1) Turn Worry Into Problem-Solving
“Worry is the process of imagining painful, even catastrophic outcomes, with no effective planning for prevention,” says Matthew McKay, one of the authors of The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook. Focus on potential solutions to short-circuit worrying. “Cognitively, it’s the difference between thinking about success versus focusing on failure.” In the book, McKay and his co-authors suggest this exercise.
- Clearly define the problem. For instance, “I feel overburdened at work because I have too many project deadlines all in the same month.”
- Brainstorm to find solutions.
- Evaluate each idea, putting an X next to those that aren’t possible, a question mark next to the ones that are difficult to do, and a Y next to the steps you could take right now.
- Set specific dates by which you’ll complete your Y ideas.
- Revisit your question marks once you’ve successfully completed the Y’s. Are some of the question marks now possible?
- Finally, go back to the X’s—are they really impossible?
2) Keep It Civil
Rude behaviour isn’t just a nuisance, it’s a significant source of stress and anxiety. A 2008 U.S. study of more than 1,500 men and women found that workplace incivility negatively affected the mental and physical health of victims of sarcasm, disparagement or the silent treatment. The surprise? Those who worked with the victims were also less healthy. “It could be the result of the ‘co-victimization experience’ of witnessing the incivility, or the fear that they could be the next victim,” says study co-author Sandy Lim of the National University of Singapore. Foster a respectful workplace atmosphere to reduce everyone’s stress.
3) Be Your Own Devil’s Advocate
If you’re spending time worrying about something that hasn’t yet happened, the authors ofThe Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook suggest this strategy to dial down your anxiety. After a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast—two stress-busters your mom was correct about—write down your worry. Then ask yourself, What is the worst thing that could happen to me if what I want to happen doesn’t, or what I don’t want to happen does?
Afterwords, ask yourself: What good things might occur if what I want to happen doesn’t, or what I don’t want to happen does? Think about the positive thoughts or emotions you can tap into now that you’ve imagined alternative outcomes.