In a world where many juggle umpteen balls in the air and often feel bombarded by information and to-do overload, it is not surprising that worry surfaces as one of the main culprits my clients in job search voice concern about. Over the years, I’ve researched and recommended strategies to help push through worries. Clients have reported positive feedback. I’d like to share some with you.
Quick ways to curb worry
- Journal. Research shows that worries subside just by writing them down. Why? A log or diary gives you a concrete place to store your concerns, so you can distance yourself from them. When you write them down, your fears don’t seem so looming anymore. A report from researchers at the University of Chicago offered this illustration. Students who took 10 minutes to write down their anxieties before a major exam, performed better than their non-journaling peers.
- Gaze upward. This may sound silly. But research supports the fact that if you look up at the sky – its fluffy clouds, bright blue or sun effects, your racing thoughts of worry can be shirt-circuited and replaced with focus on tranquility and serenity. Beyond the sky, just looking out the window or concentrating on any big, distant object subconsciously gives your brain a broader perspective that shrinks your worries by comparison.
Battle worry with fun
- Play a game. Playing a card or other game demands that you pay attention. The part of your brain that wanders (and worries) is overshadowed by the part that concentrates. Confession: I’m hooked on Words with Friends. Not a game player? The key is to do something that absorbs your attention. Chop vegetables. Sort a kitchen drawer. Read through your favorite recipes to pick something for dinner.
- Help someone. Doing something for someone else shifts your focus away from your worries. If it works with your schedule, volunteer. But you don’t have to volunteer to benefit in the worry department. Call a friend. Bake a cake for an elderly neighbor. And it’s interesting; research again shows that people who were worried about finances felt better after donating as little as $5 to a favorite charity. Their focus shifted from worry to comfort.
- Make music. You no doubt know that listening to music boosts your mood; it’s a great anxiety buster! So, why not choose those tunes that soothe you? Turn off the radio and make your own soundtrack. Then put it on random shuffle to keep your brain engaged by anticipation. Or do double duty; program those songs to take with you on a walk for extra stress relief.
Plot your time to thwart worries
- Schedule worry. Really! If you’re consumed with this nagging angst, why not delegate time to it? Ideally, pick a time late in the day when you can worry 100%. Schedule it. When the time comes around, do nothing but think about everything that bothers you. But here’s the key. Don’t do it for more than five minutes. Set a timer. Mental health experts refer to this as “worry containment.” It frees your mind to think about other things throughout the day. Why? You know you’ll worry later; it’s on the schedule. So your brain says, “You don’t have to worry about this now.”
- Schedule action. Start small. Pick just one day to focus on action; mark it on your calendar. Write down all the people you know to start networking. Work on your resume. Practice interviewing. Pick up the phone and call some of those people on your networking list. Update your LinkedIn profile – or get it started. Research companies that are of interest to you and hire those who do what you do. Scheduling your time gives your subconscious mind a deadline and again according to experts, more than doubles your chances of sticking to it!
Stress and worry are part of life. But they don’t have to consume you; don’t let them. There’s no magic bullet to alleviate worry. But you can be in control, so that your thoughts and energies are not zapped with racing what-ifs; they’re poured into doing what needs to be done to land that great job!
Photo: Robert Bouza