Worry can derail an entire day if you let it. But you have the power to stop it in just 30 minutes, freeing up the rest of the day to really live.
The strategy is more straightforward than you might think.
When you become accustomed to worrying, you have a constant stream of negative feedback and information in your brain. It’s like leaving the TV on a channel designed to inform you of every worst-case scenario, only personalized to make all those dire predictions about you.
Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
But by designating 30 minutes every day for worrying and allowing yourself to worry only during those 30 minutes, you gain back your day and your life.
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Start by setting a ‘worry time.’ Once you have this half-hour firmly in place (put it on your calendar if you need to), start kicking every worrying thought to the curb. You tell it “Later,” then refuse to let it near you again until it’s your designated worry break. How do you do this?
Try these quick steps:
Pick a time: Grab a half-hour when you’re not going to be busy. Be careful not to pick one too near bedtime, though, as it might interfere with your ability to sleep.
Become conscious of your thoughts: Every time you have a worrying thought, tell it to go away until later. If it helps, jot the worry down somewhere so you have a list to look at during your break.
Use a timer: Worries can very quickly take over as much time as you give to them. By setting your timer to 30 minutes, you’re keeping control of just how much time you’re going to spend worrying.
Record your thoughts: Either write down your worries as you think about them or journal about your thoughts during this time. Be as detailed as you like.
This might also be an excellent time to examine your worries, to figure out if there’s a recurring pattern or theme. Dig into the heart of what’s really troubling you.
Stop when the timer goes off: At the end of 30 minutes, you’re done. Any new worries have to wait until tomorrow. Close the journal, throw away the paper, do what you need to to close off the worrying for the day.
Repeat: Do every one of these steps every single day for at least two weeks. It takes time to form a habit, which is what you’re really trying to do.
In the end, you’ll be amazed at how much freer you feel when you realize you don’t have to worry all day long. You’ll sleep better at night and be much more productive during the day.
Not bad for an investment of only half an hour.
Troy Media columnist Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications.