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How scheduling worry time can help with anxiety

Have you come across ‘worry time’ before? It’s a technique that many people use to help them manage their worries and anxiety. The principle is this – rather than worrying and feeling anxious throughout the day, you make a note somewhere of your worries and then you schedule a specific time each day when you […]

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Have you come across ‘worry time’ before? It’s a technique that many people use to help them manage their worries and anxiety.

The principle is this – rather than worrying and feeling anxious throughout the day, you make a note somewhere of your worries and then you schedule a specific time each day when you work through your worried thoughts.

You might, for example, feel that 5:30pm on your commute home from work, or 7pm when you can sit down with a cup of tea, is a good time to spend twenty minutes to half an hour worrying about whatever has come up throughout the day.

When a worried thought appears during the day, rather than dwelling on it there and then, you can make a note of it, park it for later on and feel free to get on with your day, knowing that you’ve allotted some specific worry time later on.

It’s really hard to stop worrying altogether. Worry is a mechanism that our brains have learnt in order to keep us safe. Our brains learned to worry and experience anxiety in order to deal with tigers and other threats in our natural environment. Except most of us aren’t dealing with tigers any more. We’re dealing with presentations, pandemics and zoom calls. Our worrying becomes something that doesn’t keep us safe, it just holds us back.

And often the harder we try not to think about something, the more we think about it!

DON’T THINK ABOUT PINK ELEPHANTS.

I am guessing right now all you can think about are pink elephants?

Simply trying not to think or worry about something just doesn’t work. And that can be where the worry time technique can really help some people. You’re not trying not to think about it, you’re noting it down and making a deal with your brain to think about it later.

Worry time doesn’t work for everyone but it does work for many.

HERE ARE A FEW TIPS IF YOU’RE GOING TO TRY THE WORRY TIME TECHNIQUE:

Schedule it for the same time every day

Habits form when something is easy to do. Schedule your worry time for the same time each day, preferably a time when no one else has demands of you. It ideally needs to be later in the day, but definitely not too close to bedtime. Many people find around 6pm to 7pm is about right and don’t allow yourself more than half an hour at the most or it can take over.

Find somewhere calm and quiet (and uninterrupted)

Worry time is an act of self-care for many people so make it sacrosanct if you’re going to do it. Find yourself somewhere calming where you won’t be interrupted and make sure the people around you know to leave you alone for that half an hour.

Think about what you’ll do after your worry time has finished and make it a ritual

Set an alarm so you don’t go over your time, it’s really important that you stop at the end of the time you’ve scheduled. Always have something you enjoy that will be a bridge for you to transition out of your worry time. That might be five minutes with your favourite magazine, making a cup of tea, or stepping out into your garden for five minutes before you go back to your day to day. This gives you something to look forward to and move you into a positive mindset again.

Write down your worries throughout the day

The important thing about worry time is that it is the only time during the day when you allow yourself to worry. So as things crop up and negative thoughts pop into your head throughout the day, make a note of them in your diary, on your phone or on a post-it note, whatever works for you.

How apps can help you with your worry time

I know of many people who use WorryTree for their worry time. If you open the app and tap on Add Worry, it will take you through to a screen where you can write down what you’re worrying about and categorize it as being about ‘love’, ‘work’, ‘money’ etc. If it’s a practical worry then you can tap through to the action planning screen and mark it as ‘I don’t know yet’ and it’ll save for later. If it’s a hypothetical worry and you can’t do anything about it, WorryTree will suggest some ways to mindfully refocus your attention. Either way your worries are saved and during your worry time later on you can go back and do some action planning and resolve them.

Letting go of your worries can be really difficult but if you don’t want to deal with your worries in the here and now then worry time is definitely a technique that’s worth trying.

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