How To End Your Excessive Worry Habit

Sometimes, it is good to worry. If you are out for a hike and come across a bear, worry would be your friend. It’s not such a good thing when we do it excessively. It takes a tremendous toll on our health and happiness. I know from experience. I personally battled anxiety and excessive worry for two decades.

Got Worry?


How do you know if you worry too much?  Ask yourself two questions.

  • Is it interfering with my life?
  • On a scale from 1-10, how much distress are my worries causing me?

If the number is closer to ten than one—you are spending too much time worrying.

Get the Inside Scoop

What does your body “do” on worry? A number of unpleasant things take place both physiologically and biochemically when you frequent your “Fight or Flight” mode. The nervous system floods the blood stream with stress hormones such as cortisol. Once out of the cage, they hitch a ride to the major organs and heighten the body’s stress response. Too much cortisol can result in high blood sugar, weakened immune system and physical symptoms like nausea, headache and rapid heartbeat. There are many other, equally nasty symptoms that can result.

Here is one way you can lessen those unfriendly symptoms.

Welcome to the Worry Womb

Ruminating keeps your body in a constant state of stress. Dwelling on fear and negative does nothing productive for your mind or body. There is nothing healthy about it. But you can actually have productive worry sessions. I call this the “Worry Womb.”


Much like a fetus in the womb is nourished, giving nourishment to your thoughts and worries is critical in understanding their origin and in resolving and releasing them. Many people don’t do this, either because they feel they can handle it or because they do not want to feel uncomfortable. Make no mistake, this will make you uncomfortable, but setting aside time each day to worry can end rumination. Would you rather have thoughts of worry cross your mind all day long, preventing you from concentrating, keeping your body in a highly stressful mode? Or would you rather be proactive and face your fears head on, freeing yourself from its chains for most of the day and only think about them at a time and place that YOU decide is convenient? That is how you take back power.

Inside the worry womb, dedicate your time to writing down everything that is causing concern. Start with the most pressing worry. Grab a pen and make a list of your worries and the factors of each that are making you worried. For example, you might be worried about a pain in a specific body part. That is the concern.  And the factors causing you to worry might be that you are afraid it is a serious disease or illness. Be specific and detailed when making your list.

Writing, instead of typing, utilizes different areas of the brain that can take you deeper but typing is far better than doing nothing. Most important is that you get the thoughts out of your head. Analyze your list and make a judgment; how likely is this worry to come to fruition? If the odds are not very high, try to let it go. There is no need to carry it around any longer. If the odds are high, then formulate a plan of action to put your mind at ease and take control of the situation. In the above example, a plan of action might be to make a doctor’s appointment and to research possible causes. You may find many others have had the same problem and that it was nothing major.

Writing and doing—that puts you in control. Giving yourself time to explore your fears means you face them and can conquer them. Worrying endlessly without action does not.

Fifteen to thirty minutes a day in the Worry Womb will usually suffice. If you find that is not enough time, you can add an extra fifteen minutes to the first few sessions. Take care that you do not spend too much time here, otherwise you’ll be doing the very thing you are trying to correct. Once you get a handle on fear and worry, you will notice you spend more time thinking about and doing things that make you happy.  Take it from me, living happy is much better than living worried.

I originally wrote this post for, and it was first published at The Good Men Project.

Photo" Getty Images

The Anxiety Files- How Understanding My Anxiety Changed my Life

“Beware lest in your anxiety to avoid war you obtain a master”. Demosthenes

“I can’t go tonight. I am working overtime tomorrow”. The disappointment in my friend’s voice on the other end of the line was evident. It won’t be as much fun without you. Next time.

His tone revealed that I let him down. I knew I wasn’t going to work overtime tomorrow. So why did I “back out” on my friends yet again? I didn’t have an answer. I let myself down too.

Contained in my youth were a number of similar instances. Those who don’t know any better would call it lying. I won’t argue, rather will add the full perspective.

While I understand that view, I see it differently. Holistically. Lying implies being deceitful. That was not what l was trying to be. My intent was solely to avoid another rumble with anxiety. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time. That came several years later when, in desperate need of an answer to the anxiety overtaking me, I simultaneously began studying counseling theory in college and seeing a therapist. Everything began to make sense. The fog of confusion lifted and was replaced with the bright shine of clarity.

I grew up much differently than my friends. Most enjoyed stable homes with both parents home each night for dinner. They took vacations to happy places and when they got a little older, did things like walking fifteen fun –filled minutes down the road with a group of pals to catch an afternoon matinee. Teenagers expect to be able to do things like this. At least my generation that grew up in the 1980’s did. But when your biological father is the deadly leader of a violent and sinister motorcycle gang, you don’t have the same childhood as your friends. You just don’t.

Making excuses was commonplace for my mother during my childhood. It took me a while to understand why but when I became a parent myself the answer hit me in the gut with the force of a hulking linebacker. You do what you have to do to protect your family, especially your children.

My biological father had physically attacked her on a number of occasions, including pushing her down to the asphalt and breaking her arm when she was 9-months pregnant with me. It’s understandable that I let anxiety run rampant for a couple of decades.

No doubt I experienced it in the womb- feeling the jolt of the ground, being bathed with stress hormones as they flooded the space that was supposed to be my place of nourishment. Hearing the drumroll of the racing heartbeat that accompanies panic. By the time I made my way into this world, I knew anxiety on a level that no kid should ever have to know. Kids deserve better.

One day, after another argument, he made an ominous threat to my mother. It was straightforward enough: ‘You better hold those kids close because if you let them out of your sight, they’ll be gone”. That’s enough to make any parent get into overprotective mode. Or engage in criminal activity. Fortunately, my mother did not resort to the latter. But what she did do was keep me close to home. All. The. Time.

I didn’t get to experience those memories made at matinee movies like my older brother and friends. Being three years younger and far more emotionally sensitive, I learned in my formative years that making excuses to avoid situations and staying close to home keep you safe. Physically and mentally. And so those lessons learned in the tender toddler years became ingrained. It was what I knew.

Going back to the phone call with my friend, I was not trying to lie or disappoint. I was trying to keep myself comfortable. After a lifetime of staying close to home, that was where I felt safe. I went out countless times with my friends, far more than not. My memories are crammed with late nights singing Karaoke, enjoying being young and driving home in the blue of dawn. And lots of laughing. Some chose to remember the times I wasn’t there and have forever tied me to it. Because of anxiety, I lost a few friends. By choice.

The guys who couldn’t differentiate between a lie and a legitimate reason, who kept bringing up the past, who wanted to be seen for the changed men they had become but were not willing to reciprocate. I decided I was not going to let their weight cuff me to the past one day longer. I had to make changes.

I took quiet time for deep self-reflection, identified behaviors I wanted to change, replayed the things I had seen as a kid and saw similarities in what I was doing and what my mother had to do.  I then started out to become a new me.

These are gifts that anxiety gave me—the ability to look within, be authentic in my actions, take responsibility for my missteps and use it all to make myself better than before.

How did I make myself better? Anxiety attacks struck for nearly twenty years, including multiple times each day for over a year. My head and limbs would tingle incessantly. I’d wake in the dark of night trembling in terror, soaked in sweat. The force of the anxious energy would cause nausea and vomiting.

Since those nervous nights, I have not had one in nearly five years. Because I know where it comes from, anxiety no longer elicits a fear based response. Uncovering its origin changed my life. It’s like discovering the boogey man is not real. Once you do, the fear is erased forever.

Instead of suppressing my dreams, I pursue with great joy my authentic calling—writing (note- I believe anxiety can be triggered when one does not pursue their dreams and instead lives a life incongruent with who they are truly meant to be). I used to be underpaid and undervalued by any definition and had no vision for my life’s direction.  Since then, I doubled my income, have a clear vision of the husband, father and man that I am and want to be. I’ve reinvented myself and achieved wonderful things that were once distant dreams. 

I have freed myself from the heaviness that restrained my upward momentum. Changing the perceptions of others isn’t important anymore. Choosing not to surround myself with unsupportive people was inspiring and invigorating. I’ve got amazing things to enjoy and focus on and that is where I put my energy.

If anxiety is holding you back, you can do the same. Take time alone with your thoughts, map out your past, write in a journal, talk with a relative about missing pieces of family history or speak with a mental health professional. These are just some of the things you can do today to start gaining insight. Once you become aware of where your anxiety comes from, you have the power to set expectations and make informed decisions that will literally change your life.

Fortunately, the friend on the other end of the telephone line is still that today. A damn good friend. You may have lost friends, family or a job due to anxiety. Accept it and be appreciative of what was. Regretting the past will not serve you well. Use your time productively. Make a conscious effort to see the whole person and not just a skewed portion of that person.

If you’ve struggled with anxiety for any length of time, dive in and find out where it is coming from. I can tell you from experience, you’ll be glad you did. And chances are, you just may reinvent yourself along the way.