How to practice worry time? Do you schedule time to worry? Have you ever noticed yourself overplaying the scenario in your head for hours? It’s like you’re:
- Expecting a different outcome.
- Dwelling on every single detail of the situation.
- Creating versions of same scenario.
- Spending hours rehearsing scenarios.
- Unable to stop thinking about it.
- Constantly needing reassurance from others.
- Setting unrealistic high standards upon fearing mistakes.
- Expecting worst-case scenarios taking place.
That’s literally just me worrying all the time. I’d constantly fear what tomorrow holds and worry about unexpected challenges that may lay ahead.
In this blog, you’ll find:
- How Does Worry Time Technique Work?
- How to Use the Worry Circle?
- List of Things You Can’t Control
- List of Things You Can Control
- How Can It Help?
This year I have some serious goals for my blog. But I’d constantly worry about not being able to achieve it. I also work 9-5 to sustain my bills, but I constantly fear job instability and failing to pay the monthly rent.
Do you also worry about these from this list?
- Job instability.
- Your weight or physical appearance.
- Meeting others’ expectations
- Being devoid of meaningful relationships.
- Debt and future financial stability.
- Life’s true purpose.
- Not achieving personal goals.
- Worst-case scenarios of upcoming events.
So many times, I’d notice the pattern and tell myself “Argh, stop worrying.” But the therapist side of me whispers, “Bad advice, Sally.“
The advice ‘stop worrying’ assumes that you have a simple switch to turn off your worries. It fails to acknowledge the depth of your anxiety–i. e., cognitive patterns, your past experiences, and so on. While this advice may appear worth something (in theory), I believe in advice that offer specificity. That is, more practical steps for managing anxiety.
How Does Worry Time Technique Work?
Now, if I ask you to stop thinking about a green apple, you might struggle doing it. Rather, why not set time aside to think about the green apple? You see, the key principle is—-instead of having to avoid your worries, acknowledge it, write it down, and attend to it later.
So how does setting a worry time really work?
Having a designated worry time for yourself is like setting a boundary. It encourages you to ask yourself:
- When (what time of the day) is it appropriate for me to engage in worry?
- At what point does my worry start dominating other aspects of my life?
- How long should my designated worry time last daily?
- How can i signal the start and end of my worry time?
- What guidelines can I establish to prevent worrying outside my designated worry time?
These questions lets you know that you’re giving yourself time to address worries. This helps prevent you worrying all day long. You get to break that pattern and engage in problem solve instead of unhelpful worrying.
Here’s how you must go about the worry-time tactic:
- Set a designated time during the day (10 – 15 minutes)
- Make it intentional and focus on your worries only during this time. You can set rituals at the start and end of this duration to signal worry time. Write your worries on a paper, say it out loud, or acknowledge its presence without judgement.
- Use the worry circle to categorize things to worry about and things you shouldn’t worry about. This also helps limit repeative and unhelpful thinking.
- Use the time to brainstorm possible solutions for each worry.
- At the end of your worry time, assess how effective it has been in managing your worries
How to Use the Worry Circle for Worry Time?
The Worry Circle is one of my preferred tools to eliminate constant worry and negative thoughts. You’ll find two sections inside: Things you can’t control but worry about and Things you worry about and can control.
Take out the list of all negative thoughts that you’d have recorded throughout the day, only to get back in your worry time.
Then, categorize those thoughts as per the sections you see in the worry circle. Thoughts/things that you think is not under control, put them in the left section. Other thoughts/things can go in the right section.
List of things you can’t control/not worry about:
- How others respond or behave towards you.
- Other’s opinions about you.
- Company layoffs.
- Societal pressuee
- Someone’s standards of perfection.
- Other’s reaction to your decisions.
List of things you can control/worry about:
- Communicating your expectations, limitations & standards.
- Establishing boundaries with others.
- Improving and updating your skills.
- Setting expectations for yourself.
- Plan and managing your finances wisely.
How Does the Worry Circle Help?
The worry circle helps you identify that there’s still something that you can control or influence about your situation. You can take actionable steps, outline specific actions, and prioritize tasks based on importance.
For instance, if you’re just starting to date someone,and worried about where it’ll go—use the worry circle. How you communicate and the efforts you put in—is all you can control. Based on this, i assume your actionable steps would be: Investing time in shared activities with your partner, and offer active listening. Whereas, your partner’s past experiences or expectations towards you—are something you can’t control. It’s best to recognize it and direct your efforts towards what you can control.
Take another instance of a work situation where you’re on tight deadlines to complete a stressful project. Take out the worry circle. Your work approach and communication with colleagues is what you can take action towards. However, unexpected changes in project is something you can’t control. So you’d rather take steps towards adapting to changes and creating time boundaries rather than dwelling on things you can’t change.
If you’re big into setting worry time aside but don’t know what to really do, then this is a great activity for you. Using a worry circle in this time can help you make a clear action plan, reduce negative thoughts, and make the situation manageable.
Sally George is a Psychologist & the Editor of Gentle Meanings. She shares thought-provoking tools, asks insightful questions, and encourages her readers to be gentle with themselves.