Worrying rarely solves anything, but many of us just can’t resist doing it whenever we should be doing something else. Instead of letting worry distract you from your life, set aside a special time for it.
Studies have shown that scheduling worry into your day decreases anxiety over time, according to psychotherapist Amy Morin in an article for Psychology Today. If you have an anxiety disorder, that’s something that requires treatment with a medical professional; however, many people are simply caught in a worry loop, because they’ve become so used to anticipating the worst, and that causes all sorts of problems:
Ruminating about the past and worrying about the future makes it impossible to stay in the present moment. Consequently, worrying will impair your performance and affect almost everything you do.
It can also take a major toll on your relationships. If you’re distracted all the time or you introduce “what if…” questions into your conversations because you’re predicting terrible outcomes, those around you may grow weary.
But scheduling the worry into a set time can alleviate this issue. Here’s how to get started.
Pick A 30-Minute Window
On your calendar, set aside 30 minutes for worrying. Morin says it’s best to make it a consistent daily time, but best if it’s not too close to when you go to sleep. Maybe you won’t need it all, maybe you’ll find you need more at first, but try to contain it to a half hour.
Don’t Let Worry Intrude
If throughout the day you feel yourself worrying about something that isn’t immediately relevant, remind yourself that you have time to think about it later. Save it. There is space for those anxieties, and you’ll get to it. Then try to reconnect with what’s happening around you in the moment.
Keep a Notebook
When your half hour of worry time arrives, use a notebook to catalogue and process what’s causing you anxiety. Sometimes seeing things written down helps relieve the stress, because you can see how serious or absurd your worries are—and which you can let go of. Morin doesn’t suggest this, but it might be helpful to also keep that notebook around during the day when you’re starting out: as a worry pops up, you can jot a note in it for later. You don’t want to worry about forgetting your worry!
Set a Timer
When those 30 minutes are over, the timer will ding and you’ll be free of your worries for another 24 hours. Morin says that giving the exercise two weeks should begin to show some results; over time, many of her clients find they have reduced their worry overall, feeling and sleeping better because these anxieties aren’t draining their mental strength all day. At the very least, it will give all that free floating fear a structure.