Anxiety blocker #4: postpone your worries

Anxiety and worrying are close relatives. And there are real problem worries such as “is it safe to buy groceries” in times of Covid19. But most of our worries are hypothetical, they are in the future and not based on any facts or real dangers.

Often when we worry we let our worries freely emerge throughout the day. This can be quite time consuming and if you were to add up all the moments in any given day that you worry, you might be taken aback by how much time you actually spend on worrying. This is why we suggest that you give your worries some boundaries. And as you do this, we encourage you to develop some awareness on what your relationship with worry actually is. What are you noticing?

Any change starts with awareness. Interested in taking it further and bust some of that anxiety you are carrying around? Then here are three next steps:

Step 1: Decide when your worry time will be and how much time you will allot to this.

For example, you might devote every day 15 minutes to all your worries and you could decide that this will happen daily at 6pm. Ideally pick a time that allows you to be undisturbed.

Step 2: As worries pop up during the day, triage them by asking yourself: “Is this a real problem worry that I can do something about right now?” If the answer is “Yes”, then go ahead and take immediate action. If the answer is “No” or you are unsure, delay thinking about any such worry until it’s your dedicated worry time.

Once you have completed this triage, you can redirect your focus back to the here and now. If you struggle to do so, you might want to use your five senses (taste, sight, smell, touch, and sound) and notice what is coming up for you. To support yourself further, you can give yourself permission to temporarily let go of any such worry: “I will not engage in this worry now, I will engage in this worry later.”

Step 3: When your dedicated worry time comes up, make sure to use this time. Write down any hypothetical worry that had come up during the day. How concerning are they now, on a scale of 1-10 (1= not at all and 10=extremely so). Are there any practical actions you can take?

Hopefully, you will find that the majority of worries that can hold you back from feeling at peace and engaged in life and at work, turn out to be irrelevant once you have gained some distance to them. And gaining distance includes postponing our attention. As Mark Twain said: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”