Sometimes I feel like therapy is a waste of time, and other times my therapist teaches me a new skill that is a game-changer. Recently, the new skill is scheduling time to worry.
I was diagnosed with PTSD and anxiety many years ago, and some days it feels I’m always going to be in a perpetual state of worry—like my heart is always going to jump out of my chest. I worry about meal planning, chores, job responsibilities, and sometimes silly stuff like my cat falling in the toilet if I leave the seat up. Each worry adds more stress to my already tired mom brain.
Some days it feels I’m always going to be in a perpetual state of worry … [and] each worry adds more stress to my already tired mom brain.
I’ve been struggling to find new ways to cope since COVID has taken away some of my biggest coping strategies like seeing friends, going to the gym—really, going anywhere. So when my therapist mentioned scheduling time in my calendar to worry, I immediately laughed at her suggestion. It sounded too funny to me, to sit there and pencil in a time to worry every day or even every week. But after a few giggles, I actually listened to her explain how it would be beneficial. After all, she was the professional, right? If anyone knew how to get a handle on my anxiety without increasing my medications, it would be her.
Why setting aside time to worry helps
Well, it sounds silly, but literally, you just write down in your calendar 10-20 minutes a day to focus on your worries, stressful situations, or crazy scenarios your brain comes up with and use the time to get it all out there.
According to Psych Central, setting a scheduled time to worry is a technique that comes from cognitive-behavioral therapy. It helps us recognize what is causing us to be anxious, despite it seeming counterintuitive. It also:
- Provides a better angle and can help us figure out which is most important
- Helps us become more mindful of our thought processes
- Creates a neutral time period to think about our worries, allowing us a safer space to analyze and compare what is bothering us
As a mom, I have a lot of difficulty taking time to myself. Enjoying more than a five-minute shower, sitting down to enjoy a warm meal, or an hour of downtime to read a good book. Honestly, I even feel anxious about working more while my husband takes care of the kids. But those thoughts usually just pop up during inconvenient times while I’m trying to get a project done for work or when I’m finally enjoying a rom-com after the kids go to bed.
By scheduling 20 minutes of worry time in my calendar, it helps me prioritize taking care of myself. And if it is important enough to write down, I feel more pressure to actually follow through and do it. Sometimes, writing motivational quotes can also help get me in the right mindset.
Use a timer to help learn this new skill
It’s important to set and stick to a set period of worry time. You can end early, but try your best not to run over. It can be difficult to stop at the end of the 20 minutes, but I find a loud timer on my phone helps remind me to stop. The sharp bell helps my brain snap out of worry mode and into my normal routine.
Schedule the time when you are most anxious
For me, I love scheduling time to worry at the start of my workday. This time is usually spent in my office where it is quiet and where I have all my notebooks. Scheduling the time in my office makes it easier because I can create notes, lists, and reminders to help me figure out what is making me anxious and if I can actually do something to help (and make an action plan).
Stick to the allotted time
If we find that we are still thinking about our anxieties during other times throughout the day, write a note to remind yourself of the concern, and tell yourself you’ll think about it during the next worry session. It will help retrain your brain to figure out triggers, prevent judgment, and look at the worry with fresh eyes out of the moment of panic.
At first, it can seem like a lot to just save the worry for later, but after a bit of practice, you can find it helps a lot. Writing down the worry gives you a physical reminder, so you know you’re not going to forget. Now you can enjoy time with family, focus on work, etc. when you know that you have time to come up with solutions to your problem during your next scheduled worry time.
It may take a few weeks to become good at this skill, but it is definitely worth the effort. I’ve found that after a while I was even able to shorten my worry time each day. Now, I’m saving a lot of time, being more present, and staying more focused on other things during the day.
Read More: How I Parent Through Anxiety and Depression