We all think about the future and play out potential scenarios in our minds, it's completely normal to do so, in fact this is a huge advantage for our species and has separated us from other animals, as outlined in the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
Homo sapiens rule the world because it is the only animal that can believe in things that exist purely in its own imagination - Yuval Noah Harari”
But, when should you start to worry about your worrying?
There's a fairly clear answer. When you are fixated on potential future issues, that have no (or very little) possibility of happening and these thoughts disrupt your day to day live or damage relationships, then it's time to take a step back and learn techniques to help reduce these thought patterns.
I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened - Mark Twain”
If this is you, then try these 5 techniques to help reduce your amount of worry.
Constantly thinking about the future can lead us to miss what's actually happening around us. Living in the moment and being more aware of your current surroundings and mental state can bring your focus back to the "here and now" - this in turn can help to alleviate some of that incessant worry.
“Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans” – John Lennon”
Mindfulness can help you be more present. Mindfulness is often used interchangeably with mediation, but being mindful simply means to be more present, you can do this at any point during the day. One helpful suggestion is to 'mindful eat' your dinner - next time you're eating a meal, turn off the TV, put down your phone and really take in the whole experience of what it feels like to be eating food. Take note of the texture of the food in your mouth, the smells and your internal feeling of swallowing.
To help you get started check out this great youtube video that will take you through the practice of mindful eating.
Taking time out of your day to spend 20 minutes or more where you focus on nothing but your breath can be a great way to detach from your worries.
Doing this consistently will help you train your brain to be more present and focused and give you space to view your worries as mere thoughts instead of acting on them or letting them get carried away.
There are loads of apps to help you get started, but one that I've found particularly helpful is the Waking Up app by Sam Harris.
Taking on physical challenge is a great way to focus your mind on something positive. Often we can get caught ruminating on the same thoughts over and over, which only leads to exacerbate our worry. Challenging yourself to run 10km or a half marathon helps to jolt ourselves into a different frame of mind.
Next time you feel yourself being overcome by worry, try going for a run and just notice how you feel after that run. Often the fact of struggling and pushing yourself will calm the mind (often from the exhaustion) and make yourself feel more positive.
Ultimately your worry may be caused from an issue that does need to be addressed. Trying to understand this is difficult, because it's hard for us to remove ourselves from our own thoughts, so talking to someone will give you a fresh perspective on things.
To pull yourself up by your bootstraps is actually physically impossible”
Often just talking out loud about our worry can make them seem less relevant, especially if we realise that our worries are not unique and are actually shared by many of our peers and friends.
If you don't have anyone to talk to or are concerned that it may be something more serious, it's always good to talk to a therapist who can help you work through some of your thought patterns and help to offer solutions.
CBT theory suggests that our thoughts, emotions, body and behaviours are all connected together and that what we think and do affects the way we feel.
There are numerous ways CBT can reduce excessive worry. One technique is by directing you to evaluate your worry and determine whether it is productive or unproductive. By determining a worry is unproductive, it is often easier to intentionally let it go.
Keep in mind, that some worry may be caused by deeper issues around things like trust and self esteem, so it can be a good idea to speak to a therapist who will be able to explore these things with you and guide you to solutions.