Do you feel sometimes like you just can't stop your worrying thoughts?

A young woman sitting on the floor with a worried expression, hands on her chest. Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash

Thinking about "what will happen" and being concerned about negative events is part of being human. We worry because we care. But sometimes we get stuck in those thoughts, and that can cause problems.

Do you feel like it happens to you too often?

The good news is, you can understand why it happens, and there are ways to deal with it!

What can cause worrying?

Kermit the Frog looking anxious.

Stress: Sometimes we do have challenging experiences when it's perfectly normal to be worried. Preparing for an important exam, or being at risk for losing a job can make you feel more anxious than usual.

High sensitivity: Emotionally sensitive people might be more prone to worry, as they feel more impacted by negative events. This can be a personality trait, but trauma or prolonged stress can also leave us with poorer defense against anxious thoughts.

Perception: It's also possible that you don't actually worry more than others, it's just that you're not aware of it because they don't talk about it!

How do worrying thoughts get overwhelming?

Here are some examples of thinking that can turn natural concern into excessive worry:

  • All-or-nothing thinking: When you see things in a black-and-white way, you feel overwhelmed, and it's harder to find solutions.

  • Overgeneralization: When you extend a single negative event way out of its scope.

  • Mental filter: When you focus on the negative, while minimizing positive experiences.

  • Catastrophizing: When you expect the worst possible outcome in every situation.

  • Jumping to conclusions: When you interpret things in a negative way without actual evidence.

  • "Should-ing": When you focus on how things should or should not be blinds you to the actual situation.

Quick challenge

Analyze the negative thoughts below. See if they're distorting reality and opening the door for unhealthy worrying.

A man thinking while nervous.

A. "I'm really nervous about the job interview next week."

B. "I have a big exam tomorrow, I probably won't be able to sleep well tonight."

C. "The move is exhausting. I feel constantly tired and I'm concerned about the details."

D. "I didn't get the job. I will never get a job."


Which of these thoughts is excessive worrying?

How much is too much?

A man hiding his face behind his hands.

Your worrying might be excessive, if...

  • it persists over a longer period of time

  • it affects your sleep

  • it makes it difficult to focus

  • it makes it hard for you to relax

Excessive worry can push your mind and body into "overdrive", and it might escalate into anxiety or even panic attacks. Too much worry can also lead to physical reactions that can be harmful to your health, like elevated blood pressure or digestive issues.

What can you do?

First, take a look at the things you worry about. Some will be things that are totally out of your control, but some will be at least partially under your control.

A content woman sitting with her eyes closed. Photo by Hisu lee on Unsplash

Here are some tips to deal with both kinds:

Under my control

  • Make a detailed list, and create plans to make changes.

  • Talk to trusted people, and ask for advice from relevant people.

  • Take action! Doing something to change things can help alleviate worrying.

Not under my control

  • Share your concerns with friends and family to get emotional support.

  • Accept uncertainties as part of life.

  • Practice mindfulness and breathing exercises to avoid spiraling thoughts.

  • Exercise and relax your body.

  • Focus on the things you can change.

Two hands reaching out to each other. Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

If you feel too overwhelmed or exhausted from worrying, ask for help! There are many support options you can find online, here's just a few for starters:

Take Action

A silhouette of a person balancing on a rock against the sunset. Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Ready to change things up? Here's how you can get started!


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