Before I do anything, I think about it three times.


Did you know this?

People are naturally inclined to look for solutions to problems. Excessive worrying does not appear to be the best method for this. And precisely because it does not solve the problems, you start worrying even more: negative thoughts trigger new negative thoughts. Worrying is almost automatic but it takes a lot of energy and can consume all your concentration or sleep.

Worrying thoughts

Worrying thoughts are recurring negative thoughts about problems or things that you experience as negative. They may be about something that has happened, about something that is yet to happen or about something that you fear will happen. Worrying thoughts are nagging thoughts that do not lead to a solution. They can come in forms such as these:

  • 'What if ...?'
  • 'I should have ...'
  • 'Why didn't I ...?'
  • 'Why is ...?'

Excessive worrying makes you tense, afraid, angry and sad. It causes sleepless nights and consumes an immense amount of energy.

Excessive worrying is not only a physiological problem that affects your hormones and your stress response. It also causes you to be anxious and less willing to take steps towards a solution.

Excessive worrying can lead to stress, anxiety and depression. It can also be a feature of depression, generalised anxiety disorder or other psychological disorders. In addition, you may also have other complaints such as gloominess, apathy or a loss of joy in life.

I have a planned moment of worrying every evening and then I write down my anxious thoughts.


Break through worrying

By learning to control your thoughts, you gain more control over your behaviour. To think differently is to act differently. Below you will find a number of tips and techniques that can help you to break through your anxious thoughts.

  • Reflect and identify. To be able to stop worrying, it is important to get to know your own anxious thoughts. What you do not notice, you cannot change. By naming your thoughts you acknowledge, observe and interrupt them and you can take some distance from them. Say, for example, out loud or in your thoughts: "Ah, there is that worrying again" or in shorter words: "Worry, worry”.
  • Plan time to worry. Try to make time at a certain (fixed) moment in the day for your anxious thoughts and worrying. Do not plan it close to bedtime, in bed or at your desk. End your worrying session with a word of encouragement ('I can cope', 'it will be fine') or put everything into a broader perspective ('when it comes down to it, I will be fine').
  • Reflect on your thoughts. Take a critical look at your thoughts and dare to question them. By testing them, they become more realistic and less catastrophic. These questions can help you with that: What makes this thought true? What makes this thought false? In what way does this thought help me? What is the worst that could happen? Would I get over it?
  • Write down your thoughts. This will help you to distance yourself from them. This is not only useful for yourself, but it also provides an overview if you ever want to talk about it with a professional. Thoughts that don't make sense can be unmasked more easily in written form.
  • Take action. The best remedy for worrying is to tackle the problem. First define the problem. Then think of possible solutions ("what could I do about it?"). List actions, even small ones. And then choose the most appropriate solution, even if it is not perfect.
  • Find distractions. A ten-minute positive distraction will lift your spirits and stop the worrying. Most effective is an activity that requires both concentration and physical effort, such as exercise or walking in nature. It doesn't really matter how you move, as long as you move. It helps to write down in advance what you are going to do when you start worrying again. Then the step to a nice distraction is smaller.
  • Get support. Talking about your concerns helps to put them into perspective. Talk to someone who understands and accepts you and who you have the impression is good at dealing with stress.
  • Live now. Anxious thoughts are often about things that have happened or are likely to happen. Focusing on the present helps you to switch off these thoughts. Do a relaxation or mindfulness exercise or follow a meditation session. Open your senses to sounds, people and activities around you.

Do not feel guilty if some tips do not work immediately. Keep repeating them. The more you stop anxious thoughts in the beginning, the better you become at controlling them. Training pays off.

I am glad that I sought help for my problems. It was good that I could finally talk to someone about them.


Talk about it

Can't stop worrying? Remember, you are not alone. Talk to someone close to you who you trust and feel comfortable with. It can be a great relief and helps you to put things together. You can also take the step to help together.

If you don’t immediately have the courage to tell someone in your direct surroundings, then try to approach someone who is familiar with similar experiences, such as a GP or a student counsellor at your college or university.

You can also anonymously contact Awel (102 or via or Tele-Onthaal (106 or via, or the Suicide line (1813 or zelfmoordlijn1813) for questions regarding suicidal thoughts.

Seek help

Do you feel that the tips are not helping you enough? Then it is important to seek (professional) counselling. There are various training programmes in which you learn to deal with excessive worrying. You can break through the negative spiral of thoughts.

Worried about someone?

Have you noticed that a friend worries too much? Though you may not know what to say or do, it is important to start a conversation. By expressing your concern, you can discuss the problem.

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