How worrying everyday can make you feel less stressed
This time of year has always felt like a frenzy for me. Despite the joy of warmer weather and exciting social engagements in the calendar, I also find it quite exhausting and get the feeling that it’s “impossible” to get everything done before Christmas.
Add in emerging from six lockdowns with all of my social skills apparently still in lockdown?!, kids commencing a staggered return to school (complete with school closures, covid tests, masks), and navigating the new world of hybrid work, yep, that’s a cocktail for overwhelm.
If you’ve found yourself feeling particularly frazzled, perhaps with a racing mind of all the things on your plate, I want to introduce you to a strategy called Worry Time, which can significantly reduce your stress levels.
This is a strategy I was introduced to many years ago in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, that I continue to use whenever I notice my own cues of stress starting to appear. Broken sleep, frenetic energy, and a short fuse. This is how it works:
- Create a new note page on your phone or create a new “list” in your to-do software/notebook if you use one. Title this page or list: Worries.
- Next, block out 10-15 minutes ideally every day at around the same time
and same location and label this block of time “Worry Time”. Make sure your Worry Time is scheduled for at least three hours prior to bedtime.
- For the next week, whenever you find yourself worrying about something, write it on your list or notes page. Tell yourself that you will dedicate time to worrying about it later, during your Worry Time. And then, stop thinking about it.
- When your Worry Time comes around, go to your list and start to worry. Really go to town. Catastrophise. Imagine the worst case scenarios. You might also want to use this time to problem solve (but you don’t have to!). And then, when your time is up, stop thinking about your worries and get back to whatever you were doing before.
- Repeat this daily for the next seven days.
While this strategy may seem counterintuitive, it comes from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The strategy’s technical name is Stimulus Control.
Research conducted by Sarah Kate McGowan from the University of Illinois and
Associate Professor Evelyn Behar found that daily Worry Time reduced stress levels significantly over a two week period.
I’ve had friends use this strategy when managing their divorce (alongside help from a great psychologist), I myself have used it during a tricky time at a previous job where I was feeling really micromanaged. Give it a go, and see if you can lower your stress as we head into the silly season! If your worries feel overwhelming, or these articles brought up sensitive feelings for you, reach out to Lifeline or Beyond Blue.