Why Do We Worry? Root Causes & 6 Practices to Stop Worrying

By Krista


Last Updated: February 24, 2023

You may have heard this one before from a colleague or close friend,

“Quit worrying for the sake of worrying!”

But does this actually make sense?

  • Why do we worry about things in the first place?
  • And what can we do to halt worrying thoughts in their tracks so we can lead the life we want?

Well, there’s actually a lot going on here.

Inevitably, we wouldn’t worry if there wasn’t some kind of evolutionary or survival reason for it. But in this modern world, excess worrying can lead us down a slippery slope of anxiety and depression. So, let’s dig in! 



What is the Root Cause of Worry?

Understanding why we do something can help us eliminate or reduce it. The same thing goes for worrying! Why do we worry?

Worrying tends to make us upset or sometimes really anxious. But we don’t do it for no reason. Most of the time, people worry when facing a problem or some kind of adversity in their life. This means we tend to worry as a way to emotionally prepare for potentially not-so-great outcomes.

This tends to arise due to a variety of reasons, such as:

  • environmental factors
  • personal relationship troubles
  • career or job issues
  • financial problems
  • or even due to traumatic past events (Your brain has a tendency to prepare for previously stressful or upsetting events)

On the other hand, some experts claim that worrying is an anticipation of negative outcomes. In other words, it could be because we expect the worst to happen (even though, realistically, and in most situations, it could probably go either way).

In many ways, worrying could be considered a mindset issue. Not all the time, but sometimes. Inevitably, some worrying is justified.

Related Article: Coping With Anxiety? Try These Overnight Oats for an Easy & Stress-Free Morning



What Does Worry Do to the Brain?

Unfortunately, excessive worrying can impact your good ol’ noggin, meaning it can have detrimental impacts on your cognitive function and overall mood.

Chronic anxiety (the next level beyond simply worrying about the regular stuff) can actually lead to degeneration in the brain, particularly in the hippocampus (which is involved in learning and memory) and prefrontal cortex.

So, why does this matter? 

Well, degeneration of these parts of the brain is associated with the development of dementia, depression, and other cognitive impairments. Not good!

These worries or anxieties can also create a vicious cycle where we worry so much that we actually worry more.

When we worry continually, the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, grows. This means we are more likely to be on edge, fearful, and worried about events that take place throughout our lives. 

But the good news is that you aren’t doomed. Just because you tend to worry, it doesn’t mean you are set on a path of excessive worry and fear for the rest of your life. You can break free from the cycle!



How Do I Stop Worrying and Live My Life?

“Worrying does not take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace.” — unknown

The thing about worrying is that it can take away your current happiness, and it can be incredibly exhausting. Often, it doesn’t get a person anywhere productive. Instead, it robs the enjoyment of the present day. So, how can you quit worrying?


1. Think about worrying differently.

  • Is worrying helping you?
  • Is it getting you closer to a solution?
  • Does it prevent what you worry about from happening?
  • Is it enhancing your life?

When you question your worries this way, it can help you reframe them and be more productive with your thoughts and energy. 


2. Give yourself a set time to worry.

Inevitably, we can’t erase worrying from our minds completely. In fact, a lot of this is just human nature. At the same time, you are in complete control of your thoughts. But we also have emotions, and that’s something we can’t ignore. 

So, instead of letting your thoughts run rampant, set aside a set amount of time to worry. Maybe even consider writing out your thoughts and performing a brain dump. Getting it out on paper can help you view your worries differently or even reframe them in your mind (or just make them less of a big deal!). 

Once your time is up, it’s time to be productive instead.

  • Is there something you can do about the problem at hand?
  • Or can you now move on with your day without worries?


3. Do a deep breathing exercise.

If you feel overcome by anxiety, turn to meditation or deep breathing practices to calm your stress response and regain control.

A good, quick deep breathing exercise is box breathing. This involves:

  • inhaling for a count of four
  • holding for a count of four
  • then exhaling for a count of four
  • holding for a count of four

You want to do at least 3-5 rounds or perform this until you feel better!

Related Article: Try These 7 Daily Anxiety-Reduction Techniques to Help You Worry Less


4. Separate fact from fiction.

When it comes to worrying, our imagination can get the best of us. We start making up stories or telling ourselves things that might not be entirely true. 

To separate fact from fiction, grab a piece of paper or open a spreadsheet on your phone or computer.

  • Make two columns.
  • In the left one, write down all the beliefs you have regarding your current worries.
  • In the right column, write what is actually true compared to these beliefs.


5. Go for a walk.

Simple. Easy. And it takes very little effort or time. 

A walk can help improve your mood and flip your mindset. In particular, a little bit of movement can help release feel-good endorphins, which also help quell the stress response. This means you’ll feel less inclined to worry!


6. Take action.

Sometimes, our worries really are justified!

If we fear that we insulted our friend or co-worker, why not just talk to them about it? Apologize. Own up to your mistake. Many of our worries can be resolved with a simple conversation involving curiosity and openness. 

Plus, tackling issues in our life as they happen can propel our personal growth forward and allow us to learn lessons we might not have otherwise. So, try it out. Talk it out. Take responsibility where necessary. Find viable solutions!



Put Your Worries in Your Past!

Worrying for the sake of worrying doesn’t help you or anyone.

Instead, sort through your thoughts, come up with solutions, and use coping techniques, such as deep breathing, to calm your nervous system and the stress response.

Like Timon and Pumbaa sang in The Lion King, “Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful phrase!” 

Read Next: Feeling Stuck in the Worry Loop? 4 Really Simple Practices to Break Free

Photo by cottonbro studio


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *