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How to Set Aside ‘Worry Time’ to Decrease Your Anxiety

I know… it sounds strange, but there’s research to suggest that planning a specific time to worry can actually keep it from creeping into the rest of your day.

Imagine two scenarios:

1. You wake up, feeling uneasy. You have a quick flash of anxiety, related to a family event you have next week. But you try to push it out of your mind and go on with your day. Later, when you’re eating lunch, you remember it again and feel stressed. And again, on your walk home from school. And again, before bed. All day long, you have a feeling that something is just not quite right.

2. You wake up the next day, feeling uneasy. Your anxiety spikes when you remember the family event coming up. But this time, you decide that during your free period, you’ll focus fully on that worry. Right now, you’re going to get ready for school and go about your day, knowing that you’ve got a time set aside later on. During your free period, you focus on the family event (more about how you’d do this in a bit). Then, later that night, you feel a bit lighter, a bit more in control.

OK, so if you’re still with me, let’s talk about what that worry time could look like:

1. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes of your day when you won’t be interrupted.

It’s best if you can find a quiet, comfortable and private space.

2. Choose how you’d like to focus your worries.

You can record them by writing them down, or using a voice recorder on your phone. You could also just sit and think quietly, or speak out loud. We recommend recording them since the act itself can be helpful. But really, it’s all about what works for you.

3. Set a timer.

Remember, this is all about being deliberate. You’re creating a time box for your worries. So, don’t let yourself keep going and going after the timer goes off.

4. Take a few deep breaths.

That might have been a pretty intense 15 to 30 minutes. So, give yourself some time to decompress. You could listen to a guided meditation, or take a few deep breaths on your own.

5. Remind yourself that you already worried.

If the worry pops up again later in your day, remind yourself that you already took the time to focus on that issue. If needed, you can always schedule another session.

Try it for yourself, and see if it helps. Remember, worrying is normal, but there are strategies to help you get through your day feeling calmer and more in control.

A version of this article previously appeared on All Mental Health.

Photo by Ernest Brillo on Unsplash