We’ve all got things that send us on an anxiety tailspin. But freak out no more. While worrying 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 tips for how to keep them in check.
1. Bouncing a Check
We know worrying about finances is the top source of stress for most people, and bouncing a check isn’t exactly the height of fiscal responsibilityWorrying about ones 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 a 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 Rent Late
Paying bills can be a huge source of anxiety, especially when a late fee is 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 falls on a weekend or holiday, the check typically isn’t considered late until the next business day. Plus, most landlords include a few day grace period where rent is not considered late (and subject to those pesky fees!). Refer to your lease to determine your landlord’s specific policy on a grace period and late fees.
3. The Cash-Only Restaurant
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 there’s 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 review sites, such as Yelp and Foursquare, which usually list whether cards are accepted.
4. Paying at the End of the Meal
The arrival of the check after a meal can miraculously halt all conversation and merriment. If the meals cost about the same, 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 their own way.
5. Your 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 healthEavesdropping 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.
. Try, “I’d love for you to stay with me, but all we have is an air mattress.” If your pals aren’t down for snuggling next to 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 doGender differences in memory for the appearance of others. Horgan TG, Mast MS, Hall JA. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 2004, Dec.;30(2):0146-1672.
. And who wants to impress people that prioritize clothing (or waist size!) so highly anyway?
8. Last Night's Drunk Texts
Throwing back a few too many last night probably means your phone is filled with regrettable texts. Handle the clean-up calmly—if the messages are simply embarrassing but otherwise inoffensive, send something along the lines of: “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 hungover at brunch should do the trick.
9. Forgetting to Call a Friend
Whether it was a true slipup 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 any other time you can only devote partial attention) and then call back. Quickly apologize for the mistake and move on to more important matters, like what’s going on in their 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. (“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 a 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. Making a Freudian Slip
We really did mean to tell that busty woman her idea was “the best,” it just came out wrong—and studies show subconscious factors can cause a verbal slipupAn experimental study on freudian slips]. Köhler T, Simon P. Psychotherapie, Psychosomatik, medizinische Psychologie, 2002, Nov.;52(9-10):0937-2032.
. 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 the appearance of their pearly whites—was a better predictor of their well-beingPsychosocial impact of dental aesthetics among university undergraduates. Kolawole KA, Ayeni OO, Osiatuma VI. International orthodontics / Collège européen d’orthodontie, 2012, Jan.;10(1):1879-680X.
Working and Networking
13. Being Late For 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 (whether its out loud or in our heads) will 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 nameTips for remembering names and other important information. Hills LS. The Journal of medical practice management : MPM, 2008, Jun.;23(5):8755-0229.
15. Not Responding to an Email
Ugh, an email has been sitting in your inbox for two weeks, 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 your phone.
17. A Tough Meeting With Your Boss
That request for a raise is coming out a lot more like stutters and suddenly we notice we’re wearing footie pajamas. (Phew, that was 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 cheatThe role of attachment avoidance in extradyadic sex. Beaulieu-Pelletier G, Philippe FL, Lecours S. Attachment & human development, 2011, Sep.;13(3):1469-2988.
. 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 relationshipCommitment, pro-relationship behavior, and trust in close relationships. Wieselquist J, Rusbult CE, Foster CA. Journal of personality and social psychology, 1999, Dec.;77(5):0022-3514.
. 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 as 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 smoothlyDeconstructing the “reign of error”: interpersonal warmth explains the self-fulfilling prophecy of anticipated acceptance. Stinson DA, Cameron JJ, Wood JV. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 2009, Jul.;35(9):0146-1672.
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 tooMore than sexual function: predictors of sexual satisfaction in a sample of women age 40-70. Dundon CM, Rellini AH. The journal of sexual medicine, 2009, Nov.;7(2 Pt 2):1743-6109.
24. Being Rejected
Just go ask them! Studies have found some people are more sensitive to rejection and those people tend to sit and think about the potential rejection more than othersImplications of rejection sensitivity for intimate relationships. Downey G, Feldman SI. Journal of personality and social psychology, 1996, Aug.;70(6):0022-3514. Neural dynamics of rejection sensitivity. Kross E, Egner T, Ochsner K. Journal of cognitive neuroscience, 2007, Aug.;19(6):0898-929X.
. Sound familiar? Stop thinking and start doing!
25. Getting Sick
Whether there’s a big event coming up or flu season is 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
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 blameHair growth inhibition by psychoemotional stress: a mouse model for neural mechanisms in hair growth control. Peters EM, Arck PC, Paus R. Experimental dermatology, 2006, Mar.;15(1):0906-6705.
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, that toothbrush is A-okay (well, still weird, but y’know). And as long as piercings are healed (that’s typically six weeks after getting pierced), 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 45Timing 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 Sante et de la Recherche Medicale, 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 forgetfulnessDeficit 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
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
34. Eating an Indulgent Dessert
That cupcake was freakin’ 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 Your 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 three 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 Train Tracks
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.
Originally published April 2012. Updated June 2015.