Updated: Jun 29, 2021
Worry can become overwhelming for us, it is like a magnifying glass, enlarging everything, and if we persistently worry than this can lead to anxiety and even panic.
Worry can be difficult to control and one worry can lead to another and another, worry can take over and it may be you wake up in the morning and start to worry and find it difficult to get to sleep because your worry is keeping you awake.
We can falsely believe that all our worrying will help us control things but the opposite is true.
The following three tips are to help you find some way to get control of your worries instead of your worries taking control of you.
If these strategies are new to you they make take a little practice, but with practice and perseverance these will help you to start to get control of your worry.
3 Tips for Managing Worry.
1. The Worry Jar
Find a Jar or box and call this your worry jar, throughout the day write down your worries and place them in the worry jar.
Writing down your worries helps take them out of your head, by writing them down you feel like you are emptying your brain.
Seeing your worries written down can help you process them, be more objective about them and can take the strength out of them.
Writing down your negative thoughts isn't a way of getting rid of them, but it does help you take control of them.
By writing them down you can start to identify worry you have control of and worry you don't have control of.
Throughout the day as you write your worries down fill up your worry jar with your worries, then when it comes to worry time, see the last tip, it enables you to re-read all your worries of the day, but because you have written down your worries, you can process them and then screw up your worries and throw your worries away. This can be a cathartic exercise.
You are literally throwing your worries away.
2. The worry Tree
I mentioned above about identifying the worry you can control and the worry you don't have control of.
The Worry Tree is a good tool to help you make this decision.
Its named the Worry Tree because our worries branch in different directions, the worry you can control and the worry you can't.
THE WORRY TREE
Notice your worry
What am I worrying about?
Is this worry
a) A Worry I can control - (a current problem)
b) A Worry I can't control (a hypothetical worry)
Worry I can Control a) Can I do something about it now
YES Do it
Let the worry Go and change your focus
b) If I cant do something now, can I schedule a time to do something
Do it Let the worry go and change your focus
Worry I can't control
Let the worry go and change your focus
If your worry is a hypothetical worry it will not matter how much energy or time you spend worrying about it, you will not be able to change anything,
Once you have identified a hypothetical worry you need to be able to let it go, otherwise you will exhaust yourself going round in circles, asking a stream of what if's and not being able to change things.
If it is a worry you can make a change about then stop worrying and move to action, either do something now or schedule a time you can do something about it.
For example a hypothetical worry may be worrying about the weather and how it might ruin plans. Unfortunately no matter how much you worry about the weather, you do not have the control to change the weather,
It will not matter how much you worry, nothing will change.
However if for example you are worrying about a bill you can't pay then you can have control of that, you can pay it now or you can schedule a call to have a discussion about arranging a payment plan. Once you have sorted this out you can stop worrying.
In these uncertain times it is difficult not to worry about the Coronavirus pandemic, and it's implications, however by using the worry tree you can see how you have no control over this so you have to find a way to let that worry go.
However the worry you can have control about is your worry about how it will affect yourself and those close to you, You can have control of this now by following government guidelines and reducing your risk and the risk of those close to you.
Use the Worry Tree to establish what to do with your worry and when you need to let it go.
3. Dedicated Worry Time
Dedicated worry time is exactly what it says, it is to give yourself permission to have a dedicated time of day when you set aside a time to worry.
This can be a time you set aside once or twice a day of about 10-20 minutes.
If you spend all of your time worrying about different things this can be exhausting and also lead to increased stress and anxiety.
Worrying in a dedicated worry time is another way of being able to control your worry, rather than your worry being in control of you.
Through the day when you start to worry you acknowledge your worry, but stop the worry at that point, and keep it for your dedicated worry time, if you have a worry jar write down your worry at that time and place it in your worry jar, ready to re-visit in your worry time.
Throughout the day capture your worries and when your worry time comes find a quiet place on your own and let all of your worries come to mind, or take out your worries from your worry jar.
Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and spend those minutes as your worry time, worrying about everything that came to mind that day, Let yourself do all the worrying you want and need to do.
At first you will fill the whole of your worry time, it may even be difficult for you to stop at the end of your worry time, but you need to be strict with your time
However as time goes on you will find that when your worry time comes the worry you had earlier may not be worrying you any longer or you have resolved your worry before your worry time, without spending time worrying about it. You may well find a pattern to your worries and so you spend less time worrying.
Giving yourself dedicated worry time will help you recognise the insignificance of some of your worries and you will start to be in more control.
All of these 3 tools can be used separately or together.
By combining them you can
Write down your worries throughout the day and put them in your worry jar
Use the worry tree to work out if they are worries you can control or not control
Take your worry jar to your Dedicated worry time
Take your worries out of the worry jar and worry about them
Screw up or tear up your paper and physically throw away your worries at the end of the worry time
If you feel you need more information about using these tools in your life Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you understand them along with other ways to help you navigate your negative thoughts and how they influence your emotions and behaviours.
Laura Knight Dip.Couns MBACP is an experienced and qualified counsellor and CBT therapist who runs her own private practice SeeClear Counselling in Poole, Dorset..She is an Anxiety UK Approved Therapist and specialises in working with anxiety and panic attacks.
Laura can offer face to face, telephone and online video counselling and during the Coronavirus crisis is offering a number of discounted counselling sessions.