Discover What Really Works For Anxiety

Discover What Really Works For Anxiety

Sign Up For Our FREE Overcoming Anxiety Newsletter & Instantly Download Our New Book "Overcoming Anxiety: A Guide to 42 Proven Strategies"

(Plus+ Exclusive Content, Bonuses, Discounts and More!)

Proven Techniques for Overcoming Worry: How to Stop the Noise

Article Summary:

Don't let worry take over your life. This informative article provides effective, proven methods for overcoming worry and quieting the noise in your head...

If you struggle with anxiety, I'm willing to bet chronic worry is an issue for you.

Overcoming worry is often one of the first goals many people have when working to manage their anxiety.

Worry can often get out of control, becoming excessive (and obsessive), eventually consuming your thoughts.

Excessive worry can cause problems in daily life by keeping you from doing what you want or need to do.

Worry can often trigger anxiety or take a situation that is already anxiety-producing and turn it into panic.

You might worry yourself out of taking action.

You might avoid taking any risks - focusing solely on comfort and safety.

And worrisome thoughts and fears can rob you of your present moment experience.

While worry can be a motivator for some people, being a motivator to take action – worry in and of itself doesn't solve anything.

The action related to the worry, fear, or concern solves the problem.

You may unconsciously hold on to worry, believing it gives you a sense of control.

You might (consciously or unconsciously) tell yourself:

"If I worry enough about this upcoming situation, I'll be prepared for the worst when it happens."


Worrying about something doesn't give you contro over that situation like you may think it does, it only provides the illusion of control

In reality, excessive worry can interfere with your ability to correctly access and respond to situations in your life.

Fortunately, there are proven techniques to reduce worry, calm the mind, and plan and take appropriate actions.

These techniques allow you to clearly see your present situation and effectively plan for future events.

Knowing specific techniques for reducing worry can profoundly improve your life.

While you may not eliminate worry entirely, you can learn to manage it so that excessive chronic worry no longer interferes with your life or keeps you from doing what you want.

Using the following techniques, you can reduce your daily worry, create more realistic expectations for future events, calm yourself in the present moment, and eliminate obsessing over a particular concern through problem-solving and action.

Recommended Offers From Our Partner Sounds True:

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

A Scientifically Studied, Tested and Proven, 8 Week Online Training Course

The Key to Health, Happiness and Vibrant Energy

A Free Video Teaching With Renowned Qi Gong Master Lee Holden

40 Days to Positive Change w/ Kelly McGonigal, PhD

A Free 60-Minute Video on Establishing New Habits for Positive Change

Forms of Worry

Worry can come in different forms and occur at different times.

Rather than provide a "one-size-fits-all" technique for worry – we've provided specific techniques for different types of worry.

  • Chronic daily worry: constant worrying throughout the day; this can be repetitive worries around the same issues or new concerns; this is often associated with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or can be the obsessive part of OCD; the goal is to reduce daily worry, recognize pointless worrying and become proactive by taking action
  • Anticipatory worry: worry surrounding an upcoming event or situation, usually seeing the worst-case scenario; this is often associated with phobias and fears; the goal is to challenge your imagined worst-case scenarios and begin to see the situation more realistically; an additional goal could also be uncovering the beliefs or fears associated with the situation
  • Present-Experience Worry: this is moderate to severe worry and anxiety about your current situation/environment/experience; this type of worry negatively colors your experience and interferes with your ability to respond rationally; this is often associated with panic or being overly stimulated; the goal is to calm the mind and body and defuse ourselves from the center of the overactive worrying thoughts

Stopping the Noise

One of the best concepts I've encountered regarding worry is the concept of "Signal vs Noise."

Dr. Reid Wilson, the author of Stopping the Noise in Your Head, teaches this concept.

It goes like this: When you worry, there are two types of worry thoughts: a Signal or Noise.


A Signal is a legitimate concern about something you have control over or can take action on.

A Signal can often be a motivator in the best sense of the word.

When you take action on a signal, the worry behind it almost always disappears, resolves itself, or, if you can't resolve the situation altogether, the pressure behind it is released by your actions.

For example: You have recently begun arriving late to work several times per week due to oversleeping, and you're now worried about losing your job

This is a valid and legitimate worry.

Constantly arriving late to work is grounds for termination at almost any workplace.

Taken as a signal, you can use this worry to help motivate you to take action by forming a strategy to avoid this outcome.

Possible actions could be going to bed earlier, improving the quality of your sleep so you wake up easier, setting two alarms, or talking with your boss.


Noise is simply everything else.

It is the constant interference of useless worries that have no basis in reality, are radically illogical, is pointless and unnecessary, or are simply beyond your control.

For example: You are lying in bed trying to go to sleep and keep worrying about an upcoming meeting tomorrow with your boss and how you might stumble over your words.

This is noise.

It's the middle of the night.

You're going to sleep.

There's no action to take in this situation.

It's simply noise keeping you awake.

Your best response is not taking it seriously and focusing on falling asleep.

If you begin to engage the noise, you risk going down the rabbit hole of imagined scenarios and more worry.

The result of engaging the noise is less sleep.

Nothing is resolved by engaging in pointless worries.

The goal is to be able to step back and become more aware of whether or not your worry is a legitimate signal – or simply noise.

If it is a signal, you must take the necessary actions the signal motivates you to take, wherever required.

Scheduled Worry Time (below) is a good strategy for this.

If it is noise, you do nothing with it.

You don't take it seriously.

You develop the ability to see it for what it is… NOISE.

One additional point is that a valid signal not acted upon will become noise as long as you choose to ignore it.

This means that the worry may continue to come up until you do something to resolve it.

This ability to separate the signal from the noise is a profound strategy for dealing with worry.

It allows you to address legitimate worries by taking action, which gives you a true sense of control (versus the illusion of control) and personal power.

It also reduces the time and energy spent taking the noise in your head seriously.

By not taking it seriously or trying to "fix" it, you reduce your anxiety around it and its hold on your life.

Reduce Chronic Daily Worry

Chronic daily worry in its mildest forms can cause problems performing daily tasks and create minor anxiety.

In severe cases, it can distort reality to the point that a person sees something to be feared in every person and every situation as an opportunity for disaster.

If you suffer from anxiety – especially if you've been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) – chronic worry is probably an issue for you, as it was for me.

The below technique can benefit mild to moderate GAD or chronic daily worry.

It can help manage worry so that it no longer interferes with or consumes your daily life.

If you are on the more extreme end of chronic worry, have been diagnosed with GAD, or have been diagnosed with OCD; this technique can still work for you, but it may be difficult at first without additional support.

I've been there.

In addition to the techniques provided in this article, speaking with a competent therapist can provide much-needed guidance and support.

Scheduled Worry Time

Scheduled worry time is an effective strategy for managing out-of-control daily worry.

Instead of clouding your day with excessive worries, you schedule all of your worrying for one specific time each day.

In addition to using this specific time for worrying, you will also be problem-solving and brainstorming ways to move past the particular worry so you can move on and let it go from your mind.

Although straightforward, this can be a powerfully effective technique for overcoming chronic worry when used consistently.

1. Choose a Daily Scheduled Worry Time

Choose a time each day you will dedicate to worrying. Typically evenings work best, but not close to when you plan on sleeping. You don't want to run through every worry before lying down to bed.

It's best to try and stick to the same time every day to make it a habit. For example, your worry time could be 8:00 pm every day.

2. Decide the Amount of Time Needed

Decide how much time you will dedicate to worrying and problem-solving. Typically 15-20 mins a day is plenty.

3. Tell Yourself, "I'll Worry About that Later"

During the day, when a worry pops up, simply tell yourself, "I'll worry about that later," and move on.

At first, you may find it difficult to brush aside your worries so easily, but as you begin practicing and using the dedicated worry time, your mind will naturally start to wait for the specified time to worry about the issue.

4. Use Notes if Needed

If a particular worry keeps coming back and you feel it's something you need to address, write it down on a stickie note or use a note-taking app like Evernote to pull it up later during your scheduled worry time.

Some people have found a "worry bag" helpful for storing handwritten notes.

The act of putting your worries in a bag can help associate it with placing the worry "out of mind."

5. Use a Different Technique if the Worry Can't-Wait

You can use one of the other techniques below if you have a specific worry that can't wait until the scheduled worry time.

For example, if you're at work and you're worried about a presentation you have to give in an hour, you can use the de-catastrophizing technique below.

If you're feeling overly stimulated, stressed, or anxious, you can use one of the calming techniques.

6. Go Over Your Worries at the Specified Worry Time

At your specified worry time, go over your worries one at a time and devise an action plan for each. We recommend doing this using a chart like the one below.

Specific Worry

I have this tightness in my chest. I'm worried something may be wrong with my heart.

Alternative Appraisal

I only seem to feel it when I'm anxious, so it's probably anxiety related. But I've also been drinking a lot of coffee lately, so it could also be due to that.

Actions I Can Take

I will try cutting back on my caffeine and see if that helps. If the problem persists or worsens, I will talk to my doctor.

8. Forgetting Your Worries

You may find that you can't remember many of the worries you were going to worry about later. This isn't a bad thing.

Quite often, many worries resolve themselves as the day goes on. This is a good thing as it can help weed out the useless worries from the ones you need to take action on.


There's no need to go over every worry that crosses your mind. However, you will still say, "I'll worry about that later," to each one that does occur throughout the day.

Very often, you will have worries that weren't valid or realistic to begin with (the noise).

If it resolves itself before your scheduled worry time or you forget about it – great – it still served its purpose.

Reduce Anticipatory Anxiety

Anticipatory anxiety is excessive worry, anxiety, and fear regarding an upcoming event or situation.

Generally, you will imagine the worst scenarios regarding a particular situation.

For example: a job interview (especially for a job you really want or is a significant step up in your career) can bring up anticipatory anxiety and nervousness.

Leading up to the event, you may have thoughts such as:

"What if I stutter or stumble over my words?" or "What if I make a fool of myself?" or "What if they dislike me?"

Your thoughts can run rampant with all sorts of negative scenarios.

Your self-talk may turn negative, and your imagination might get the better of you.

You might picture vivid images of the terrible outcomes you believe await you.

With the example above of the important job interview, you might imagine yourself stuttering or forgetting what you would say while imagining the interviewers seeing you as "incompetent" or not fit for the job.

You may even experience the feelings and sensations you would feel in that event in the present moment, even if the event itself isn't for another few days.

These sensations can include sweating, shaking, nervousness, etc.


Anticipatory anxiety and worry are not limited to significant events like a job interview or public speaking. Any situation that has made you nervous or uncomfortable in the past or things that are new or outside your comfort zone can all trigger anticipatory anxiety.

At the height of my anxiety and panic attacks, I used to get anxious before the most insignificant events, such as going to the grocery store.

I had a panic attack at a grocery store once, and every trip after, I would imagine it happening again.

"What if it happens again?" "What if I lose control?" "What if I run out of the store like a crazy person?"

That is why it's essential to distinguish your thoughts and mental images from actual reality.

You may think something will happen, but does it ever actually happen as you imagine it?

Is it ever as bad as you imagine it to be?

When I would work myself up before going to the grocery store, I didn't always have a panic attack like I believed I would.

I often began shopping, and everything went fine, sometimes forgetting about it altogether.

The times I did have a panic attack, I never ran out of the store or lost my mind.

I felt uncomfortable for a few minutes, and it passed.

The actual reality of the situation was far less uncomfortable, dramatic, or embarrassing than I always imagined it would be.


Many people imagine the worst when they are overly anxious or worried about an upcoming event or situation.

In Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), we often refer to this as catastrophizing.

Decatastrophizing generally means you think you will experience the worst possible outcome in a situation (worst-case scenario) and won't be able to handle it.

The solution to imagined worst-case scenarios and catastrophizing is decatastrophizing.

Decatastrophizing allows you to look at the issue from a more grounded, rational, and realistic point of view.

You can challenge your negative thinking and replace the thoughts or images with something better.

Decatastrophizing means:

  • Challenging the belief or thought by asking questions
  • Assessing the likelihood or probability of it happening
  • Replacing the imagined scenario with an alternative or more realistic one
  • Gathering evidence for your ability to cope with the outcome

I will use the fear of flying as an example to walk you through the process.

Step 1: Describe the Feared Scenario In as Much Detail as Possible

I have a flight in 2 weeks, and I'm scared the plane will crash. I keep imagining the engine failing and dropping from the sky – crashing into remote mountains.

Step 2: Assess the Likelihood or Probability of the Scenario Occurring. Is It Even Likely to Occur in the First Place?

When you look at the probability of dying in a commercial plane crash, the odds are around 1 in 5,000,000. The likelihood that the plane is going to crash is extremely, extremely low.

Step 3: Gather Evidence to Further Evaluate the Likelihood of the Imagined Scenario Occurring

In the United States today – fatal commercial plane crashes are extremely rare, with over 100,000,000 US flights in the past decade and only one fatal commercial airline crash in that time. The probability of crashing is astronomically low.

Step 4: Challenge the Belief or Imagined Scenario by Asking Questions:

"What is the worst that can realistically happen?"

"What is so bad about that?"

"What is the most unpleasant part of this worst-case scenario?"

(For this example, our imagined worst-case scenario – crashing – has proven extremely unlikely. In that case, what is a more realistic worst-case scenario?)

What is the worst that can happen?

"We hit turbulence."

What is so bad about that?

"Turbulence makes me extremely uncomfortable and anxious."

What is the most unpleasant part of this worst-case scenario?

"I feel like I don't have control over the situation. I don't feel safe."

Step 5: Look for Your Strengths and Gather Evidence for Your Ability to Cope

When you are excessively worried about an upcoming situation, you might be afraid that you won't be able to handle it. That is why it's important to reassure yourself that we can. You can do this by gathering evidence based on past experiences.

Look at similar past experiences you've had

If you've flown before, you could say: "I've flown several times in the past, and I was ok – nothing bad happened."

Look at other potential strengths or challenges you've faced

If you've never flown before, you could look at other examples of challenges you've met.

You could say something like: "I've given birth to 3 children, and a 4-hour plane flight is nothing in comparison," or "I made it four years through college despite a poor childhood and working full time – I think I can handle a few hours on an airplane."

Step 6: Replace Your Imagined Worst-Case Scenario With an Alternative or More Realistic Scenario

I have an uneventful plane flight and arrive at my destination safe and sound. I felt some anxiety during the flight, but nothing terrible happened as I initially imagined it would.

The "What If" Technique

The "What if" technique is a simple but powerful technique that can help you deal with anxiety about a future event, but on a deeper level, it can help uncover deeply held beliefs, fears, and fantasies that you believe will happen.

The What If Technique can be a profound tool for uncovering why a particular thing or scenario makes you anxious or worried in the first place.

Examples of underlying issues the What-If Technique may help answer:

  • Why do I worry so much about failure or embarrassment?
  • Why do I hold others' opinions in such high regard?
  • Why do I expect myself to be perfect?
  • Why does this particular scenario or situation always frighten me?

While the technique is simple, you will be surprised at how quickly it can help you look at things more realistically and uncover the deeper cause of worry and anxiety.

You may often find that what you are worried about has nothing to do with the particular event or scenario – but reflects a more profound fear or insecurity.

How to use the What-If Technique:

There are three different ways to do the "What if" technique, but the basic process is the same for all.

State a worry about an upcoming event/scenario, trying to be as descriptive/specific as possible.

Then ask, "What if ______" and keep working until you've found the root fear or see how unrealistic (or even silly) the worry is in the first place.

  • You can do this technique on your own – being the "asker" and the "answerer" in your mind
  • You can do this technique on your own with an empty chair and swapping roles by either mentally or physically changing seats
  • You can also do this with another person (a trusted friend, for example) – have them ask the "what if _____" to each statement while you answer

I will use a public speaking event as an example below to walk you through the process.

Initial Statement: "I have an upcoming speaking engagement next Thursday, and I'm worried I'll get on stage and forget what to say."

What-If Statement: And what if you forget what to say?

Answer: "I will make a fool out of myself."

What-If Statement: And what if you make a fool out of yourself? Then what?

Answer: "The audience will laugh at me."

What-If Statement: And what if the audience laughs at you?

Answer: "The speech will be a disaster, and I will look like a failure."

What-If Statement: What if that happens? What then?

Answer: "People will think I'm not good at my job, and my career will suffer."

What-If Statement: And what if that happens?

Answer: "I may lose future events or even my job."

What-If Statement: What if that happens?

Answer: "I won't be able to provide for my family."

What-If Statement: And what if you can't provide for your family?

Answer: "They will be disappointed and see me as a failure."

What-If Statement: And if that happens? Then what?

Answer: "They'll lose respect for me."

What-If Statement: What if they lose respect for you? What then?

Answer: "They won't love me anymore."

What-If Statement: What if that happens?

Answer: "They will leave."

What-If Statement: And if that happens?

Answer:"I'll be alone in the world"

Even though this is just an example, you can see how deep this technique can go.

Starting from an ordinary worry – like messing up on a public speaking engagement – to a deep-rooted fear of being seen as a failure and ultimately being alone.

The belief could possibly even go deeper if we were to continue.

This technique can effectively show how exaggerated or even downright silly your line of thinking can sometimes be.

Although the fear of being alone isn't silly at all, believing that everyone will laugh at you and you'll lose your job, causing your family to fall apart, all because you "might" forget what to say during a speech – is simply a fear-based fantasy.

It's exaggerated thinking.

People often stumble or forget what to say during speeches, and in most cases, it's simply a brief pause or "hiccup" in the speech – not a disaster.

When you uncover exaggerated or catastrophizing thoughts related to the situation, you can reappraise the situation and your beliefs surrounding it.

Reappraisal of the scenario:

"Forgetting what to say doesn't mean my presentation was a failure – I may stumble or even forget, but I can remain calm and continue – it's not a big deal!"

You can use this technique to uncover beliefs beyond just anticipatory anxiety.

By taking your most basic worries down to their core fears and fantasies, you can discover the actual reason why you worry so much about particular things/situations.

The "what if" technique is a truly powerful way to reduce anticipatory worry, anxiety, and fear and can be a powerful technique for overcoming anxiety.

Reduce Worry in the Moment & Calm the Mind

Often with anxiety, you may experience moments of overwhelming worry.

In these moments, pushing the worries off until later or trying to make plans for the future simply aren't options.

You want to calm your mind now.


In our opinion, nothing works better for calming an overactive mind than mindful breathing.

For this purpose, deep belly or diaphragmatic breathing works very well.

Simply changing (or correcting) your breathing can drastically reduce feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and worry in the moment.

Taking deep, slow, steady breaths can relax the mind and nervous system and lower blood pressure.

Practicing mindfulness by focusing on breathing can bring you back into the present moment and allow you to disengage from your overactive mind.

This brings you out of the whirlwind of worrisome thoughts and creates a center you can more effectively work from.

The technique below combines a proven diaphragmatic breathing technique with mindful attention.

Mindful Deep Breathing

This technique combines the practice of mindful breathing ("watching the breath") with deep diaphragmatic breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a well-known technique that can relax the body and mind.

It can also stimulate the Vagus Nerve – a cranial nerve that runs from the brain to the gut – which engages the parasympathetic nervous system.

The parasympathetic nervous system acts like the "brakes" for the sympathetic nervous system – the sympathetic nervous system is known for activating the "fight or flight response," otherwise known as the "stress response."

By combining mindfulness with deep breathing, you are calming your mind and body and bringing greater awareness to your present experience.

1. Bring Your Attention to Your Breath

Begin by simply noticing your breath.

Gently bring your focus and awareness from your thoughts to your breathing.

What do you notice about your breathing as you watch each inhale and exhale?

  • Is your breathing shallow or deep?
  • Slow or rapid?
  • Are you breathing from your abdomen or your chest?
  • Simply observe

2. Let Your Thoughts Do Their Thing

Begin by simply noticing your breath.

Gently bring your focus and awareness from your thoughts to your breathing.

What do you notice about your breathing as you watch each inhale and exhale?

3. Begin Taking Deeper, Slower Breaths

Begin to slow down your breathing – taking slower, deeper breaths.

Only pause for 2-3 seconds between the inhale and the exhale.

4. Count the Breaths

I've found the following to work exceptionally well for calming the mind and body.

This form of breathing activates the vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is activated on the exhalation, so any breathing where the exhale is longer than the inhale should work fine.

  • Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds
  • Hold for 2-3 seconds
  • Exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds (your lips should be pursed like sipping from a straw)

5. Breath From the Diaphragm

The diaphragm is a small muscle located at the base of the chest, near the top of the abdomen.

Breathing from the diaphragm or diaphragmatic breathing is also called "belly breathing."

Breathing from deep within the belly is the optimal location to breathe from.

Often when stressed or simply through habituation, there is a tendency to take shallow breaths from the chest instead of from the abdomen or diaphragm.

Diaphragmatic breathing can take some practice, especially if you're used to breathing from your chest.

  • In the beginning, it may be helpful to place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen and practice breathing from the abdomen
  • The abdomen should expand on the inhale and contract (or go inwards) on the exhale
  • The chest shouldn't move
  • The belly should be soft, and the body should relax more with each exhalation

6. Continue to Focus on Counting Your Breaths

As you breathe from the diaphragm, continue mentally counting your breaths

  • Inhale- 1,2,3,4
  • Hold- 1,2,3
  • Exhale- 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8

Continue in this way for several rounds of breathing

7. Observe Your Breathing

After several rounds of breathing: Begin observing the process

Your breath should naturally continue in this slow, steady manner without much need for control on your part.

You can keep your awareness on your breath or focus on the belly rising and falling with each inhalation and exhalation.

8. It Doesn't Need to Be Perfect

The point of this technique is to calm the mind and body.

There is no need to stress over "Am I doing it right?" or trying to force the breath.

To simplify the process:

1. Allow your thoughts while bringing your attention to the breath

2. Breathe slowly and deeply (making the exhale longer than the inhale)

3. Count the breaths

4. Observe the breath as it happens on its own

Here are a few tips:

  • Breathing from the diaphragm can take practice at first – when first practicing this technique, you can focus on the belly, expanding on the inhale and contracting on the exhale
  • If your awareness slips back onto your worrying thoughts – gently place it back on the breath
  • Don't force the breath – find a duration for the inhalation and exhalation that is slow and deep but natural for you – you shouldn't be gasping or struggling for breath
  • Always inhale through the nose – you can choose to exhale through the mouth or the nose- whichever you prefer
  • Practicing this technique for several minutes a day every day can strengthen the diaphragm and improve your ability to relax – try using it every day even when you don't necessarily need it

Final Thoughts

Worrying doesn't have to consume your life.

You really can learn to reduce worry using the techniques in this article as well as the many other strategies on this site.

Overcoming worry is an achievable goal, regardless of how difficult it may seem right now.

Using the techniques listed above:

  • You can learn to separate the signals from the noise
  • You can learn to use worry to promote problem-solving and take action
  • You can directly challenge your fears and worrisome thoughts about the future
  • You can begin to view your situation in a more realistic way
  • You can learn to calm yourself in the moment and let go of excessive worry

Just reading this article isn't enough to eliminate worry – you need to take action and practice the techniques.

Using the techniques in this article, you can begin to loosen worry's grip.

Actively developing the skills to handle your worries can profoundly improve your life.

You are instilling yourself with the inner resources to handle whatever your life (mind) may throw at you.

You may not always be able to stop worry completely – but you can keep it from getting out of control.

Try these techniques out and see how they work for you!

You Don't Have to Struggle Alone

Therapy Resources Are Available That Can Help

Discover profound solutions to manage, control, and overcome your anxiety. Featuring supplements, techniques, tools and effective anxiety strategies that work. We base everything we recommend on the latest science and years of experience overcoming anxiety disorders. We're here to help!

Experience Profound States With Our Profound Series

anxiety and depression association of america
the american institute of stress
eft international
association for contextual behavioral science

Copyright 2024 Profound Anxiety Solutions