It's Worrying Time!

So, I've finished my Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course with IAPT! Just like my previous set of session with them, the lessons I've learned have been totally invaluable in terms of maintaining what is currently a pretty healthy state of mind for myself.

Where the first lot of sessions were assessing the root causes of my anxieties, the negative beliefs about myself that I'd internalised and how those all came to be, this set was more about ways to manage these issues I'd been dealing with before a small worry becomes a full blown panic attack. One of the most useful, but also challenging techniques was all about making time for worry.

How it Works

When worry happens. with myself as with many others, often times we get stuck within them. Part of it is our brains tricking us into thinking that somehow we I think hard enough we'll be able to solve anything, when all we are really doing is causing more frustration and panic. Other times, it will be that we spiral without realising. A worry about what to make for dinner tonight will turn into a worry about when to go shopping next, into a worry about how much time you have in the day to get errands done, to a worry about not being well organised enough and so on, when worry number 1 hasn't even been tackled.

For some it's a method of self-punishment ("if I'm feeling bad it's because I'm not good enough at fixing my problems, so I deserve it"), for others they feel like if they let go of a problem for even a second they will forget to rectify it late.

In a shocking turn of events, all of these reasons for holding onto worry create far more stress than they reduce.

At the same time a little bit of worry might be useful, might push us into working harder at something or help us remember something important. The point is not to let it overwhelm us, and a good way of resolving this is to set aside some time in the day, preferably a couple of hours before you go to bed so you don't carry your worries into bed with you and end up not getting enough sleep, to do nothing but worry. You might think this sound horrific! Nothing but solid worrying? My heart couldn't take it! But the point of it is to give yourself a break throughout the day so by the time it's Worrying Time you'll be prepared.

You feel a worry biting at the back of your brain on the way into work? Let yourself know "I'll get to it later." Feel yourself spiralling into a list of worries in the middle of class? Take a deep breath, maybe note those things down, and tell yourself "I have plenty of time to address this later."

It's actually quite a mindful practice, the concept of Worrying Time, because it allows you to be fully present in the act of assessing problems you may be facing. If you are halfway present in a worry, halfway scrambling for a distraction, it simply drags the worry out for longer and dulls your engagement in the thing you're using to distract yourself. This method means you can pay closer attention to the things you want to think over. It may even allow you the space to realise that some of the things aren't even worth worrying about.

In the Moment

ChecklistSo it's evening time, you're sat down somewhere comfortable and peaceful, no distractions, and it's now time to worry. A good trick to make this time more valuable is first to note down all the things that you want to think over as they crop up during the day. Don't beat yourself up if you can't get through everything, just do what you can and save the rest for tomorrow. How you then process the worries in that time is whatever seems most comfortable for you. Some people might talk out loud to themselves, some might write down or type out the concerns and their feelings. Some people might start to write out a game plan for tackling each worry that they can tick off (we love checklists on this blog, seriously). Some people just like to sit and think, some people might want to doodle to help them focus, it's all up to you. Personally, I prefer the talking or writing methods, because rapid thoughts are much easier to decipher when they aren't swimming around in my mind. Also, saying something out loud or seeing it physically in front of you can give you a new perspective. Maybe you didn't need to worry after all? Maybe now a plan comes to mind to fix your worries and you feel better for it!

How to Stop


The annoying thing about worries is that they continue. Whether they spiral into more, or hit you again and again in aftershocks through the day. We're often trying to actively stop worrying, tensed up against it and ready to cover our ears and block them out. So, when we open the flood gates and allow ourselves to really feel it, how do we close them up again?

1. A Mindfulness Bell

We've talked about the concept of "Mindfulness Bells" a coupe of times before, (see: here and here) but to quickly explain the concept is a word, action, image, or anything you can use in your regular everyday life that reminds you to be mindful and present in the here and now. We can apply this technique to Worrying Time, and use some kind of sound or gesture to remind you that now is the time to stop. Maybe a deep breath, an alarm on your phone, or opening your eyes after being deep in thought. Whatever you are able to associate with calm.

2. A Ritual

Give this moment a bit of a ritualistic, magical flare if that's your style. Maybe there's a stone/talisman of some kind you can hold, and for as long as you hold it you can worry safely. Once it leaves your hands, the worries cease. If you're writing the worries down, maybe once the time is up you can burn the paper so as to physically get rid of the worries. If you use the SAM App there is a feature which allows you to type out concerns, see them written on the screen, and tap them to basically blow them up. You see the worry destroyed before your eyes and know that it's time to let the thing go.

3. Go for a Walk

Getting up and stretching your legs can help to clear thoughts and focus your mind on another activity, whilst also encouraging you to stay active, get blood flowing, and stave off those low moods.

4. Leave the Room

Pick a particular room or space to worry in, and once you leave that space you actively chose to leave your worries there and not carry them with you.

These are just some options, it's honestly completely up to you how to frame this activity so it is most comfortable for you. For me personally I like to write all my worries in a notebook, and closing that notebook signals the completion of worrying time. The last thing I'll say before I end is just give it a go. It may sound difficult, probably because it is, but it's also very rewarding once you get into a routine and gradually becomes easier. If it doesn't work for you that's absolutely fine, and there will be other techniques available for you, but do at least test it out before deciding its effectiveness.

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