By Cindy Perman, CNBC.com
All aboard the USS Adorable. Next stop — your happy place!We have worried A LOT in the past few years - about everything from jobs to money, the stock market and the debt crisis in Europe. Show me someone who doesn't worry, and I'll show you someone who takes recreational drugs.
Do an Internet search for "worry about" and it turns up 779 million results. (A search for "happy place" - as in find yours - turned up a mere 8.7 million results. That's 100 times more results for worrying than happy place, for those of you keeping score at home.)
And where does worrying get us exactly? Just look at the S&P 500 - It ended 2011 almost exactly where it started. (off .003 percent, to be exact)
So let's start fresh for 2012 - and agree to stop worrying so much and get on with it already. Here are some tips for how to knock it off.
1. Create a worry period. OK, so maybe the first rule of worry club is stop worrying about worrying. Instead of trying to wipe it off the map and start living life like a magazine photo shoot, a team of psychologists at Helpguide.com suggest putting worry in its place - giving yourself a finite period of time to worry. Maybe 20 minutes when you get home from work. Don't schedule it too close to bedtime, however, or you may have trouble sleeping. Declare the rest of the day a worry-free zone. Take THAT, worry. Hizzah!
2. Make a list. When a worry pops into your head during the day, imprison it on a Post-It Note - if you write it down, it won't nag you all day. It's on a list and when you get to your worry period, review that list, Helpguide suggests.
3. Learn the right way to worry. Seriously-there IS a right way to worry. (Hey, no eye-rolling-I saw that!) As you get to each worry, Helpguide says, ask yourself: Is the problem solvable? If it is, start brainstorming and making plans for concrete steps to fix it. Say, you're worried about paying your bills. So start crunching your numbers, get advice online, meet with a professional, i.e. make a plan of action. Doing something that will make you feel less worried. If it's not something you can solve, just own it. Say, you're worried that someday you or a loved one will get cancer. Sure, you can start taking better care of your health, which is always a good idea (and makes you feel better) but it's out of your control. Just own those emotions, Helpguide says-just accept that you're worried about cancer. Next problem!
4. Accept uncertainty. Let's say you had control over cancer-which you don't, by the way-there are 101 million other things in life that are unpredictable. Accept that life is like an unpredictable wave and all you can do is surf it.
5. Envisioning the worst-case scenario will not help. "You may feel safer when you're worrying, but it's just an illusion," Helpguide says. "Focusing on worst-case scenarios won't keep bad things from happening. It will only keep you from enjoying the good things you have in the present. So if you want to stop worrying, start by tackling your need for certainty and immediate answers."
6. Challenge anxious thoughts. If you're a life-long worrier, chances are you don't even know the rabbit holes you're digging for yourself and falling into. Helpguide suggests flinging open the closet door and confronting the monster: Identify your frightening thought and be as detailed as possible. Then, instead of accepting it as fact and giving it power, challenge it. Treat it like a hypothesis you're testing out, Helpguide says. Oh, really, monster? May I see your ID?
Did you not see "Nightmare on Elm Street?" -acknowledging Freddy Krueger only gave him more power and made him more real. Instead, take a logical approach like they do on the SyFy show "Ghost Hunters" and think of every possible thing that shadow or noise could be-besides a ghost. And even when you have no immediate explanation, agree to look into it further before you call it a ghost - or a legitimate worry.
7. Tell Marty McFly he can keep his time machine. If you're worrying, chances are you're worrying about something that happened in the past-or in the future. Try to practice mindfulness-being in the present, Helpguide suggests. Instead of confronting your anxious thoughts head on, with this technique, you're banishing them to the past or future and focusing on the present.
8. Set sail on the USS Adorable. If you need to take your heart rate down a few notches, hit the YouTube and watch some adorable animals. Might we suggest Animal Planet's "Too Cute!," a show that follows around litters of puppies or kittens explaining their challenges and victories. I challenge you to have an elevated heart rate or worry about that report due Monday while watching this show. It's so cute, they have a disclaimer on at the beginning of every episode: "The following program contains material that is just too cute. Viewer discretion is advised."
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By Cindy Perman, CNBC.com