In last week’s blog I wrote about the difference between normal and problematic worrying and how categorising our worries can help us to deal with it. This week I’m sharing another practical, effective technique for controlling problematic worry – Worry Time.
Worrying is a normal thinking process and a useful part of our in-built survival system. For this reason we all worry to an extent at times. However, for some people worrying can become their constant, unwelcome companion and interfere with their ability to do the things they want to do. This unhelpful worrying involves frequently thinking a thought or related thoughts, about uncertain or unpleasant future events/situations, over and over again without finding an answer or some way forward. It tends to be intrusive, gate-crashing our thinking and distracting our focus away from the present moment onto future concerns preventing us from feeling fully able to enjoy what we are doing in the moment.
A technique many people have found effective in regaining control over excessive worry is to schedule one or two short periods of 'Worry Time' each day, during which you give yourself permission and time to worry.
Engaging in Worry Time helps us to learn:
- not to react to worrying thoughts as they arise during the day.
- develop control over the urge to worry
- that the majority of our worries are related to hypothetical or imagined situations
Worry Time - the four steps
Step 1: Plan your Worry Time
Each day schedule your Worry Time. Choose the start time, length of time, place you’ll engage in your dedicated Worry Time. For example, you may choose a worry period at 7pm and decide that you will worry for 20 minutes. At first you may feel you need to set aside a longer period of time as you worry so much currently. You can review this in step 4 and may find this time shortens the longer you practice the technique. Whatever time works for you is fine however, this should be a time you set aside just for yourself to worry and you should not do anything else during this time. Ensure that any potential distractions are reduced. For example, make sure that others are aware that they should not bother you during this time, and that your mobile is silenced.
Step 2: During the day capture your worries in writing
You may want to carry a note book and write down each worry as it pops into your mind, or make a note on your phone. Once you've made a note of the worrying thought, tell yourself “I don’t need to worry about this now, because I can worry about it later during my Worry Time”. Then return your focus of attention to what you were doing, or do something else in the knowledge you can worry about that situation as much as you like in your planned Worry Time.
Step 3: Refocus on the present moment
Once you have written down your worry or worries, the next step is to refocus on the present moment. This means paying attention to what is going on around you or on the task at hand. Engage all your senses. For example, scan the room and notice all the items that are a certain colour (e.g. green), then tune into the sounds you can hear and identify as many as you can. Because you can only hold one thought at a time it’s not possible to worry when you are really focussed on what’s happening in the present moment.
With each worry you think during the day just repeat the process, writing down the worry and refocusing on the present moment paying attention to what is going on around you or on the task at hand. You may find the same worries keep popping into your mind, if so just write them down and focus on the present moment, knowing that you can worry as much as you want about them during your Worry Time later in the day.
If you worry a lot at night when you are trying to get off to sleep, you may find it useful to keep a new Worry List at the side of the bed with a pen so that you can write them down and then refocus on the task at hand - sleeping. Notice where you are what is going on around you, the feel of the duvet against your skin, get comfortable and try and sleep knowing that you can worry about it during your next Worry Time as much as you want.
Step 4: At Worry Time - Worry
At your scheduled Worry Time allow yourself to worry! Go through the list of worries you’ve prepared during the day and if some of the worries that you wrote down are no longer a problem for you, then put a line through them and let them go.
Last week I wrote about using The TOP Principle to categorise your worries. Using this principle, go through the remaining worries on your list and decide quickly for each situation you have a worry about whether it is something you can fully control, have ‘some control’ over or ‘no control’ over. Let the worries related to any situations that are outside of your control go, in effect deferring them, at least for now, so you can spend your Worry Time on the situations you have full and some control over.
From the list of situations you have control (Total or Partial) over, focus on your urgent and important worries and postpone less urgent and important worries to the next time. Now choose one situation that you would like to start to worry about. For each worry you have chosen consider:
- How you felt when you wrote the worry and how you feel about it now.
- Has the situation you were worrying about happened?
- How did you deal with it if it has?
- If it hasn't happened how likely is that it will happen?
- What evidence do you have for that assessment?
- Were there any worries that when you have come back to them during your Worry Time are no longer a problem? Spend some time reflecting on this.
- Also reflect on what it feels like to worry as much as you want during Worry Time.
At the end of Worry Time reflect on whether you needed as much time as you planned in Step 1? Adjust the length of your next Worry Time accordingly.
At the end of your Worry Time STOP your worrying.
It is very important that at the end of your Worry Time you stop your worrying. To help them do this some people like to throw away their worry list at the end of their Worry Time, or tear it up, or screw it up and put it into the bin. It's good to always start each Worry Time with a new list and fresh paper each day so that you only focus on the worries that have happened since your last Worry Time.
Regular Practice of Worry Time
Like any new skill Worry Time requires practice. As you practice Worry Time each day you may find that you feel less worried outside of your Worry Time and that you feel more able to deal with your worries. You will also come to discover that the majority of what you used to worry about was a waste of mental energy and your time.
Here’s a 4 minute video from the BBC Radio 4 on the subject of Worry Time.
BBC Radio 4 - How to manage your worries: A quick and easy guide on how to cope with the things you worry about. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03rwr72
If worry, anxiety or stress are causing problems for you, and you need help, contact me today on 021 056 8389 or via email email@example.com and let's explore how I can help you.
REMEMBER - "When you change your mind you change your life."
Tony helps individuals to harness the power of their mind to achieve success and well-being in life, work and business. Tony's particular area of expertise lies in helping people to 'change their minds' so they gain freedom from worry, anxiety and stress, overcome limiting beliefs and unhelpful habits. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of solution focused coaching, neuroscience, positive psychology and clinical hypnosis.