Worry Time: The Benefits of Scheduling Time to Stress

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What Is Worry Time?

If you tend to worry about things constantly, you may find it difficult to stop despite your best efforts. The stress can interfere with your ability to sleep, work, or enjoy leisure activities. The worry time technique can help with this.

Worry-Time

The worry time technique involves scheduling a time during the day that is devoted to worrying, explains Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University.

Although it might sound counterintuitive, this technique is designed to help you reduce the amount of time you spend worrying about things beyond your control, says Dr. Romanoff. 

The idea is that rather than worrying about things throughout the day, you designate a small part of the day to worry about everything that’s troubling you and work on finding solutions for things within your control. 

This article lists some steps you can take to practice this technique effectively and discusses the benefits and limitations of scheduling worry time.

How to Schedule Worry Time Effectively

Dr. Romanoff shares some steps that can help you practice this technique effectively:

  • Set aside a block of time: Decide how much time you need and set it aside. It is best to schedule about 15 to 30 minutes of worry time. It can be helpful to set a timer to jolt you out of the worrying mindset when the time is up.
  • Keep the place and timing consistent: Select a consistent place and time in your day to worry. 
  • Choose an uncomfortable spot: Opt for a spot like a hard chair, a stair, or bench that is not very comfortable and where you won’t be tempted to stay longer than the allotted time. Avoid using your bed, couch, or desk for this purpose because you will begin to associate those places with stress, which will make it harder to sleep, relax, or work there.
  • Opt for an evening slot, if possible: An evening slot like 6 p.m. is ideal for worry time. Scheduling your worry time later in the day lets you accumulate worries and compartmentalize them until this point. However, it’s also early enough in the evening so you can decompress and transition to a relaxing activity before going to bed. 
  • Save your worries for that time: It’s important to postpone your worries as they arise during the day so you can save them for your designated worry time. When an anxious thought arises, the best thing to do is to write it down and then examine it later during worry time. You can note down your worries in a journal or on your phone.
  • Address your worries: As you address each worry during worry time, ask yourself whether there’s anything you can do about it. If you have the power to change it, write down the solution and think about how you can work toward it. If it’s beyond your control, work on accepting it and letting it go. If you’re having difficulty letting it go, it can be helpful to write it down on a piece of paper, then tear it up and throw it away.
  • Focus on being productive during the day: After you write down a worrying thought that has popped up during your day, redeploy your attention toward something else by engaging in another activity instead of dwelling on the worry.
  • Tackle other fear-inducing activities during worry time: You can also choose to do other activities that stress you out during this time, such as reading the news.
  • Transition out of worry time: One of the hardest aspects of practicing this technique is stopping your worries after the 15 to 30 minutes is up. One way to do this is to plan a transitional activity to engage in when the worry timer is up. You could cook, call a friend, watch your favorite television show, read a book, take a walk, or go for a run.

Benefits of Scheduling Worry Time

Below, Dr. Romanoff explains some of the benefits of scheduling time to worry.

Reduce the Time Spent Worrying

The worry time technique helps to reduce the amount of time that you spend worrying about things beyond your control. The goal is to help you be more efficient by spending the time you aren’t worrying on more productive things. 

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

The ultimate benefit of worry time is having more time and energy to focus on other important areas of your life that were previously consumed with worries. This frees up mental space to be more present and engaged with other areas of your life.

— Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

Be More Effective and Purposeful

When stress and anxiety get a hold of you, you may find yourself in an endless spiral of worry. The worry time technique helps you worry more effectively. 

The idea is not to simply spend time dwelling on your worries, but instead to review each worry and ask yourself: “Can I do anything to change this? Is this worry in my control?” If the answer is “yes,” then create an action plan and keep yourself accountable to following through. If the answer is “no,” practice accepting and letting go.

Reduce the Harmful Effects of Stress

Stress affects your body both mentally and physically. In addition to making you more alert, stress can also cause physiological changes such as muscle tension, rapid heartbeat, and raised blood sugar levels.

Being stressed out frequently or for long periods of time can be harmful to your health. Chronic stress can lead to health conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Skin problems
  • Menstrual issues

Reducing your stress levels can help prevent these health conditions.

Limitations of the Worry Time Technique

People who tend not to practice the technique correctly may not be able to benefit from it, says Dr. Romanoff. According to her, these are some of the habits that may limit the effectiveness of this practice:

  • Not creating an actionable plan: Worry time is not simply a time to ruminate and obsess about worries. Instead, it must be used as a way to focus your energy in the most productive way to find solutions or accept the things that most trouble you. The worry time technique may have limited effectiveness if you dwell on the uncontrollable aspects of the worry without creating actionable steps to change the situation. 
  • Not following through on the plan: Another limitation is when people don’t hold themselves accountable to the action plan they created to tackle the worry. 

A Word From Verywell

If you often find that stressful thoughts are intruding on your day and hampering your ability to function, it might be helpful to schedule time to worry. You can use this technique to reduce the time you spend worrying, be more productive during the day, and tackle your worries more effectively. 

However, if you find that your worries are persistent and still consume a significant part of your day, it might be helpful to see a mental healthcare provider who can offer treatment.

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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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