suggests saying to yourself, ’I don’t know for sure – it’s possible it could happen.’ Keep saying this until you’re bored with it and the fear wears off.

* Dr Leahy says, ’Changing your thinking is like getting into shape – it’s a lot harder at first, but it gets easier. To stay in shape, though, you have to keep working at it.’

Can I Let Go Of Some Of My Worries?

* Write down a list of the things that are troubling you. ’This can be an effective way to let them go and calm your mind,’ says Denise. ’It’s a mental detox that allows you to dump your concerns on to the page, creating the space needed to help you deal with those issues.

* ’You can’t always gain enough perspective by just thinking about them; you must get them down and look at them and decide which ones you can let go.’

What Would I Say To A Friend In The Same Boat?

* We women are often too hard on ourselves but much better at being objective and helping others. So think about how you’d support a friend with the same worries.

* You’d probably encourage your friend to remember the times in the past when she overcame her problems and how well things worked out. In the same way, you can support yourself with positive self-talk.

* Ailsa adds, ’A critical mind makes you feel worse, but a kind, supportive inner voice spurs you on to find solutions more quickly.’

Try This Trick

* If you find yourself worrying, rub, tap or press the knuckles of your left hand with your right.

* Say to yourself, ’Let it go. Let it pass. Everything will be OK.’ Worries and bad feelings are moving thoughts that will pass like clouds moving across the sky if we allow them to.

* Ailsa explains, ’By doing this exercise, you’re telling your conscious mind: ’I’m not going to focus on the worry. I’m going to take control and push it away.

* Over time, your subconscious learns to move worries on by itself. It’s a bit like having a tidy-up on your computer. We need to get rid of the programmes in our mind that are of no use.’