Nobody in their right mind enjoys feeling nervous. It is an icky emotion. The word “anxiety” evokes feelings of, well, anxiety.
Of all emotions, anxiety and worry are among the most closely tied to our physiological responses. When anxiety happens, panic ensues. Our heart races. We hyperventilate. Our chest grows tight. Palms become clammy. Perspiration cascades like a waterfall down the forehead. Our tummy gets the “rumblies.” The world feels like it is spinning. You lose control of your thoughts, as they commence in their own NASCAR race. No wonder human beings try to avoid this feeling at all costs.
Of course, there are benefits to having anxiety, especially if it can be channeled correctly. I have discussed this in previous posts. What if I told you that there is a strategy that requires you to embrace full blown worry and panic? That question alone likely induced a mini panic attack.
It’s worry time!
The idea is to set aside a specific timeframe each day to worry. Even as a counselor, I was skeptical of such an approach. I thought the goal to get rid of these feelings. That is not the goal at all. It is part of human nature to feel anxious. Rather than elimination, the goal is balance and management of the anxiety.
Therefore, “worry time” allows an individual to feel anxious in a controlled manner.
- Set firm boundaries with yourself. This is the most important and difficult aspect in my opinion. In order to successfully execute worry time, you have to be able to stick to your time limit. One’s natural tendency is to continue ruminating on what is bothering them. It is a tough habit to break. When time is up, then it is time to move on and go about your day.
- Consider how you will use this time effectively. It is your worry time, and there is a plethora of options on how to best use it.
- Problem solving. Writing out steps to address your worries and overcome them.
- Getting down to the bottom of what is really bugging you.
- Venting/Letting it out.
- Writing or Expressing it.
- Having a safe space. Nobody wants to feel anxious, but, if you are going to, make sure you have a comfortable, private space to do it in. The last thing anyone wants is to be paranoid about others listening in, and you can do it at your own pace.
- Translation to other symptoms/feelings. One particular aspect of this technique I enjoy is its flexibility to being applied to other issues. For instance, I work with children diagnosed with ADHD. Usually, they force themselves to focus for nearly eight hours straight while at school. When they get home, I advise parents to let the children unwind and have a set amount of time where they can let loose. They need to unleash that pent-up energy. Another example came from my time working with psychotic disorders. I worked with a young man who dealt with auditory and visual hallucinations who spoke to him. He set aside two twenty-minute periods each day to let them talk to him. When the time was up, he would tell them that the conversation was over.
- Peace of mind. Many individuals who suffer from anxiety possess black-and-white thinking. They thrive on structure and strict boundaries. Worry time feeds into this thinking style by forcing an individual to stick to set rules for their anxiety. Most people even write down what is worrying them on a post-it note or in their phone to worry about it during their worry time. The other common result of worry time is that people find that they do not use their entire timeframe. Usually, they run out of things to worry about, or they realize that it really is not that big of a deal.
- You are in control. Anxiety often stems from feeling like a situation is out of our control. We do not know what to do, and all these extraneous factors are at play. Worry time gives a person an opportunity to gain some a sense of control over an emotion that often makes us feel the exact opposite way.
- Getting to the root of it. As I mentioned, the time you set aside can help someone focus their energy on their anxiety. The individual does not have to feel spread thin and rushed. This time is dedicated specifically to this cause. A person can take whatever necessary steps to address their feeling, the situation, or conflict.
- The Caring Counselor