Scheduling Daily ‘Worry Time’ Can Help Relieve Stress and Anxiety — Here’s How

It goes without saying that our mental health has never been more vulnerable. More of us are experiencing burnout, stress, anxiety and languishing as a result of constant worrying. It's worrying just thinking about worrying! 

While breathing techniques, meditation or even cleaning can help calm your mind, they simply only put your thoughts on hold, instead of solving the problem. So, what's the solution? It might seem counterintuitive but scheduling in daily worry time can help put your id at ease. Here, Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno explains exactly what worry time is and how to best use it to your advantage.

What is worry time? 

Also referred to as a 'worry break', this technique simply means you set aside time on a regular basis to channel all your anxieties and problems that are preoccupying you. 

"It's normal to feel worried and anxious about things in your life and in fact, most of us have worrisome thoughts that can pop into our head throughout the day," Sokarno explains. "However, for some people, these thoughts won't go away and can start to impact your everyday life. Worry time can be an effective technique whereby a person is encouraged to set aside time specifically to work through their concerned thoughts."

Think about it — if you're engaged in worry, it's not really helpful for someone to just tell you to stop worrying. Postponing it, on the other hand, is more doable. 

"While it might sound counterintuitive, scheduling aside an allotted time to think about the things that are worrying you can mean that you also don’t allow it to distract you for the rest of the day,: Sokarno explains. 

It's a particularly useful technique to use amidst the global pandemic, where we're all living under added stress. 

"Given the times we’re currently living in, chances are there are a lot of things on your mind — right now the state of the world can feel scary and uncertain, especially if you read the daily news, which unfortunately can exacerbate any anxiety. Setting time aside to give your thoughts to these things can mean that you’re not constantly going through up and down emotions all day."

How to properly schedule in worry time

Here are four psychologist-approved tips on how to properly plan and use worry time,

1. Plan to panic

Schedule in a time to worry. 

"It could simply be 15 mins in each day, or whenever you feel like things start to feel overwhelming. Use that time to focus on the things that are making you feel anxious, read the news or process any new information. Once the time is over, try to subdue those feelings and focus on other things," Sokarno explains. 

"Ideally, worry time should occur at the same time each day, preferably at a time when you don’t have any other distractions or demands." However, just avoid doing this first thing in the morning or right before bed.

"If you’re thinking about these things first thing in the morning, it could set you up for a pessimistic day and if you’re thinking about it before you go to bed, that insomnia might kick in."

2. Write it down

"Some people like to write down any worries that pop into their head throughout the day and then when it’s worry time, refer to their list. The act of writing it down can help to take your mind off of it so you don’t need to ‘remember’ what it was that you were worried about."

3. Set a limit to 30 minutes of worry time

Sokarno recommends only dedicating between 15-30 minutes worrying and setting an alarm so you don't go overtime. 

"Try not to spend hours feeling worried and anxious, and instead, aim to restructure your thoughts when worry time is over. If you can, schedule in something fun at the end of it — perhaps it’s an episode of your favourite TV show or a snack break."

4. Chat it out

If you try your hand at worry breaks but aren't finding it to be helpful in alleviating those stressed feelings, it might be time to talk it out with someone. "This could be a friend or a loved one, or even a professional," Sokarno notes. 

"Places like Beyond Blue and Lifeline offer free over the phone counselling, and services like Lysn offer appointments with a psychologist from the comfort of your own home."

If you or someone you know needs help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14. In an emergency, call 000. If you are concerned about your health, wellbeing or sleep, you can also speak to your GP, who will advise a correct treatment plan.

Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn. Follow her on Instagram @psychwithsokz.

Liked this? Here's how to prioritise your day so you don't burnout by midday, according to a psychologist.

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