If worst-case scenarios often fill your head, here’s how it may affect your body and mind.
Do you go through life being concerned about every little thing? Do you feel nervous, anxious or stressed more often than not? If so, you may be worrying too much—and that worry may be negatively affecting your physical and mental health.
Occasional worrying is a normal part of life. You may be nervous about a job interview. You may think the worst when you have an unexplained pain and go to the doctor. And it’s common to feel some degree of worry or anxiety when you do new things or meet new people. But when your head is constantly filled with concerns or worst-case scenarios, it can interfere with your day to day life.
These are some ways excessive worrying can affect you:
- You may feel restless, edgy or jumpy
- You may feel tired and have no energy
- You may find it difficult to concentrate or be distracted
- You may have difficulty sleeping
- You may feel anxious or have a panic attack
- You may have aches and pains due to muscle tension
- You may have physical symptoms, like headaches or stomachaches
- You may turn to unhealthy behaviors, like overeating, drinking alcohol or taking drugs
While it’s natural to worry about things from time to time, it’s not healthy to let worry consume your thoughts. Worrying excessively can have the same effect on your body as chronic stress, triggering the fight-or-flight response and releasing stress hormones like cortisol. Chronic stress has been shown to contribute to serious health issues, such as digestive problems, heart disease and suppression of the immune system.
If you find that concerns and negative thoughts are getting the best of you, here are some ways to help ease your mind:
- Set aside a time to worry – Instead of letting anxious thoughts fill your head day and night, carve out a dedicated time each day to think about what worries you. If thoughts arise at other times, write them down and commit to thinking about them during your worry time.
- Focus on what you can control – You can take action on some things you worry about but try to remember that worrying about the rest doesn’t change the outcome. It only keeps you from enjoying life.
- Challenge your thoughts – Think about how often your worries play out in reality. Once you start to see that this doesn’t happen often, it may help you change the dialogue in your head.
- Talk to someone else – When you discuss what worries you with others instead of keeping your thoughts to yourself, it may change your perspective. If you can’t get worrying under control on your own, it may be helpful to talk to a mental health professional.
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Date Last Reviewed: November 12, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD