Worry sessions

The "worry time" strategy

The "worry time" strategy is to allow circular thoughts to occur, but in a controlled manner. By simply having a process in place for dealing with worries, it may help you put your mind at ease.

Step 1 - Identify worries that are outside of your control

The first step is to ask yourself "is there anything I can do about this worry?". If your answer is:

  • Yes: You believe that you actually have some control over this concern, and if you take the appropriate steps you will be able to avoid it (or at least make it less likely). In this case, it becomes a problem solving task. Make a plan for how you intend to act on this worry, and put that plan in writing. Hopefully, having a firm plan of action will help ease your concerns.
  • No: The outcome that you fear is largely outside of your control. If this is the case, excessive worrying will not be helpful. However, worrying is natural, so let's try some planned and controlled worrying. Move on to Step 2.

Step 2 - Schedule a worry session

In a "worry session" you are allowed to worry about whatever you want. There are no constraints. Plan a 15 minute worry session for a time you know you will not be busy. When you notice your worry coming up at other times, postpone it until your scheduled worry session. Think to yourself "I will worry about this later", and know that you actually will.

Step 3 - Ending worry sessions

Hopefully, a worry session will end by itself when its time is up. Worrying is hard work, and when you intentionally try to worry you may exhaust yourself. However, this will not always be the case. Sometimes you will get caught in a seemingly endless cycle of rumination. When this occurs, try to break the cycle by refocusing your attention on the moment. This can take practice. One way is to find an activity that completely absorbs you and is incompatible with worrying. Everyone is different, but one of the following may work for you:

  • watch a comedy
  • do a crossword or sudoku puzzle
  • play a game on your phone
  • go swimming or for a run
  • go shopping
  • call a friend