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How Scheduling Worry Time Could Help You Handle Your Stress

I’m Working on Worrying in 2020 With This Fear-Busting Tool

Shot of a young businesswoman looking stressed out while working in an office

In 2020, I'm working on my worrying — the valid fears, irrational fears, all the fears.

While I'll probably try to make a few other new year's resolutions (decluttering my closet, drinking more water), decreasing my daily worries to reduce unnecessary stress and anxiety is my truest intention for the next 365 days.

My plan of action includes journaling, meditating, and a new-to-me method called "worry time."

According to Gail Saltz, MD, psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and host of iHeart Radio's upcoming Personology podcast, worry time is a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) tool that's been used for quite some time.

When practicing worry time, Dr. Saltz said you set aside a 15-minute period of time once a day (but not before bedtime) as a time designated for worries.

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"Basically, the idea is that most worriers find worried thoughts crossing their mind and sometimes spiraling into an obsessional loop that impairs their mood and functioning at various times of day, and especially at night thereby interrupting sleep," Dr. Saltz explained.

I can relate to the latter — my fears leave me tossing and turning for hours on end.

Dr. Saltz explained that worry time allows you to address your worries in different ways. For example, during the other times of the day, you can ask yourself if the issue or problem on your mind has a solution. If it does, you can try to solve it. If it doesn't and it's just a worry, you can table it until worry time.

"Then, during your worry time, you will write down all of your worries, as many as you can, and then you can state them out loud over and over again for the period of time," Dr. Saltz said.

This method, Dr. Saltz says, allows you to observe your worries, which helps diminish them, and also allows you to use the exposure technique, which is "heavily exposing yourself to the feared thing, which over time diminishes the fear."

"You will over time see your worries as more inventions of your mind and less as real and true catastrophic events," Dr. Saltz added.

Practicing this method correctly and consistently over many weeks could help stop worries from being intrusive to one's day. However, it's not the answer for everyone.

"If someone is debilitated with worry, they may not be able to manage to hold worry until worry time, and they may be too impaired to manage the actual worry time without becoming totally overwhelmed — such a person may require other psychotherapy and/or medication to feel improved enough to start using the tool of worry time," she said.

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