11 Ways to Stop Worrying About Death & Live Your Life

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Nobody alive truly knows what’s next when a person dies. My parents believe in heaven and hell, so they believe their spirit will hopefully join their loved ones in heaven. My colleague believes there is no life after death, and I believe in reincarnation

Even though all of us have certain beliefs about death and life, and it brings us some measure of comfort, the truth is that death is scary. You don’t know when your last day will be, how you will die, or what’ll happen next. So it’s only natural to worry about death – whether that concern and fear is about you, your loved ones, or just in general. 

So how to stop worrying about death and live your life to the fullest? 

I’ve got all the information about death anxiety you need, tips for how to appreciate each moment and live your life, and advice on when you should seek help

Why Do Some People Fear Death? 

It’s natural to be scared of death and dying – and it’s a normal worry to have, up to a point. But what exactly causes you to fear and worry about death? 

Here are the various reasons why some people could be scared of death and dying: 

  • A fear of losing control: You can’t necessarily control how your life ends or when
  • A fear of the unknown: Nobody really knows what happens when you’ve died, and this uncertainty can be scary. 
  • Poor health or a severe or terminal illness: You or a loved one may be suffering from cancer or another serious disease, and these circumstances make you think about your mortality and future death. 
  • Traumatic events: If you’ve experienced a traumatic event, such as abuse, assault, witnessing a death, or a car accident, it’s normal that you think about and fear death more intensely
  • Someone close to you has died: If there’s a recent death in your family, inner circle, or at your workplace, you could be contemplating death and what that means, especially since this event triggers intense emotions like grief, guilt, anger, and sadness. 
  • Panic attacks: When you have panic attacks, you panic, feel like you can’t breathe, and may think you are going to die or are dying at that moment. While a panic attack isn’t necessarily a life threat, they can trigger a fear of death. 
  • Religious teachings: Some faiths teach their followers to fear death as they will most likely be punished if they don’t stick to the straight, narrow, and morally righteous road. Fearing that you’ll end up in hell, for example, is enough to make you scared of dying and death. 
  • Public health crises and environmental disasters: Covid-19, floods, and earthquakes are just some disastrous events that make you think of your mortality, and these can easily intensify your death worries
  • Evolutionary biology: Technically, we are designed to worry about death. After all, if everyone dies, that’s the end of civilization as we know it. So it’s natural to be scared of death to some degree. 
  • Old age: As we get older and feel like our days are numbered, we think and worry about dying more. It’s more common for the elderly, who feel lonely and isolated, to significantly worry about death. 

When it becomes an intense and irrational fear, it’s a phobia. A phobia about death is called thanatophobia, and phobias negatively affect our quality of life. A fear of death can also become an anxiety, which has a negative impact on your day to day living. 

11 Ways to Stop Worrying About Death 

Dealing with any kind of worries and anxieties are complicated, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

Your mortality isn’t an easy topic to worry about or shake off, but learning healthy coping techniques can help you control these feelings, emotions, and thoughts so you don’t spiral out of control. 

Here are the 11 best ways on how to stop worrying about death:

1. Practice Acknowledgment and Acceptance

Whenever you have a fear or anxiety about something, one of the first steps is acknowledging that you have a fear. You may think “duh,” but many of us (possibly you included) think that we’re better off when we pretend the problem doesn’t exist and that it’ll magically go away.

It won’t, and it might even get worse and out of control before you know it or when you least expect it. 

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Once you get moving and incorporate healthier lifestyle choices, you’ll feel better and won’t be so worried about death. 

So acknowledge that you have a fear of death and then accept it. Accept that death is a natural part of life; nobody lives forever. With these steps, you may even realize how much you should appreciate being alive and focus on living mindfully in this moment. 

To accept death, you need to live with the anxiety that comes when the topic of death features in your thoughts or conversation. Consider a mantra to help you cultivate an acceptance of death. Examples of mantras you could use are: 

  • “Every moment spent worrying is one spent not living.”
  • “I understand and acknowledge that we all die even if I wish we could live longer.” 

2. Get Moving and Healthy

Studies have found that exercising regularly can help you manage your anxiety. And it’s no secret that exercise makes you healthier, which increases your life expectancy (aka you can live longer). 

Other healthy practices like eating healthy foods and getting enough Zzzs also have positive effects on your mind, mood, and body. When you feel well, your worries about death (and everything else) seem a lot smaller and easier to tackle compared to when you are feeling run down.

Eating too much sugar and refined carbs and drinking too much caffeine and alcohol has been shown to have a negative impact on how anxious you feel. These kinds of foods can even trigger anxious feelings, which won’t help you to stop worrying about death and living life to the fullest.

So once you get moving and incorporate healthier lifestyle choices, you’ll feel better and won’t be so worried about death. 

3. Identify Your Triggers

Knowledge is power, so it’s essential to identify what is triggering you to be scared of death and your mortality. When you know, you can work on overcoming your fears and letting go of your worries. 

If you know that a movie or TV show with someone dying triggers you to overthink about death, then you know what to avoid. Or you can expose yourself to your trigger in a safe and controlled environment with a loved one until you can face your fear without feeling scared.

Or you can learn coping techniques to temper your anxieties about death, and this will empower you.

4. Meditate

Meditation is a practice many people turn to when they are afraid of death. Meditation and breathing techniques can help quieten those intrusive thoughts about mortality and bring you peace. 

One technique you can try is imaginal flooding. A study conducted in 1974 found that the patients experienced decreased anxiety when exposed to imaginal flooding.

Note: If you’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness, don’t try this without the guidance of a mental health professional.

If you are ready to try imaginal flooding, ensure you have five minutes of uninterrupted time. Sit or lie down comfortably, and take a few deep breaths. When you feel relaxed, imagine the least scary thoughts you have about death.

Keep these thoughts as vivid as possible and be mindful of how you feel. Continue to breathe slowly and deeply. 

Repeat this exercise for a few days until you become familiar with your worries and thoughts about death, and then gradually scale your thoughts to think about the more scary stuff concerning death.

Remember to breathe as you learn to accept your thoughts and remember they are just thoughts and not facts

5. Focus on What You Can Control

Worrying about death won’t solve or improve anything, so it’s best to start focusing on what you can control. You can control your life outlook, your choices, your attitude, and your actions and behaviors. 

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Meditation and breathing techniques can help quieten those intrusive thoughts about mortality and bring you peace. 

So focus on your health – make healthy choices so you can live longer naturally. Listen to your body. Get enough sleep. And learn more about the triggers to your death worries and anxieties and seek professional help if you need to. 

6. Create a New Routine or Habit

Worrying about death (and other stuff in life) is a bad habit, so one way to stop or learn to cope with your anxieties is to create a new, healthy habit or routine. After all, worries can be overwhelming and interfere with your life. 

Just remember that you don’t want the new habit to be a means of avoiding your fears and worries, and by extension, teach your brain that anxieties are bad and something to be scared of. You want to learn acceptance and find ways to live a happy and healthy life

So consider including some of the following in your daily life: 

  • Incorporating breathing techniques like box breathing where you breathe in for 4 seconds, pause for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, and repeat. 
  • Starting your day with a cup of tea and your journal. 
  • Being mindful about how you talk to yourself and focusing on positive self-talk and affirmations and mantras. 
  • Practicing random acts of kindness during your day or week. 
  • Moving around for 10 minutes every hour. 
  • Walking barefoot on green grass and appreciating nature.
  • Celebrating the small victories

7. Set a Worry Period

You can set a worry period each day or week when you can focus on your anxiety about death, and when the time for worrying is up, that’s it and you move on. 

So decide on a time that you can set aside to worry and for how long. As a general rule, it shouldn’t be longer than 10 minutes. Maybe it’s for 7 minutes after lunch on a Saturday. Set your timer and remember that this worry time is guilt-free. There’s no room to feel bad about what you are anxious about during that time. 

Sit with your thoughts and let them come. You can make notes or journal about your death worries during this worry period, or you can just be mindful about what you think and feel. 

When the timer goes off, it’s time to get back to living your life. Go for coffee with a friend. Answer those emails. Or do the dishes.

8. Make the Most of Every Single Day

Making the most of every single day probably sounds like such a cliché when it comes to advice on how to stop worrying about death. But it does help

Live everyday like it’s your last. Make the most of every moment. Do what you can today and don’t think you have tomorrow because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. You only have now

Once you are mindful to live every day to its fullest capacity, you start surrendering to life as it actually is. You make better choices, you live with more integrity, and you’ll feel freer and happier

So since you accept that you’re going to die at some point and you are accepting that each day may be your last, you won’t fear death so much. After all, everything in life is temporary, so impact your own life in positive ways and this will extend outward to others. 

9. Create a Memento Mori Practice 

To help you stop worrying about death, you can create a memento mori practice. This is an ancient practice that originally goes back to Socrates. When you practice memento mori, you remind yourself that you’ll die one day and you think about the fragility of life

You’ll need to find something that reminds you of mortality. It can be a skull, an extinguished candle, a poem about death, a clock, an hourglass, pressed flowers, or a painting or picture that embodies death

You may think that being constantly reminded about death isn’t going to help you with your worries and anxieties and may actually make them worse, but you’d be wrong. 

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A gratitude attitude helps cultivate a sense of purpose, and it reduces stress too. 

Instead, you are confronting something you find scary, and this will feel uncomfortable at first. But eventually, you’ll enjoy long-term peace of mind as you become more confident that you can face thoughts and worries about death. 

10. Practice Gratitude 

There are a multitude of benefits in practicing gratitude. When you are grateful, you are appreciative and focus on the positive in your life, which helps replace fearfulness and the subsequent feelings of anxiety. A gratitude attitude helps cultivate a sense of purpose, and it reduces stress too. 

So to practice gratitude as a way to stop worrying about mortality and death, try these exercises

  • Gratitude journaling where you create a page a day focusing on what you are thankful for or following prompts to write about gratefulness. 
  • The “Three Good Things” exercise where you mindfully think or write about three things you are grateful for each morning or night. 
  • Making a gratitude bracelet with meaningful charms to remind you to have a gratitude attitude. 

11. Create a Legacy 

Many people focus their life on creating a personal legacy – a lasting impact on the lives of others so they’ll always remember you, thus “immortifying” you. There are various ways you can create a personal legacy: 

  • Leaving money or prized possessions to your loved ones or a charity organization
  • Building a business that has a positive impact on your community 
  • Giving the gift of “death cleaning” whereby you declutter, clean, give away, and toss your belongings, making it easier for your loved ones once you’ve passed away

What to Do When a Fear of Death Becomes Debilitating 

Any fear can easily get way out of control if we aren’t careful, aren’t aware of our worries, and don’t mind our thoughts. When your fear of death becomes debilitating and affects your day to day life, it can increase your chances of suffering from depression

You may also find yourself avoiding anything you believe can cause your demise, and you may have panic attacks when your fear of death is triggered. 

If none of the activities on my list has made any positive impact on your worries, it’s recommended to seek out a healthcare or mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist to help you deal with your death phobia and anxieties.

Treatment for thanatophobia may include: 

  • Medication 
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) 
  • Exposure therapy
  • Talk therapy
  • Existential psychotherapy

Final Thoughts on How to Stop Worrying About Death 

We all know we’re going to die, but facing that truth isn’t easy. In fact, just thinking about death is quite an anxiety ride. But there’s a point where your worries and anxieties about death become too overwhelming and scary, and that’s when you need to focus on how to stop worrying about death

You first need to acknowledge your worries, find your triggers, and then work on healthy coping techniques… like implementing constructive habits and routines in your life. You can also try meditation, setting a guilt-free “worry about death” period, practicing gratitude, leaving a personal legacy, getting a memento mori, and making the most of each day

Ready to face your fears about death while watching some movies? Then check out our guide on the 21 best movies about dealing with grief and loss.

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