Equipment for Living

Dealing with worry

Most people worry about something at some point in their lives. We live in a stressful world, full of commitments and uncertainties, and we worry. It’s natural but unpleasant, and it can feel like it gets out of control.

Disclaimer: if you’re concerned that your worry or anxiety levels are impacting your life, speak to a doctor. I am not a doctor, I’m just a person on the Internet.

There are many strategies for dealing with worry and anxiety, and today I’m talking about one I came across many years ago when I was studying at university. If you’re a fan of acronyms, you can call it the SAW method. It has three components: Stop, Attend, and Worry Time.

STOP!

This is quite simple, but can be really effective. When you catch yourself spiraling into a deep dark hole of worry (it tends to multiply and grow, doesn’t it?), gently but firmly say to yourself, ‘STOP!’ Then refocus on what you’re meant to be doing at that time – working, reading, driving, watching TV… You might need to do this often, and that’s ok – just say STOP every time. You might eventually find you worry a bit less often.

Attending

This is about focusing your attention on the task at hand. Learning to focus instead of letting your mind wander means you’re not worrying. You’re focusing. Your mind cannot do two things at once. If you start worrying, use the STOP technique, then go back to Attending.

Worry Time

This may seem counter-intuitive, but it can really help to put aside time to actively worry. Make an appointment with yourself, and set a timer so you don’t overrun. You’re not allowed to do anything else during this time – you can only worry. It can help to write a list of things you’re worried about.

If your timeslot turns out to be too long, you can plan to reduce it next time. Outside of your Worry Time, you are not allowed to worry (you can use the STOP technique), but you can plan to worry about specific things during your next Worry Time – you can write them down so you don’t forget – and then get back to Attending.

I hope you find this method helpful!

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