We've all got funny quirks and odd things that send us on an anxiety tailspin. But freak out no more. While worry can be beneficial in some instances, certain fears just aren't worth the headache. We've got 40 things to stop worrying about right now, and how we can keep them in check.
1. Bouncing a check. Financial stress may be the most common concern out there, and bouncing a check isn't exactly the height of fiscal responsibility Worrying about one's job, family, financial situation and health - results of a population-representative study. Grulke, N., Bailar, H., Blaser, G., et al. Universitätsklinik für Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychotherapie, Ulm, Germany. Psycho-Social-Medicine, 2006; 3: Doc11.. But for those who go into a cold sweat every time they bust out the checkbook, keep in mind the penalty for bouncing a check typically isn't huge — about $30 on average. To prevent a problem, ask the bank about overdraft protection, and consider switching banks if yours doesn’t offer it.
2. Paying the rent late. Paying bills can be a huge source of anxiety, especially when a late fee’s involved. But there's no need to stress too much about forgetting to drop off the rent check before heading out of town. First, if the due date is a weekend or holiday, the check typically isn't considered late yet. Plus, there isn't an actual penalty for submitting the rent late for a while (the exact length of time depends on lease terms) after the due date. Re-read the lease for details about the grace period and late fee date.
3. The "cash-only" conundrum. Most of us have been there: The check arrives and that formerly adorable little café turns into a nightmare — cash only?! First, understand the waiter or cashier probably sees this all the time, so no need to panic. Ask to borrow the cash from a pal or date and then immediately go together to an ATM to pay them back. If alone, ask the waiter for the nearest ATM and head there; plastic-free places are typically pretty trusting. In the future, scan the menu for a cash-only warning before ordering or check a review site like Yelp, which usually lists whether cards are accepted.
4. Paying at the end of a meal. The arrival of the check after a meal can miraculously halt all conversation and merriment. If everyone’s meals cost about the same amount, offer to split things evenly. If others want to split things evenly but there's a big discrepancy in price, feel free to say so — being calm and assertive (not to be confused with aggressive) will get the message across without making you seem cheap. Next time, ask for separate checks before ordering; it'll send other diners the message that everyone is paying his/her own way.
5. A pal has a booger hanging out. Those of us who are easily embarrassed are less likely to tell others they have a tag showing, food in their teeth, or even, yes, a booger hanging out of their nose. But chances are most people will be relieved — temporarily embarrassed, too, but mostly relieved — to be informed. And next time we can count on that pal to be on booger patrol for us.
6. Inviting overnight guests. Afraid the lumpy pull-out sofa isn't up to snuff or the dog will keep guests up all night? If the concern is impeding quality time with good pals, address it — that time with friends is essential to our physical and emotional health Eavesdropping on Happiness: Well-being is Related to Having Less Small Talk and More Substantive Conversations. Mehl, M.R., Vazire, S. University of Arizona. Psychological Science, 2010 April 1; 21(4): 539–541.. Try, "I'd love for you to stay with me, but all we have is an air mattress." If the pals aren't down for snuggling with Fido, trust that they'll get a hotel. If they say it's fine, though, take them at their word and get on with the fun stuff.
7. Wearing the wrong outfit. The pile of rejected outfits is growing, but still nothing seems to fit the bill. Rest assured, clothing is actually not the first thing most women notice about each other — it's their waist size. And studies suggest men remember even less about others’ appearance than women do Gender differences in memory for the appearance of others. Horgan, T.G., Mast, M.S., Hall, J.A., et al. Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210-1222, USA. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2004 Feb;30(2):185-96.. And who wants to impress people that prioritize clothing (or waist size!) so highly anyway?
8. Last night's drunk texts. A few too many last night and that outbox is filled with regrettable text messages. Handle the clean-up calmly — if the messages are simply embarrassing but otherwise inoffensive, send a, "Sry abt those texts, had a bit too much to drink!" If the texts were potentially upsetting, though, pick up the phone. Calmly apologize (yep, there's a right way to apologize) and try to make it up to them — getting to see you miserably hung-over at brunch should do the trick.
9. Forgetting to call a friend back. Whether it was a true slip-up or an "accident," there's no need to feel like a jerk. Wait until there's actually time to chat (not in between errands, while watching TV, or otherwise devoting only partial attention); then call back. Quickly apologize for the mistake and move on to more important matters, like what's going on in her life — after all, meaningful talks are important for both parties.
10. Telling a white lie. The best rule we could find for white lies is this: They're okay when protecting others, but plain dishonest when they protect the liar. (i.e. "Oh no! The dog must have knocked over that vase" won’t fly.) The goal in telling a fib should be showing compassion, but many of us can still feel frantic when grasping at something positive to say about an ugly baby or less than delicious dinner. Instead of all-out lying, mention one thing you like. ("Wow, your son's eyes are such a great color!") Awkwardness averted.
11. A Freudian slip. We really did mean to tell that busty woman her idea was "the best," it just came out wrong — and studies really do show subconscious factors can cause a verbal slip-up An experimental study on freudian slips. Köhler, T., Simon, P. Psychologisches Institut III der Universität Hamburg, Germany. Psychotherapie, Psychosomatik, medizinische Psychologie, 2002 Sep-Oct;52(9-10):374-7.. At this point, dwelling on it only makes things weirder for everyone involved. If it can be glossed over, do so! If not, go with "Geez, sorry about that. I haven't had enough coffee today so I'm half asleep."
12. A bad haircut. This fear can drive us to spend hundreds on haircuts, but there's no need. The worst-case scenario is a less-than-great haircut for a few weeks (seriously, even the beauty-obsessed will recover), but chances are it's an opportunity for new hair accessories. Most important, stay confident about whatever ’do you end up with: One study found subjects' self-confidence about teeth — not necessarily their pearly whites' appearance — was a better predictor of their well-being Psychosocial impact of dental aesthetics among university undergraduates. Kolawole, K.A., Ayeni, O.O., Osiatuma, V.I. Department of Child Dental Health, Faculty of Dentistry, Obafemi Awolowo University, 220005 Ile-Ife, Nigeria. International Orthodontics, 2012 Mar;10(1):96-109..
Work and Networking
13. Being late to an interview. Whenever possible, alert the interviewer as soon as you realize you'll be late. Once the interview's begun, apologize and offer a brief explanation. (Just don't blame it on someone else, since most employers won't want to hire someone who likes to shift blame.) Then move on. Dwelling on it aloud or in our heads can only worsen the rest of the meeting.
14. Forgetting someone's name. When bumping into a semi-stranger out and about, take the opportunity to introduce whoever's in tow (like a child or significant other). Hopefully the other person will say his/her own name. In a professional situation? Politely confess the name is escaping you and ask again. To avoid that sticky situation in the first place, try to commit names to memory by repeating and visualizing the name Tips for remembering names and other important information. Hills, L.S. The Journal of Medical Practice Management, 2008 Mar-Apr;23(5):284-6..
15. Not responding to an email. Ugh, an email has been sitting in the inbox for two weeks (darn you, distracting YouTube!) and now you don't even know whether to respond at all. Do it! Write that it slipped through the cracks and then address the issue at hand. In the future, try to respond to every email within 24 hours if only to say "I'll be able to get to this on ____ date." And remember, almost all of us have done this.
16. Taking a day off. Some of us panic whenever we think about taking a day off, but personal time away from the office is essential. Banish worries by first being honest: Rather than playing sick, schedule a day off here and there whenever it might be needed (i.e. right after a huge presentation) — that eliminates all the Ferris Bueller-style panic. Then completely unplug. Set up an out-of-office message on email and turn off the phone.
17. A tough meeting with the boss. That request for a raise is coming out a lot more like stutters and suddenly we notice we're wearing footie pajamas. (Phew, this is just a nightmare.) Prep for a big meeting by actually writing down what needs to be said. Don’t read it like a script, but skim it beforehand until the main points stick. Then remember, what's the worst that could happen? The boss will say no to that raise, but probably stop short of giving us the boot.
18. Being late for Fido's evening stroll. If an extra 30 minutes at work causes an anxiety attack about the pooch, chances are that 30 minutes won't be put to good use. While it's great for dog owners to be concerned about getting the pup plenty of exercise, it'll usually be pretty obvious if the dog's not getting enough outdoor time. Look for weight gain or hyperactivity — if there are no negative signals, don't fret too much about being late for this appointment.
19. The possibility of cheating on your significant other. No need to let a little harmless flirting (keyword: harmless) leave us rife with guilt. People wary of getting too attached to another person are most likely to stray — but remember, we do actually choose whether or not we cheat The role of attachment avoidance in extradyadic sex. Beaulieu-Pelletier, G., Philippe, F.L., Lecours, S., et al. Department of Psychology, Universite de Montreal, Canada. Attachment & Human Development; 2011 May;13(3):293-313.. So calmly remind yourself of the importance of the relationship and remember you're in control. It should help put things in perspective.
20. The possibility of being cheated on. Chances are being suspicious and worried about cheating will not reduce the chances of it happening. Being trusting and open to the possibility (that's possibility, not probability) of being hurt is essential in a lasting relationship Commitment, pro-relationship behavior, and trust in close relationships. Wieselquist, J., Rusbult, C.E., Foster, C.A., et al. Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 27599-3270, USA. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1999 Nov;77(5):942-66.. Plus, anyone who'd cheat isn't worth worrying about.
21. Not getting along with the in-laws. About 60 percent of women and 15 percent of men say they have a tough relationship with in-laws, so don't worry about being the only one. But to avoid the strain, change the expectations — many women expect to be unconditionally loved and embraced like a daughter while her mother-in-law plans to be treated on the authority when it comes to her kid. Just accept that marriage won't make everyone get along.
22. A bad first date. First dates go badly. There, we said it. But no need to worry, seeing as that will only contribute sweaty pits and a trembling voice to the mix. Instead try to focus on what the other person has to say and engage with them to forget about your own nerves. In fact, just knowing the other person is equally nervous can make us feel better — and make the date go more smoothly Deconstructing the "reign of error": interpersonal warmth explains the self-fulfilling prophecy of anticipated acceptance. Stinson, D.A., Cameron, J.J., Wood, J.V., et al. University of Waterloo, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2009 Sep;35(9):1165-78.!
23. Being bad in bed. Men say the only way to be bad in bed is to not be into it — which is a lot more likely when worrying about being bad in bed. No matter your partner’s gender, the best way to ensure good sex is to constantly look and ask for feedback. But remember, a lot goes into "good sex" for women, like their mindset and feelings about the relationship, so out-of-the-bedroom changes could make a difference, too More than sexual function: predictors of sexual satisfaction in a sample of women age 40-70. Dundon, C.M., Rellini, A.H. Department of Psychology, The University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05461, USA. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2010 Feb;7(2 Pt 2):896-904..
24. Getting rejected. Just go ask her. Studies have found some people are more sensitive to rejection and those people tend to sit and think about the potential rejection more than others Implications of rejection sensitivity for intimate relationships. Downey, G., Feldman, S.I. Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York 10027, USA. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1996 Jun;70(6):1327-43. Neural dynamics of rejection sensitivity. Kross, E., Egner, T., Ochsner, K., et al. Psychology Department, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 2007 Jun;19(6):945-56.. Sound familiar? Stop thinking and start doing!
25. Getting sick. Whether there's a big event coming up or flu season's on its way, we almost all occasionally worry about getting sick. Instead, focus on positive changes, like eating well and staying active. Annual check-ups should help quell nerves, but otherwise, worrying about it isn't much help. In fact, stress could increase risk of illness.
26. Chronic headaches. There's no need to assume frequent headaches are a symptom of a brain tumor. They could also be the result of that daily cup of Joe, rebounding from pain medication, or even a heavy bag. Sure, ask a doc if the pain persists, but don't jump to any conclusions.
27. Shedding hair. It's completely normal to shed a lot — up to 100 hairs per day. Losing more than 125 hairs per day is considered excessive, but still reversible. For example, stress or poor diet could be to blame Hair growth inhibition by psychoemotional stress: a mouse model for neural mechanisms in hair growth control. Peters, E.M., Arck, P.C., Paus, R. Biomedical Research Center, Psychoneuroimmunology Research Group, Internal Medicine, Psychosomatics, University Medicine Berlin, Charité Virchow Campus, Germany. Experimental Dermatology, 2006 Jan;15(1):1-13..
28. Forgetting to wash your face before bed. Don't worry, it's not a recipe for insta-breakout. Actually, poor hygiene isn't a cause of acne — oil production and dead skin cells are. Don't make it a habit, but don't freak out if you hit the sheets before scrubbing up.
29. Sharing toiletries and cosmetics with pals. Stop the presses! This just in: Sharing earrings or even a toothbrush with a friend is probably safe. We were shocked, too. While lipstick could spread herpes, saliva doesn't, so that toothbrush is A-okay (well, still weird, but ya know). And as long as piercings are healed (that's typically about six weeks old) they won't be infected by someone else's earrings.
30. Being scatterbrained. Your house keys are at the office, your cell phone’s in a cab, and your cat’s birthday went uncelebrated. These mishaps probably aren’t signs of Alzheimer’s disease — it’s more likely you’re just stressed, anxious, or plain getting older. (Age-related memory loss might start by age 45!) Timing of onset of cognitive decline: results from Whitehall II prospective cohort study. Singh-Manoux, A., Kivimaki, M., Glymour, M.M, et al. Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, Hôpital Paul Brousse, Villejuif Cedex, France. BMJ 2012;344:d7622. Try doing just one task at a time (first send an email, then walk out the door) to fight forgetfulness Deficit in switching between functional brain networks underlies the impact of multitasking on working memory in older adults. Clapp, W.C., Rubens, M.T., Sabharwal, J., et al. Department of Neurology, The W. M Keck Foundation Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2011;108(17):7212-7217..
Cooking and Eating
31. That milk expired yesterday. Expiration dates aren't always the last word on food freshness, and some might not even mean what we think they mean. Some foods last longer, and some (like meat) actually may not survive at home until the store's sell-by date. Appearance, smell, and taste are usually good guidelines though.
32. Swallowing gum. Time to put this myth to bed. Gum will not stay in your stomach for years on end. For kiddos it could cause an intestinal blockage, but it'd take significantly more than one piece.
33. Not getting enough protein. Sure, protein's definitely important. But most people don't need to worry about not eating enough. It's easy to reach the recommended daily allowance (around 50 grams for adults) with just a few servings of legumes, dairy, and/or meat.
34. Eating an indulgent dessert. That cupcake was freaking delicious. No need to beat ourselves up about it. Dwelling on eating a "bad" food makes eating healthy in the future harder, not easier.
Accidents and Disasters
35. Bed bugs. Getting a bed bug infestation would really, really suck. The good news: Scientists have not found bed bugs transmit any diseases to humans. Avoid an infestation with precautionary measures, but there's no need to burn down the house if bed bugs turn up. Instead, call a pro to assess the situation and offer next steps.
36. Dropping a phone in the toilet. There's no such thing as true prevention here, so focus on preparation. Immediately yank it back out of the toilet. If possible, immediately remove the battery without stopping to shut down (if not, just immediately power off). If there was anything but water involved, rinse the phone with fresh water. Take the phone apart as much as possible before putting it somewhere to dry for three days, and covering it in rice might help wick away moisture — yeah, seriously. Of course, there are always waterproof cases to prevent this catastrophe in the first place.
37. Losing a wallet. While it's inconvenient, losing a wallet is not the end of the world. These days almost everything in a wallet is replaceable (if not, take it out of that wallet now — including a social security card). When in public, allow 15 minutes to calmly retrace steps and search for the wallet (at home, allow an hour). Then start canceling credit cards. Make a list of account numbers and associated phone numbers to keep safely at home, along with contact info for the DMV.
38. Missing an oil change. Modern engine oil typically doesn't need to be changed every 3,000 miles or 3 months as we've always been told. First, check the car's manual, which may actually recommend less frequent changes. Then, if the car has an oil monitoring system, we can safely rely on that to tell us when an oil change is actually necessary. Of course, there's the old-fashioned method, too: just check the oil.
39. The possibility of falling on the subway/train tracks. One study found that over 13 years, there was an average of 25 homicidal or accidental subway deaths per year in NYC. That's out of about 1.5 billion trips (on NYC's MTA alone) per year. Sure, stand away from the tracks, but no need to fear for your life.
40. Using electronics during takeoff and landing. Yeah, it could get us kicked off the plane or — more likely — dressed down by the flight attendant, but chances are forgetting to turn off our Kindles did not just send the plane off in the wrong direction. The FAA doesn't actually have proof electronics can mess with the plane's navigation, but it's still a regulation. The takeaway: Power down when told to, but if something accidentally stays on, there's no need to panic.