Stress Wärnings: Park that anxiety

In my last column I addressed the issue of controlling your ‘monkey mind’ and I presented a simple template for breaking down ‘disaster thoughts’ into more manageable fears.

In this column I will give you another effective but quite different approach to controlling a tendency to worry – and you can decide which of the two techniques works best for you. 

Set aside time to worry
If you tend to worry, you may recognise how ‘disaster thoughts’ spin in circles, keeping you more and more preoccupied. One way to deal with that may be to deliberately limit the time you spend imagining worst-case scenarios. You may, for example, decide that it’s okay for you to worry every day between 10:00 and 10:30. 

Every time an anxious thought creeps in outside of that time, you ‘park’ it and tell yourself you can deal with it at 10:00. This may sound strange, but recent studies in metacognitive therapy show that this particular kind of approach can have a noticeable effect on people who suffer from stress and depression, among other things. 

Why does it work?
Part of the efficacy of the technique lies in the fact that you do not try to ‘ban’ yourself from worrying or blame yourself for having that tendency. On the contrary, you accept that the anxious thoughts are there, but ensure they are delimited and contained so they are not allowed to fill all of your mental capacity and universe. 

It’s about the realisation that thoughts are just thoughts – and that not every one of them is worth cultivating or exploring further. And when you postpone the concern to a later moment, you will often find that you have forgotten it. 

In other words, instead of your thoughts running the show, you take back control and decide to what degree you want to enter into those thoughts. This can provide mental calm and energy that allows you to switch from racing thoughts and worrying to focusing and problem solving.

Try it for two weeks
Tell yourself that for the next 14 days you will set aside a certain time of day when it is okay to worry, and then allow yourself to have time off from worrying during the rest of the day. 

The exercise is from my latest book ‘The little guide to an almost stress-free life’. 

Take good care of yourself!