Anxiety and worry are something which we all experience – it would be pretty shocking if you didn’t. These worries are an instinctual component of humans as we use this anxiety to keep ourselves safe. Like anything, sometimes these worries can feel like they overtake our minds, making us feel like we’ve got a bit of a mental hurricane! These thoughts and worries can make us feel overwhelmed and cause us to feel physical symptoms such as our heart racing or feeling super sweaty – and then because we feel so horrible, we end up with even more worries. This is all a vicious cycle which maintains itself and can cause the anxiety and low mood we experience.
In today’s post I’ll be outlining a method called ‘Worry Management’. This is a common method taught by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) practitioners which explores how we can break that vicious cycle by tackling the thoughts and worries we experience.
Types of Worry:
There are two main types of worry:
One of the most common type of worries are practical worries – these are worries about current problems that we are facing i.e., an outstanding bill or being late to an important meeting when in traffic. We tackled these be learning skills to problem solve.
Then we have hypothetical worries which usually always start with ‘what if’… With these worries they tend to be beyond our control as their hypothetical situations which we cannot do much about – so to tackle these we can learn how to react differently. For example, ‘what if I’m late to this meeting? What if my manager then fire me? How will I pay rent? What if lose my house?’ although the likelihood of this is low, we still find ourselves worried about this hypothetical worse-case scenario. When in actual fact, when we arrive to that meeting late, we simply get told not to worry and continue.
A really helpful tool to identify hypothetical and practical worries is using a worry tree. You’ll find a template of the worry tree attached below – working your worries through the tree can really help breakdown and label our worries.
Worry Diaries & Worry Time
As I described earlier, these worries can often feel a bit like a mental hurricane – so how can we tackle that? One of the best things to do is get those worries out of your mind and onto a piece of paper. By keeping a worry diary, it helps us identify the worries that we are having, gives us that moment break and try to let them go. This diary can be in a small journal, post it notes or even a notes page on your phone. What is key is that after we write those worries down, we try to refocus our attention and keep those worries for ‘worry time’.
Worry time is essentially a small, allocated time for us to review that worry diary and either examine and problem solve practical worries or rationalise and let go of hypothetical worries. This is a skill which comes with practice, but some helpful tips to get you started:
- Slowly reduce your allocated worry time – start at 45minutes and incrementally bring it down to 30
- Don’t try worry time before bed, do it a time where you’ll be busy and easily distracted after
- Throw away or rip your written worries at the end of worry time
Refocusing our Attention
When we feel anxious and worried, directing our attention away from these thoughts can be quite difficult. A help way to refocus our attention is through engaging in a small arbitrary task we takes some focus. Some ideas may be:
- Count how many times someone says ‘and’ when watching TV
- Stepping outside for a walk
- Cloud watching
- Grounding techniques and mindfulness
These small tasks might feel silly, but 5 minutes of trying one of these can help free up our minds and divert those worry thoughts.
Like everything else, the skills of managing worry are gradually developed and never an overnight thing.
If you feel anxious, low or just need a general check-in, please feel free to contact myself through emails to arrange a chat and look into the best support suited to you.
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