Worry time: a technique to reduce anxiety
With constant horror stories in the media and a global pandemic turning everyone’s life upside down, it’s not surprising that many of us are feeling anxious.
Where there’s a danger or threat, worry serves a useful purpose. It’s a protective mechanism that helps us consider possible negative outcomes so that we can prepare and stay safe.
But in modern life, it’s easy to feel stressed, worried and anxious all of the time. Being constantly prepared for danger and imagining the worst is exhausting and has a hugely detrimental effect on physical and mental health.
Worry time is a great tool to feel more in control of anxiety and reduce time spent worrying. It involves postponing any worries until a specific, scheduled period each day.
How to use worry time
Begin by scheduling a 10-20 minute time period each day for your allotted ‘worry time’. This could be on your commute home from work, after dinner, right before bedtime or first thing in the morning.
You’ll need to set this time aside in your diary consistently each day. Try to make sure you’ll be somewhere relatively calm where you won’t be interrupted.
Once you’ve decided when and where your worry time will take place, you can apply the worry time technique as follows:
1) Write down worries when they arise
Whenever a worry pops into your head, calmly notice it and write it down. You can do this on paper, in the notes section of your phone or anywhere else that’s easily accessible. Avoid getting stuck in a negative cycle, thinking about what might happen or how awful things could be. Just listen to what each worry is saying and acknowledge it.
2) Carry on with your day
If the same worries pop into your head, gently acknowledge them and try to let them go, telling yourself you’ll have a chance to worry about them later.
At your scheduled time, return to your list of worries and go through them one by one. Allow yourself to worry as much as wanted or needed.
Try to use the whole of your worry time, even if you don’t feel you need it. If you have any worries left over at the end of your scheduled time, then leave them on your list for tomorrow. Anything that is no longer bothering you can be crossed off.
As well as worrying, you can also use your worry time to problem-solve or make a plan where particular worries require action.
4) Do something nice
When worry time is over, make sure to do an enjoyable activity to help switch your mind back into a more positive, worry-free state.
Of course, you can modify the worry time technique to suit your own needs. For example, some people find it helpful to have two, shorter worry time slots each day.
Why use worry time
The brilliance of worry time is that:
You don’t spend all day feeling anxious and overall time spent worrying is reduced
You learn to let go of troublesome, anxious thoughts, as it’s much easier to do this when you know you’ll come back to them later
When you go through worries at worry time, they will often have lost their immediacy and power, so you can look at them with greater calmness and clarity
Over time, many people feel calmer and find they don’t need to schedule as much worry time
As with all techniques, worry time doesn’t work for everyone but give it a go and let me know how you find it. I’ll be covering more techniques for managing anxiety in future blogs.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by worries or anxiety, I also offer one-to-one counselling sessions online and in Bicester, Oxfordshire. As an accredited counsellor and psychotherapist, I provide a reflective and non-judgemental space where you can explore what's bothering you, increase self-understanding, and make positive changes in your life.