If you are a worrier, you probably find that worry can sour your day. Incessant worry increases anxiety and can crowd out other more pleasant thoughts in your mind. You have probably tried to distract from worry, but if you’re like most people trying not to think about something brings it back into your mind with a vengeance. There’s a reason.
Worry can actually serve an adaptive function. A healthy dose of worry or concern can help you prepare for something important. Without worry, you probably wouldn’t do as well on tests, you might submit a resume without double-checking it, and you probably wouldn’t ever visit the doctor. Although it may feel unpleasant, worry actually does a lot for us.
The problem arises when worry begins to take over and no longer helps us prepare for anything. As worry reaches a fever pitch, it can actually get in the way of our effectiveness. It might seem like the solution would be to think about something else, but that’s easier said than done. Oftentimes we worry about something because it seems important, and important things need to be thought about. We need to prepare for important things, remember?
One solution to this problem is called worry scheduling. Worry scheduling is a well-researched strategy to limit worrying to a certain time every day. Choose a 15-20 minute period near the end of the day to devote to worrying about all of the important things you have to worry about. When you have a worrisome thought during the course of the day, remind yourself you have an appointment with this worry later on, and postpone it. Then you can put your mind on whatever you were doing before the worry appeared. If you need to, you can even make a note of what the worry was about so you can focus on it later.
When the schedule worry time comes, devote as much time as you feel the worry deserves. Some people use the whole 30 minutes, but most people run out of steam after 5 or 10. Oftentimes you might find that when the worry is postponed, it no longer seems as compelling. If that’s the case, you needn’t worry about it at all. This also means there was never any urgency to the worry in the first place. By setting the time, it’s easier to give yourself permission to not worry the rest of the day, and by limiting the duration of the worry, you significantly reduce its impact on your overall mood.
For more information on this and other cognitive behavioral approaches to anxiety, visit Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Los Angeles
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