A simple step-by-step guide to help manage and overcome doubts

We all have them, those nagging doubts that sit in the back of our minds. Maybe, right now, you’re wondering “did I lock the front door?”, “have I turned the cooker off?” or “did I say something to offend someone?”

Woman thinking

Perhaps what’s keeping you awake at night though are bigger worries such as if you’ve done the right thing in leaving your job or moving home, or any health issues you may have. Whatever it is, those unrelenting doubts and worries can overwhelm your mind, confuse you and stop you from being able to perform or behave as you typically would.

So why does this happen? Contrary to what you might think, worries and doubts do have a positive purpose - they serve as your internal alarm. Just like someone tugging at your sleeve, nagging doubts alert you to a problem that needs to be dealt with. Worrying alone doesn’t improve a situation and won’t help you think clearly or deal with a potential problem.

So, what can you do? The key is to spend your time and energy focusing on solutions, not the problems. Here’s how:

Decide what you want

Firstly, identify what you’d like the outcome to be. If it’s a work problem - you’re worried about meeting a deadline for example -  you need to figure out what you need to do first to tackle the problem. This could be moving things around to hit a certain deadline or maybe requesting an extension in order to complete the task.

Knowing what you want to happen makes a successful outcome much more likely. You’ll have a positive focus and your mind will turn to what you can do, rather than what you can’t and the consequences of this.

Woman smiling

Identify your options

Once you’ve decided what it is you want to happen, think about your options. For example, if you want to be reassured that the front door is locked and the cooker is turned off, your options might be to go back home or to ask a neighbour to check for you.

If it’s a financial problem, such as you may not understand how things like credit, insurance or mortgages work, think about where you can find this information and seek advice from friends, family and experts to help you make the right choices.

Once you have identified your options, weigh up the pros and cons of each. Decide on a ‘plan A’ and keep another option as a ‘plan B’, knowing that if things don’t work out you have another choice to fall back on.

After you have decided which option to take, think about what the next steps will be. Find one small immediate step you can take to help keep you focused and moving in the right direction. Once you start doing something about the problem, you’ll feel less worried because you’re taking control.

Do something different

So, if you’ve done all the above and you’re still worrying, you need to do something else to take your mind off it.

This should be something that you enjoy that you can immerse yourself into for an hour or two to relax, such as reading a book or watching a film, doing a crossword, exercise or spending time with friends and family. It just needs to be anything that prevents your mind from wandering off again to those nagging doubts.

Advice provided by Gill Hasson, author of Mindfulness: Be Mindful and expert in the areas of confidence and self-esteem.

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