How to Stop Worrying in 5 Easy Steps


Not to worry. That was my New Year’s Resolution.

For some, anxiety is an illness and let me be clear, that is completely different, and requires expert help.

But many of us just drift into a worrying habit. Sometimes I wake up with a generalized unease, and as thoughts pop into my head, I latch onto them as a source of anxiety. There’s that deadline. I’m not earning enough. I’m never going to make it as a writer. No one likes me.

Not the best start to the day!

As I’ve said before, if I’m going to thrive, I need to knock the worrying on the head and enjoy the many advantages of life beyond the day job.

A month into my resolution, here are my 5 Top Tips:

1 Decide to stop worrying

Don’t see it as a normal or inevitable state of affairs, but as a bad habit you can defeat. Catch yourself on whenever you start sinking into that state of mind and give yourself a gentle but rational talking to.

2 Argue with your negative thoughts

When you find yourself thinking, I can’t do this, look at all the things you have achieved. If you’re thinking, This is going to be a disaster, tell yourself there is no good reason to think this – picture it being a success. Don’t accept the thoughts that are bringing you down – find a positive to counter every negative.

3 Get out and exercise

Go outside if you can, and get some light. If the weather has been grey, try to make the most of any brighter weather, even if you just step outside the office for a minute. People have fag breaks, surely you can have a brightness break?

There is nothing like the endorphin rush from  getting up and being active to chase away a low or anxious mood. This is why I usually exercise first thing – it changes a negative outlook before the day gets underway. Yoga is spectacular for fighting anxiety, if you can afford classes. It is impossible to worry when your muscles have turned to ooze.

4 Work out where the worry is coming from

Is there an underlying cause you are burying while you fret about side issues? My counsellor once pointed out that my default worry about my tax affairs might be a distraction from the much bigger issue that Jon was ill. Just realising this helped me to get things into perspective.

Is it just a stage of life (or a time of the month) that makes you more inclined to worry? Are you anxious about future events because something has gone wrong in the past? Just acknowledging these causes can help to lift the burden. Never beat yourself up for worrying – instead tell yourself, I’m more inclined to worry at the moment because of X, but I’m going to get on top of it.

5 Take action

Doing something about a situation instead of worrying can be the best antidote, even regardless of consequences.

I was worrying about work drying up, so with the help of my technical advisor/marketing manager (OK, younger son), I set up a website advertising my services. It was like a weight lifting from my shoulders, even though the work I have found since has come from other sources.

Later I was worrying about money, so I called a woman who organises host families for European language students. Just talking it through with her banished my concerns. We will not start hosting until March so we have not one penny more than before, but the feeling of being more in control of my finances is empowering.

And finally – embrace the joy in every day

Worrying sucks the happiness out of life, but in most situations there are things that could lift your spirits, if you just stop and let them. The sun on your face. Something a child says. A sporting moment on TV. The simple sight of people being kind to each other. Base jumping off buildings or sitting down at the end of the day to watch something on Netflix – it doesn’t matter what gives you joy, as long as you relish it.


Don’t Listen to the Voices

Courtesy of

The voices want your money. In December, they said that you had to pack your house with rich, expensive food – or Christmas would fail! Now you have to lose weight and take up exercise, or you will die.

If you live, you’ll be fat, diabetic and a drain on the state, which is worse.

Courtesy of

The only way to avoid this is by spending any money you didn’t fork out on the cheese and chipolatas that are now clinging to your thighs. You need a diet that is delivered by post in sachets and costs £17 per pound lost. To exercise, you need to a fitbit, gym membership and expensive running shoes.

No activity can be embarked upon without state-of-the-art equipment.


Never believe you can buy slimness.

Anyone who asks you to pay them for weight loss does not have your interests at heart. It is not in the interests of diet-flogging companies for you to lose weight and keep it off, which is partly why most diets fail.

Like geese, they fatten us up over Christmas, but in the New Year we’re meant to despise ourselves. Don’t! Everyone puts on weight over Christmas. A return to normal eating habits will sort this out over time.

And don’t think you can buy fitness/a fabulous new you.

I couldn’t believe the amount of equipment that littered the poolside when new swimmers took to the water this week. There were flippers, pull-buoys, laminated training programmes and specialised sports drinks.

Soon, the crowd will be gone and there will just be us regulars – unflippered and without isotonic assistance, but still swimming.

By all means, take up exercise, but don’t spend anything if you can avoid it. Make sure it’s something you actually enjoy. You might just be trying to persuade yourself you enjoy it. The truth will out as the New Year fervour fades. Don’t pay up for a whole term of some new activity unless you’ve tried it and it works for you.

Walking, running, gardening and hoovering are great exercise, and free.

You can do step aerobics on your stairs, with music to inspire you. You can lift baked bean cans instead of weights. Some parks have outdoor gyms. You could walk your neighbour’s dog, if you don’t have your own.

Believe in yourself, not the voices. The voices are not our friends!