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Stop That Thought, Part I: Taming Unproductive Worries

We all worry from time to time, but worrying is often totally unproductive. We have to sweat a lot of details and dilemmas in life, but getting stressed about things when you can't actually do anything about them isn't very helpful.

For instance, worrying about your upcoming dentist appointment won't make your filling hurt any less. Similarly, when you're at work, thinking about all the things you need to do when you get home will just stress you out. If you need a little help taming your worries, why not try a technique called "thought stopping"? The method can help you dismiss unproductive worries all together and save the important ones for another time.

For a few tips on pushing unproductive thoughts out of your mind,


Some worries have a purpose — say, planning a dinner party or remembering to pay your bills. But other worries, like anxiety over a dentist visit, aren't doing you any favors. So why not push them out of your mind entirely? Try these tips and see what works for you.

  • Count to 10. When an unproductive worry enters your head, count to 10 and tell yourself you'll stop thinking about it when you're done counting. In your mind, shout "stop!" when you hit 10.
  • Go somewhere else. In your mind, that is. Pick a place that makes you happy — maybe curled up in bed or somewhere on your last vacation — and imagine yourself there every time a nasty thought plagues you.
  • Replace the unhealthy with something healthy. Instead of dwelling on something that's only going to stress you out, replace your worry with a healthy thought. Remind yourself about something you're happy about or thankful for.

What about the things you really need to worry about? Stay tuned for my tips on saving the important worries for another time. Meanwhile, share your tips below.


Join The Conversation
Mesayme Mesayme 8 years
great tips! I write things down too and just let it rip and then tear it up and throw it away... or type and delete... just to get the worst case scenarios out of my head.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i think that sometimes it's easier said than done to know what you CAN do to avoid worrying but i know that for myself - i can do all the tricks out there, think positive, get busy so i can't think about it, and i'll always come back to it. i do appreciate that you've listed a few things - like the count to 10 and all that. it's helpful, but i'm really stubborn.
Anniina Anniina 8 years
I've done that. It works :D I put "worry time/sort things out" time on my (phone)calendar and somehow I make myself believe that I don't have to worry now.
Fixe Fixe 8 years
i'm such a worry wart, it drives me crazy!! i don't know how to stop!! lol
Muirnea Muirnea 8 years
Oooo, I like this topic very much. I need it, I worry to much about everything. Swen, writing everything down sounds like a very good idea too.
Swen Swen 8 years
I heard of this technique as a therapy in psych class once. I never tried it though. Lately I've been dealing with my worried by writing them down. Then I write why I'm worried and what the worst outcome. Once I see it in writing, it suddenly seems not so bad anymore.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
I had to renew my drivers license on wednesday, it was expired ...OOPS and I had to make an appointment 2 weeks in advance. For two weeks i stressed about going in there! When i did finally go in, it was a nightmare (Card wouldnt swipe to pay for it, the vision test machine was broke, the lady helping me was a tool) I wish i could just take a deep breath and not worry about stuff like this!
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