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5 Steps to Reduce Your Worries: CBT for Stress and Anxiety

Worrying is a natural human emotion that often manifests during times of uncertainty and stress. Sometimes, we worry for a variety of valid reasons when we’re faced with stressful or unpredictable situations. For instance, have you ever been worried about how a performance review will go at work? Or, maybe you’ve worried about the results of a medical test. Both of these scenarios are justifiably worrisome and would understandably evoke feelings of uneasiness in the best of us.

It’s when we let these worries consume our minds that we need to manage them. One effective way to do this is to set what’s called a “worry period.” What’s a “worry period” you might ask? It’s simply a short period of time, no longer than 15 minutes, that you set aside – preferably not before bed  – to explore your worries. Adhering to a pre-determined worry period allows you to focus your mind throughout the day without letting intrusive worries distract you.

Follow these 5 steps to help you set a worry period:

  1. Accept your worry. Once a worry pops into your head, acknowledge it and then quickly set it aside until your worry period.
  2. Write a worry diary. Just as we make to-do lists in order to remember what we need to do when we have time to do it, write down your worries and any accompanying triggers (e.g., place, time of day, events). A worry diary will help guide your worry period so you can remember things objectively and accurately.
  3. Be mindful. Practice mindfulness so that you can let go of your worry until your worry period. You can do this by doing something positive and enjoyable, like reading a book or going for a walk. Engaging in activities that promote self-care will help you strengthen both your physical and mental health.
  4. Make the most of your worry period. First, set a timer to a maximum of 15 minutes. Use this time to problem-solve your worry or to review your worry diary. Once you go through your list of worries, only focus on those that are still bothering you. You might even notice that after time has passed, the worry doesn’t look as important as it once did in the moment. That’s why we’re often told to “sleep on it” when faced with a challenge or important decision. Letting time pass puts things into perspective and gives us time to reflect in a less heightened emotional state.
  5. End your worry period. As soon as your worry period ends, try to put those worries aside until the next day. If lingering thoughts are causing you to exceed your 15-minute worry limit, revisit step 3 by practicing self-care. Reward yourself with a pleasant activity so that you can fully benefit from your productive worry period. Even if fleeting thoughts enter your mind, allow yourself to enjoy the moment, knowing that you will have another worry period tomorrow.

Knowing that you have a short worry period when you can let your mind run free and do what it’s meant to: problem solve. Once this process becomes routine, you’ll learn that worrying can be productive in small, manageable periods.

Easier said than done?

Don’t worry if you find it difficult to set and stick to a worry period. For most of us, it takes a lot of time and practice to learn healthy ways of coping with intrusive or overwhelming thoughts. We all have unique minds, so it’s important to remember that the path to self-care looks different to every person. So, if you are struggling to practice mindfulness or need guidance on how to begin a worry diary, you might benefit from the support of a qualified counsellor via either individual or group counselling. Counsellors trained in CBT will be able to help walk you through these steps so that you are set up for success.

What is CBT and how does it reduce stress and anxiety?

CBT is an acronym for one of the most popular forms of therapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Using this evidence-based therapeutic technique, therapists can help clients restructure their thinking so that they don’t get stuck ruminating. Since worrying can cause stress and/or be a symptom of anxiety, CBT can help identify negative or unproductive patterns of thoughts and feelings so that you can shift your thinking to become more positive and productive.

With one final tip, when you’re worried, ask yourself: Can I do something to change this? If so, there’s no need to worry. If you can’t, then there’s also no reason to worry. Try to be mindful of things you have no control over and accept that worrying might only make the situation worse.

Learn more about CBT and other effective mindfulness techniques to help you reduce your stress and anxiety by visiting:

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