How to Confront Worry in the Workplace

This post is based on a session I attended at the Iowa Governor’s Conference on Public Health in April 2013 by Mitch Matthews. For More posts from the Governor’s Conference, click here.

The American Psychological Association estimates that 75-80% of Americans classify themselves as stressed out! So do you need 3 steps to overcome worry and engage in life? Here they are!
1. Identify it!

Worry is not short term stress, it makes stresses chronic. When we worry, we become forgetful, grumpy, & distracted, and we freak out.

Harvard Dept. of Positive Psychology  looked at common traits of worriers. They have average or above average intelligence, are creative (Ever come up with elaborate stories to worry about? Worry is Unproductive creativity. These psychologists also found that babies do not worry. Babies are not born with ability to worry. It is a learned response.

20130410-144542.jpg The stimulus to this process can be any opportunity to worry, and you response does not have to be worrying!

ie/Dodgeball -last person standing! You can’t control what gets ‘thrown at you’, you can only control your response.

2. Replace it! –  Intentionally shift your thinking.

  1. Use questions that start with WHO, WHAT or HOW rather than WHY
  2. Use the question to help shift your thinking IMMEDIATELY
  3. Use your question to help you set BOUNDARIES

Example questions:

  • “How can we have fun as we are working (etc) today?”
  • “Who can I help today”
  • “What can I influence today?”
  • “What can I be grateful for in this moment” Gratitude is the secret weapon against worry – Harvard’s Positive Psychology department is back! Every day for a month they had to write 5 things they were grateful for (30 days) Caused elevated levels of seratonin and dopamine. And they had them do it for 3 mos, 6 mos, and then stopped. Still remained high levels.
  • What if I put off worrying for the next 30 minutes?
  • What can I do in the next 30 minutes about this, and then let it go
  • Who can have a non-work conversation with in the next 10 minutes?
  • What awesome song will I listen to while I run/workout?

Mitch’s example was about how his wife got a cancer diagnosis and decided not to worry. She was going to make it and she said she was going to help people who got this diagnosis. She asked herself, WHO will II be able to help.”

3. Do Something Intentionally!

  • SIMPLE things: Smile for 1 minute
  • SPECIFIC things : Give everyone red clown noses and if you yell ‘red clown nose’ , everyone wears it for 5 minutes in a stressful situation.

Find more tips to help you beat worry as well as think and dream bigger at


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