How This Simple Technique Can Be Your Best Friend During Lockdown.
Professionals in the mental health sector are hearing almost daily how the current Coronavirus crisis is adversely affecting mental health, this is due to people feeling isolated from family, feeling vulnerable, grieving for the loss of loved ones, uncertainty about the future and feeling out of control. If you are sitting alone with your thoughts and overthinking or worrying excessively about something, life really does become very difficult to manage; my thoughts are with you and I want to help.
There is a simple technique that I often use with my clients to help them to get out of the habit of continually worrying or overthinking, this technique takes a little bit of practice, but lockdown is the perfect time to learn this new skill and if you can master, it will change your life for the better.
OK, let me cut to the chase, the technique I am talking about is called "Worry Time" and is simply a tool to help you to learn to delay your worries. This technique is for all of those constant thoughts and worries that keep coming back even though you may have resolved them, come to a decision about them, tackled them or regard them as out of your control.
Assign a time in your diary everyday, towards the end of the day but at least 2 hours before bedtime and label this "Worry Time". This time needs to fit into your life easily and be realistic as you will need to be able to set aside this time for yourself and not cancel; you deserve this space. Allow 15 mins - 30 mins each day for this designated time, no more than that.
As you go about your day and notice the worries popping into your head, consciously but kindly tell yourself that you can think about this during "Worry Time", you may choose to write down the thought or worry (in a safe and secure place) or you might decide that you will remember what it was when "Worry Time" comes around. Each time the worry or thought comes into your mind, simply and gently say to yourself "set this aside for worry time" in your head (or aloud if it helps). At the beginning you will find yourself doing this quite a few times, don't be annoyed at yourself, be kind and watch what is happening. In time it won't feel as repetitive as you begin to master your new skill.
When "Worry Time" arrives, take yourself off to a space where you can be alone, or if this is not possible, find a quiet corner in the room, think back to the worries that you had earlier in the day. This is your time to think about them and maybe come up with possible solutions or plans. Try not to bat away these worries during this time, feel free to lose yourself in thought. When "Worry Time" is over, pat yourself on the back for doing it and go about the rest of your day. This time if worries arise again, tell yourself that you need to set this aside for the next "Worry Time" slot.
The idea of this technique is to help you to get out of the automatic way of thinking and worrying. Often when I have taught my clients this, they have been surprised that when "Worry Time" came along they couldn't remember the worry or thought that had blighted their day just a few hours previous. It also teaches those that suffer from anxiety that it is safe to not be worrying all day long, and that nothing bad happened in those few hours that you allowed yourself to be free from worry.
Give yourself a rest and try this out, excessive worry and anxiety can be totally exhausting, this is an effective way to give yourself a break and learn to control those worries or repetitive thoughts.
This article was written by Counsellor and Supervisor, Becky Whittaker who runs a busy counselling practice in the town of Chudleigh, Devon.