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Feeling worried? Four tips to help you not worry so much

Jessica Campoli, psychology resident at The Ottawa Hospital offers four tips for reducing worry: Breathe deeply; write it down and determine your options; let go of what you can’t control; take a break from worry.

Imagine this: Your shift at work is (finally) over. You want to relax at home or spend time with your family or friends but worry has you stuck in negative thoughts. Maybe you are worried about how you’re going to pay your bills on time. You might be worrying about whether or not you will have enough time after work to go to your child’s school play. Or instead, you might be thinking about upcoming work deadlines.

We have all experienced worry. Many of us are facing real challenges in our lives – so it makes sense that we worry.

“Worry is a part of life,” explained Amanda Pontefract, Psychology Professional Leader at The Ottawa Hospital. “It is not about whether or not we worry – it’s about how much we worry.”

What does worry feel like?

“Worry can feel like there is a broken record player in our head,” explained Jessica Campoli, psychology resident at The Ottawa Hospital. “It plays our worry over and over again. The more often the record plays, the bigger the worry grows.”

When we worry too much, we may feel trapped by unhelpful thoughts that can leave us feeling bad and powerless. We may think that there is nothing we can do about worry, but is this really true?

Jessica Campoli, psychology resident at The Ottawa Hospital offers four tips for reducing worry: Breathe deeply; write it down and determine your options; let go of what you can’t control; take a break from worry.

What can I do to worry less?

Here are some of Campoli’s tips to help you manage worry so that you can approach problems more effectively:

  1. Breathe deeply! Full, deep breaths help your brain process information better. When you breathe deeply, you lower the stress response in your body. It also puts you in a problem-solving mindset. Even spending one to two minutes focusing on deep breaths can make a big difference in how you feel and think about your worries.
  2. Write it down and determine your options. Writing down what is worrying you and coming up with a few options can help you focus on the here-and-now and what you can control. This helps you to assess the problem realistically. So, take some time to list all possible solutions and select the best course of action.
  3. Let go of what you can’t control. Worrying can trick you into thinking that you have complete control and certainty in life. Is there some uncontrollable part of your worry of which you can let go? When you practice to let go of the things that you cannot control, you are deciding to spend your time and energy on the parts of your life you can control.
  4. Take a break from worry. Spending as few as 30 seconds a day focusing on something positive can make a noticeable difference in how you feel. Does the worry seem as big as you first thought? If it does, is it time to consider a new approach? When you take a break from worry, you can often come back to it with a fresh perspective.

When to get help for worry

“Worry can take up a lot of time, energy and attention,” said Dr. Pontefract. “If worry is interfering with your health, relationships, work, or keeping you up at night, it may be time to seek professional support.”

Employees at The Ottawa Hospital can visit the health wellness page on myHospital for resources. There are also many different local organizations that can help:


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