Why you should schedule time to worry

Here we are. About a week away from one of the scariest elections on record. Still in the grips of a pandemic that seems to be getter worse, not better. Even the calmest people I know are giant balls of anxiety right about now.

If you told me you weren’t worried, I’d be very, very surprised.

And when we’re worried, it is very difficult to focus on, you know, basically anything else.

Like our work that report due tomorrow.

Or our kid’s remote schooling.

Or keeping the house from exploding in disarray.

We worry, we fall further behind on the things we need to do, we worry some more. It’s a downward spiral for both our stress and our productivity..

So I’m gonna share a little psychological trick with you that just might help you get through the next few weeks:

Schedule time to worry.

Yes, on your calendar. Yes, seriously. Schedule it. Today.

Why?

Because when your brain knows that there is a designated time to worry, it can compartmentalize those troublesome thoughts much better and you can get on with the stuff you need to do. (It’s similar to how when we write down all the stuff we need to do, our brains can let go and we can actually focus on the task at hand.)

I see your skeptical eyebrow raised. But I’m not making this up!

Scheduling time to worry is actually a research backed strategy called “stimulus control training”.

Here are the specific steps you can take:

  1. Schedule time on your calendar to worry daily (10–15 minutes is likely more than enough)
  2. When the time comes, write down all of your worries (and don’t pressure yourself to resolve them, just let yourself worry)
  3. During non-worry times, if a worry comes up, you can either add it to your list and let it go, or tell yourself that you’ll worry about it in the designated time
  4. If you want to take it a step further, review your list of worries periodically and ask yourself:
  • What trends do you see?
  • Can you divide your worries into things that are within your control vs. outside of your control?
  • What action can you take any action regarding those things that are within your control?

In addition to scheduling time to worry, I’m gonna throw out a bonus tip here:

Limit your news media intake.

Personally, I listen to NPR’s Up First podcast while I’m getting dressed each morning. And that’s it. No other news, all day long. (Well, I might hear a few other tidbits from my husband, but nothing I’m seeking out. Seriously, he’ll often say “Did you hear about X?” and I’ll say “Nope, but if it’s important I’ll hear about it tomorrow when I listen to Up First”.)

Find a source of news you trust. And limit your daily intake to just what you need to know to stay current. (And I guarantee that’s less than you think.)

So, schedule some time to worry, and then GO VOTE.

Mail in your ballot now. Or go to the polls on Tuesday. And be sure to wear your mask.

Originally published at https://www.alexishaselberger.com on October 26, 2020.

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